What is the purpose of this research?
This project aims to evaluate the information recommended by leading search engines such as Google and YouTube; to assess the extent to which search results are personalised by their algorithms, based on the profiles established by those search engines for their different users; and how the search results for a given topic evolve over time.
It addresses the lack of publicly available data on search personalisation through a novel method that involves the public in the research. It compiles and analyses the search recommendations encountered by a wide range of genuine users across prominent search engines, for a variety of generic and specific topics, and over an extended period of time.
This enables us to evaluate the potential social impacts of such personalisation, including its potential for creating ‘filter bubbles’ or increasing political polarisation, and to investigate how, and how quickly, search engines respond to changes in the informational environment.
Are you looking for people like me?
To participate in this project you must:
- be over 18 years old (and able to provided informed consent)
- be living in Australia
- use browsers Google Chrome, Firefox and Edge on a desktop or laptop.
What will you ask me to do?
You will install a custom Web browser plugin (available for the desktop versions of the Chrome, Firefox, and Edge browsers) on your computer or laptop.
The plugin installation and setup includes a sign-up process that provides you with information and consent mechanism and request for basic demographic information. This process does not capture any detailed personal information that can be used for the re-identification of individual users. The plugin then just runs in the background with minimal interruption to the user.
Are there any risks for me in taking part?
The project is considered low risk. Beyond the initial sign-up process, it requires no direct involvement from users of the data donation plugin, and may only occasionally serve as a mild inconvenience as the plugin queries the search engines and reports its results to the QUT server;
Are there any benefits for me in taking part?
This project uses a citizen science model and participants by increasing the public understanding of the performance of different search engines, for generic and specific search terms, across demographic groups and over time.
Will I be compensated for my time?
The initial plugin installation process including consent takes approximately 20 minutes. The plugin then runs in the background. There is no monetary compensation for your time.
I am interested - what should I do next?
QUT Ethics Number: 2021000293