While perusing my tumblr feed I came across a TED Talk I felt I should share. In it, Eli Pariser, author of “The Filter Bubble” (Paper, Kindle, Nook), talks about how a personalized Internet experience may be narrowing our world view. In the video Pariser points out that, without notifying us, Google and Facebook both pre-filter our search results/news feed and tailor the results to what is most in-line with our personal preferences. Google can even do this if you aren’t logged in – as it displays search results based on 57 “signals” ranging from what kind of computer you’re using to where you’re sitting (home, coffee shop, work, etc).
Interestingly enough, Google just today updated Google News for “more variety and multimedia”. From the site (emphasis is my doing):
Personalized top stories: The Top Stories section is expanded to six or more stories from three to give you more topic diversity. The first three stories remain unpersonalized and the same as before. The rest may be personalized based on your interests. To personalize your Google News experience you can click on “Edit” under “News for you.” You can choose the “Standard Edition” if you don’t want personalization.
So it appears that Google is started to apply this personalization algorithm to the top stories segment of Google News. It will be interesting to see how long the unpersonalized stories remain after they’ve had a chance to analyze traffic and see which users prefer.
So the question becomes, is this an acceptable way for us to get our world view? In a society that is becoming more and more fundamentally conflicted, is it wise to feed the masses only that which will go down easily or should we be challenged to suffer some intellectual indigestion from time to time? Further, would it be any more “right” to force people to see views that conflict with their own? Is the problem what is presented or the fact there’s no way to opt out of it? I’d love some discussion around this. I don’t believe there is a clear-cut answer, as there are certainly pros and cons for either side.
Regardless, I’ll certainly be adding “The Filter Bubble” to my reading list.