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Web of One - Eli Pariser on Filter Bubbles

By: Geeb
On: June 1, 2011

Another informative TED video about the hidden truth of search queries. An amazing talk by Eli Pariser who informs us of the dangers of a web of one. Whether we realize it or not, major web companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are personalizing every query and advertisement we see to meet our specific interests. While most people are well aware of ads, personalized search results are a relatively hidden phenomenon.

filterBubble Web of One   Eli Pariser on Filter Bubbles

This probably doesn’t come as a complete shock, but more and more, website search utilities, feeds, and streaming content (that are query based) are actually personalized results. According to Eli Pariser, Google uses about 57 different signals that help define a search query. This tailors content to our specific tastes. For example, in the TED video below, one of his friends Googled “Egypt” and returned news items about upheaval and riots. Another friend, on the other side of the country, made the same search, and was prompted with mostly tourist info. Wouldn’t everyone want to know about revolution around the world? Google’s algorithms think not.

Likewise, on Facebook, if you happen to affiliate yourself with certain political parties or religions, this affiliation will greatly alter your news feed. Potentially, the more you use Facebook and Twitter, the smarter the algorithms become at personalizing queries. Heavy users tend to be stuck inside, what Pariser calls, a filter bubble. Overtime users find themselves in a micro-niche that gets smaller over time. Similar to watching most news programs on television, you will miss out on content that challenges your beliefs, ethics, and political stance. While this does make life easier to manage, we sacrifice a world of informed citizens for complacent ones. So what can we do?

Recently, Google has decided that tracking bio-metric data would ultimately hurt the world if put into the wrong hands… at least for the time being. However, in trying to burst that bubble, Pariser gives a list of 10 things you can do.

While ridding yourself of a bubble may seem possible, their is still a biological bubble that cannot be popped. According to research , human brain’s cannot manage more than 150 friendships at once. Likewise, A recent Twitter study puts this number in the 100-200 range. Even if you have a million friends on Facebook, your news feed is still a micro-niche that probably does not satisfy the 150 count. Choose them wisely, because you are stuck with them.

And the video,

Don’t forget to check out Eli Pariser’s site, TheFilterBuble.com

I guess I could leave you with questions. Most social engineers say our generation doesn’t care about the privacy of our data. Is this true? Should we? What would be a better solution to the personalized queries? Is transparency at the utilitarian level (search, feed, and streamed results) the ultimate key?