Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Filter Bubbles

   This planter sites on my front porch and you can see an intersection is close by. What is not visible is the fact that Google has silently mapped the area. So has the digital postal system. The information is public. 
    Each of us using digital technology can be found by a network of algorithms. And even if you are not logged in Google knows who you are and what you "like" and sets filters to "personalize" your searches. 
   What does that mean? Google uses 57 filters that customize your searches but you cannot see that. You are being given what the filters decide for you. What this means is when you search a topic and your friend searches the same topic each of you will be presented with different links based on your search history. Eli Pariser has coined this phenomenon a "filter bubble". 
    I see a problem with this. How can you be on the www open to all that there is? You are out there as an individual but in personal bubble getting preselected results according to your location and previous searches, all of this is invisible to you. You don't choose the filter, it chooses you.
    Learning that is the way of the present day www how do you protect your democratic right, freedom of censorship? And how do you protect your political and religious views?  How are groups predetermined? Are like minded individuals in senior groups all lumped together?
    With all the information that is available filters are needed. However, I believe in our freedom of choice. We ought to be able to see all possible links and make our own selections. I believe we must strive to find ways to make the necessary changes that will ensure that right. Democracy demands it.
    We cannot allow invisible technology like algorithms to overpower our individual personal rights by trying to outguess us and force us accept links based on our search history. 
    While social media allows us to interact with so many there's a hidden agenda built in. Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Google all track our moves and even try to make recommendations. Keywords say it all. Should we continue to allow artificial intelligence to make us its slaves? Can we correct this?

P.S. On a more personal note, my very long awaited eye appointment is tomorrow and I'm praying that a solution to my distorted vision will be found. If that happens then reading blogs will be way more fun!!


  1. I do my best not to accept recommendations made by computers. I'd hate them to take over my life!

  2. A couple of years ago, I took a one year part-time job with Google. The task was to evaluate search results, weeding out results that were irrelevant to the searcher's likely intent or were spam-ish. The work was sometimes fascinating, sometimes deadly dull. The pay was good. At the end of the year, the contract was finished and re-applying was not allowed for something like 18 months.

    Since then, I've come to wonder more and more what Google did with the information I and other evaluators supplied. It seemed obvious to me that we were working to improve the quality of the Almighty Algorithm, but I had no idea at the time how almighty that software would become or what uses it might be put to.

    I do, however, know with certainty that I'll be searching out another search engine. Any minute now. As soon as I get over the automatic, habitual googling of any and everything that crosses my mind.

  3. The "magic box" of a search engine has become so much a part of my existence I can hardly imagine what it would be like to go back to books. But yes, you are right: we are being compartmentalized beyond what any of us expected back in the beginning of this movement.

    What do you suggest we do about it? I find it difficult to comprehend how to undo what has been done.

  4. I agree, it is scary to think of the information gathered!

    I am thinking good thoughts for your eye appointment tomorrow!

  5. I concur with Nance about looking for another search engine but my hunch is they all use some kind of filters. Even we bloggers use filters when we post using key words. We do this to allow others to find our posts. There are pros and cons to everything including the issues raised in this post. I am probably more concerned with the talk from time to time of government-led control of the internet (http://blogs.ajc.com/bob-barr-blog/?s=government+control+of+internet&x=0&y=0) and the public's schizophrenic behavior on privacy issues (http://blogs.ajc.com/bob-barr-blog/2011/05/09/the-privacy-paradox/)....all very relevant issues for our day. Thanks Heidi for always raising thought provoking issues.

  6. P.S. I hope you get some real eye improvement soon. That will really add to your quality of life ;-)

  7. Best of luck with your eye appointment!

    It's quite scary when you think about all the information floating around in cyberspace about us.

  8. Very interesting post and very informative. Good luck on your eye appointment. Thank you for caring and have a nice week.

  9. I've warned about this before, it is scary that we let entities out of our control regulate our access without our being conscious about it. As someone mentioned above, what search engine could one use that does NOT avail itself of this technology? Likely none of them.