Google shows personalized search results that prioritize Barack Obama for users that have recently searched for the President, but Mitt Romney isn't getting the same treatment. That's the result of a Wall Street Journal investigation into the search company's algorithm, which found that terms such as "Iran," "Medicare," and "gay marriage" would all return results related to President Obama if an "Obama" query had previously been entered. These results were marked in gray type stating "You recently searched for Obama," but the same reportedly did not happen for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. It's unclear if there are any terms that would return similar results based on a prior "Romney" search.
'Obama' joins the ranks of terms like 'iPhone,' 'sports,' and 'Twilight'
The Journal found no indication of deliberate bias in Google's algorithm, and the company said that its customized results are simply a function of what people are already searching for. Since more people apparently search for Obama in conjunction with various topics such as the ones mentioned above, the President joins the ranks of terms like "iPhone," "sports," and "Twilight" that have the power to influence future search results.
While users can switch the personalization feature off, Google says its purpose is ultimately to speed up search and improve its accuracy. These customizations based on previous queries aren't anything new, but they highlight how Google's reliance on numbers rather than human curation can lead to unintentional results for the company — and possibly its users.