About the project

When you search with Google, do you see the same results as your colleagues at work, your friends, or your family members? If not, why? Does Google personalize search results? If so, what are the criteria? What topics are on vogue in Google Search and Google News results when it comes to the 2017 German Bundestag election?

We’d like to find out. With your help.

Number of users Users donated since July 5th 2017 number of searches search results. Thank you!

There’s a lot of speculation about the impact search engines have on our information diet. In fact, we know very little about how they weigh and display information. But search engines are so central to our public discourse that we need a way to check them independently. We want to achieve this with our crowdsourcing project #datadonation #BTW17 (BTW stands for Bundestagswahl, the German general elections to the parliament).

By installing the plug-in on your computer, you agree to the Privacy Agreement. Read it here.

The more users support us, the better the results will be. So please help by downloading our browser plug-in which allows us to send search queries to Google and Google News up to six times a day from your computer - we do not store your private search requests, etc.! The data you donate will allow us to determine what factors have an impact on how Google weighs and displays search results.

The project is a cooperation between AlgorithmWatch and six “Landesmedienanstalten”, the regulatory authorities for new media in the German federal states of Bavaria (BLM), Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb), Hesse (LPR Hessen), Rhineland-Palatinate (LMK), Saarland (LMS), Saxony (SLM)and the University Kaiserslautern. Our media partner is Spiegel Online.

How does it work?

Browsers such as Firefox and Chrome allow the use of plug-ins (also called extensions, add-ons, extensions) to offer additional features.

Download the appropriate plugin:



By installing the plug-in on your computer, you agree to the Privacy Agreement. Read it here.

With this plugin you enable us to send search queries to Google through your browser up to six times a day (every 4 hours). This only happens when your computer is switched on and the browser is open.

Results of the first result page from each Google Search and Google News are automatically sent to us. The search queries contain the full name of a politician, as well as names of political parties - such as Angela Merkel, Martin Schulz or SPD and FDP. For the complete list of search queries, see below. As party chairpersons or candidates for position of chancellor can change, the list may change as well.

The plugin sets the query with the current setting of the browser into which it is integrated. Private data will not be saved. It will send your approximate location (name of city) and whether you were logged in to Google during the search (but not your identity!). In case you are registered, we are not informed of the name of the account holder.

List of search queries:

Angela Merkel

Martin Schulz

Christian Lindner

Katrin Göring-Eckardt

Cem Özdemir

Sahra Wagenknecht

Dietmar Bartsch

Alice Weidel

Alexander Gauland

CDU (Christian Democratic Union)

CSU (Christian Social Union)



Bündnis90/Die Grünen (Alliance 90 / The Greens)

Die Linke

AfD (The Left party)

FAQ - frequently asked questions

1. Why is this project necessary?

Does Google personalize search results? How do result pages change? Which media and issues are en vogue on Google News? With our research project "Google and the Bundestagswahl: #date donation", we want to find as much as possible about these questions. At the same time, we want to show that we need to keep companies like Google accountable to their users - so all of us. Instead of having to take action like ours, it would be better if Google and similar services disclosed their modes of operation to a much greater extent.

2. Who is behind this project?

AlgorithmWatch in cooperation with six “Landesmedienanstalten”, the regulatory authorities for new media in the German federal states of Bavaria (BLM), Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb), Hesse (LPR Hessen), Rhineland-Palatinate (LMK), Saarland (LMS), Saxony (SLM)and the University Kaiserslautern. Our media partner is Spiegel Online. The software was developed by Lokaler and webkid.

3. How can I participate?

We offer Plugins / Extensions / Add-ons for Firefox and Chrome on the desktop. Firefox and Chrome are by far the most popular desktop browsers in Germany.

4. Why do I see a new browser window every time the plugin conducts a search?

In order to make the search as realistic as possible, the plugin has to open an actual website and then read (scrape) the contents. Unfortunately, there’s no other way to do this. We know it’s annoying, but hope that you’ll support us anyway.

5. Is there a mobile version?

No. Mobile browsers generally do not allow plugins. We could not realize an independent mobile app within this project.

6. Which of my data are used?

The identification number of the plug-in (ID) is stored, as is the approximate location of the computer. The IP address is used to identify the location, e.g. Paderborn, and the postal code / zip code. The IP itself is not saved. In addition, it is stored whether you were logged in as a user during the search. The user name is not saved. It is stored which language is set in the browser (German, English, etc.). Finally, the first search engine result page (SERP) of the classic Google search as well as Google News is saved for each search term. So with 16 search terms, 32 results pages with a total of more than 600 links are stored for each search run.

