Tech Book Review - The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You

The former director of MoveOn.org, Eli Pariser, shows how Google, Facebook, and other sites track your mouse clicks so they can filter results and tailor them to your preferences.


The idea of the Internet as a free and open conversation “is fast becoming quaint,” said Jesse Singal in The Boston Globe. Not long ago, it was still possible to hope that the Internet would forever be a “clearinghouse of information and fierce debate,” a place where users would constantly be confronted by new and challenging ideas. As Eli Pariser observes, things haven’t turned out that way. Pariser’s Google isn’t your Google. Even his CNN.com isn’t your CNN.com. Instead, the pages many of us see have been tailored to who we are, where we live, and what we’ve clicked on. Pariser, the former director of the liberal activist group MoveOn.org, liked to monitor the opinions of conservative pundits using Facebook; one day, the pundits disappeared. Google had filtered his “news feed” not for political reasons, but to limit his updates to “friends” he’d interacted with.

Welcome to what’s euphemistically called the “personalized” Web, said Christopher Caldwell in the Financial Times. Google, Facebook, Amazon.com, and other “filtering Goliaths” are forever tracking your mouse clicks and keystrokes in order to feed you the news you’re likely to want and the kind of products and advertising pitches you’re likely to respond to. The Internet isn’t even tailored to suit your tastes, really. It’s “personalized the way a blackmail note is personalized—to better fit your particular vulnerabilities.” Yet even our most benign impulses can lead us into cul-de-sacs, said The Economist. As filtering continues to privilege the popular above the unpopular, “people will be invisibly steered away from important issues that are unpleasant or complex, such as homelessness or foreign policy.”

“There’s another problem with filters: People like them,” said Paul Boutin in The Wall Street Journal. In a book that’s mostly a “powerful indictment” of a system that threatens to turn us all into ill-informed partisans, Pariser “fumbles around in search of a solution” because he knows that the Internet is too unwieldy now to be navigated without filtering software. Even so, “The Filter Bubble is well-timed” because the threat it describes is “real but not yet pandemic.” As Pariser notes, Google and Facebook both provide ways that users can disable personalization filters if they choose to. What’s more, the effects of filtering are sometimes mild. “In a test I conducted myself,” I recently asked a handful of Google users across the country to search a phrase in the news and we came up with almost identical results. “To tell the truth, we were kind of disappointed.” - Get the book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You on Amazon.com!

- As seen in The Week



0 comments:

Post a Comment