Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mirror, mirror - distort my views

I'm reading The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser: sit down at a couple of computers with a friend; both search for the same term in Google and you'll see different results. Or both check Facebook and see how different your news feed looks, even though you share many of the same acquaintances.

Pariser notes the rise of Internet personalisation, sold to us to help us filter the gigabytes of data created to flood our awareness each day. But warns that by reinforcing what I already think and believe, the Internet which was created with a hope of breaking down barriers will instead build up stronger walls, imprisoning us in an individual silo of self-awareness.

  1. The 'Filter Bubble' is increasingly so tightly personalized that we are essentially alone in our views.
  2. Next, the filtering is invisible - none of us knows why the Google algorithms make the selections for us that they do.
  3. Finally, we don't choose to enter the bubble - Increasingly we have no ability to opt in or out of the tailored choices we are presented with. For example, I don't even have to be a user of Google+ to be profiled by others who have put me into their named 'circles' and Google gets to see a complete and rounded picture of me the more circles I'm placed in to by my network of contacts.
I certainly hope the book provides some "So what?" answers because the case made in the Introduction is powerfully scary! Pariser warns that an unintended consequence of the commercial move to personalize what we're sold will be a breakdown of the bonds in society that depend to a large degree on our ability to see life from another's perspective.

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