As I willingly accept technology into my life more and more everyday it has never occurred to me that my information could be being stored and used to track me and profile me. I knew that ads in Gmail are customized, and they are based on the content within emails. I did not realize how customization had taken on a new life without users even being aware of it. It sounds great right? Having the whole Internet tailored specifically to your personal thoughts and beliefs. However this does not allow us to fully experience what is new on the Internet. Pariser give the example of two totally different results for the search query ‘Egypt’.
The fact that Google searches are so different between people is kind of frightening. This phenomenon could potentially pigeonhole users and it will surely prevent many moments of ‘serendipity’, and happening upon new things. There is no easy way around it either, companies want things to be personalized to their users so that the users will be satisfied with the content. In his TED talk Pariser talks about the 57 signals Google uses to filter results, they look at what kind of computer you are using, what browser you are on, as well as 54 other variables. Prior to reading this I had no idea that what I was seeing both on Google as well as Facebook was filtered.
I know that I encourage the filtering of Facebook because if I see something I think is not valuable my first instinct is to hid the story. I have done this several times, and I have recently notices that I see less in my ‘news feed’. I used to think that this was because there are just so many people on Facebook and they could not possibly put everything each of my friends does through my ‘news feed’.
There is no getting completely away from the filter, and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds in the coming years, and if it will actually upset people or if they will embrace the personalization. It all comes down to advertising and it is currently taking huge steps to personalize what we see, and it makes me wonder if it is actually all worth it.