7. Who made the plugin?

The software company Lokaler by AlgorithmWatch’s co-founder Lorenz Matzat. It has developed the database system and worked with the software company webkid on the development of the plug-in.

8. What happens with the results?

The data are published freely available to everyone - see section Results. Only the identification number of the individual plugins / add-ons are erased. All data including the identification numbers will be published after the end of the project. Even with the identification number, no conclusions can be drawn about the identity of a person or their browsing behavior.

9. With whom does AlgorithmWatch share the project data and the software?

Apart from us, only researchers from the University of Kaiserslautern, headed by AlgorithmWatch’s co-founder Katharina Anna Zweig, have access to the complete data set. The software code for the plugin can be found here.

10. Will the plugin automatically be deactivated after the German election?

On September 30, 2017, one week after the election, the plugin automatically terminates its searches. However, you must manually disable or uninstall it (see next question).

11. I do not want to continue to donate. How can I disable the plugin / add-on again?

Please go to the Extensions / Add-ons menu in your browser and deactivate or uninstall the extension / add-on.

12. I have problems with the plugin.

Please contact datenspende-at-algorithmwatch.org by email.

Privacy Statement


You have downloaded our browser plug-in, which allows us to automatically submit search queries up to six times a day, the results of which are automatically sent to us on Google and Google News. The plugin sends the query with the current settings of the browser, in which it is integrated – in case this browser is running at the intended time. To do this, a small window must be opened, which closes again after retrieving the data. A missed search time will be fetched the next time the browser is activated. The plugin provides all search queries on Google and Google News and sends us the first 10 search results in the form of the search results page.

What do we extract from these data and who gets to see the data?

Each plugin gets a unique number, its plug-in ID. After each query, the plugin will send us its plug-in ID, the time of the search query, the search term and the search results page. In addition, a very rough location is derived from your IP address (the address assigned to your device on the Internet), which corresponds approximately to that of a postal code. This means we cannot determine your exact location.

Therefore, each time the plugin conducts a search we will receive the search query and the results page from you for all the search queries, the plug-in, and your approximate location. The data are immediately published on our website, without their plug-in ID, so that everyone can participate in the analysis of the data. After completion of the project (in the spring of 2018) and after a final assessment by a data protection expert, the data including the plug-in ID are made available to the public.

De-anonymization: · As far as we know, without the plug-in ID search queries cannot be traced back to a specific person. · Even after adding the plug-in ID, it is very unlikely that the search results - especially with the very general search terms used by the plugin – will be sufficient to identify users.

Because search data of several month will be associated with one browser – and, therefore, in many cases with one person - we will analyze samples to ensure that a possibly personalized search results page will not provide any further clues regarding the identity of the users. For example, the search for "SPD" in Kaiserslautern as the top search result would lead to an election event of the local party chapter in Kaiserslautern. We will use this sample analysis to evaluate the risk of de-anonymization and publish the data in case of doubt only without a plugin ID. We use appropriate technical and organizational security measures to protect your data against accidental or intentional manipulation, partial or complete loss, destruction or against the unauthorized access by third parties. Our security measures are continuously improved in line with technological developments.

Declaration of consent:

With the installation of the plugin I confirm that the first 10 search results of Google on Google.de (in "All" and "News") including the above mentioned additional data (plugin ID, time, exact query, approximate location) on my browser will be made available to the public under a CC-0 license for analysis. I understand that the plugin regularly searches for all the chancellor candidates and party chairpersons (with full names) of the above parties and the parties themselves.

I agree that the following data will be collected, processed and published:
- A general location, derived from the IP address, corresponding in precision to approximately your postal code.
- The plug-in ID
- The exact search query
- The time of the search
- The result of the search (everything on the first page of the search results)
- The language setting of the browser
- Whether you are logged in as a user with Google.

I can disable or de-install the plugin at any time. No further data is sent with the deactivation of the plug-in or with its de-installation.


Here we will publish new results and evaluations on an ongoing basis. You can download here the data collected so far (daily update) - they do not contain the plugin ID. Find the software code of the plug-in on Github.


AlgorithmWatch in cooperation with six “Landesmedienanstalten”, the regulatory authorities for new media in the German federal states of Bavaria (BLM), Berlin-Brandenburg (mabb), Hesse (LPR Hessen), Rhineland-Palatinate (LMK), Saarland (LMS), Saxony (SLM)and the University Kaiserslautern. Our media partner is Spiegel Online. The software was developed by Lokaler and webkid.


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10115 Berlin


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