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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Protecting Your Data on the Web: How to Burst Your Filter Bubble!

This guide is a companion to the Protecting your Data on the Web Savvy Researcher Workshop.


So now that you know what a filter bubble is, what are some ways to get outside the bubble? You can't get out of the bubble all the way, but these options can mitigate the effects of the filter bubble are described in Eli Pariser's blog post "10 Ways to Pop Your Filter Bubble."

Get Rid of Your Search History

Your web history provides Google with a lot of information about you and is used to help determine what results Google gives you. To delete your web history:

  1. Go to Google's homepage
  2. Click on your username in the top right corner
  3. Click on "Account Settings"
  4. Click on "edit" next to the "My Products" header
  5. Click "Remove Web History Permanently"

Turn Off Targeted Ads

You can turn off targeted advertising at the browser level. Click on the links below to turn off targeted ads for a particular browser.

You can also tell many ad networks at once that you do not want targeted ads, on the Digital Advertising Alliance Consumer Choice page.

*Ad companies have the choice to not abide by your requests to not be tracked.

Delete Your Browser Cookies

The first thing to do to mitigate the effects of the filter bubble is to "burn" your cookies. Cookies are data that your web browser stores baked chocolate chip cookieswhen you are on a web site. If permission is enabled, other sites can then tell what you were looking at and use that information to determine what to show you next.

Click on the links below to learn how to delete your cookies so ad companies can't use them to personalize ads to you:

Image by Kimberly Vardeman from Lubbock, TX, USA (Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Disable Tracking Cookies Feature Altogether

You can also disable tracking cookies altogether. Follow the directions below for each browser.

Keep your Facebook data private, and hide your birthday

Facebook oftentimes makes changes that cause private data to become public. There is no 100 percent effective way to stop this. Below are instructions to make your data as private as possible and turn off instant personalization. Ad companies can also more easily identify you if you provide Facebook with your birthday. If you do, leave off the year to make it more difficult for ad companies to identify you.

Go Incognito, Or better yet, Anonymous

Personalizing your browser gives websites information about you. You can stop this by using default settings. You can also use an incognito/anonymous browser, like the ones below:

This tool allows you to test your browser to see how identifiable you are by websites, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.