30 October 2011

The Filter Bubble; Eli Pariser

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From YouThe Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You by Eli Pariser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How ironic that I chose to read this on my Kindle - a product provided by just the type of corporation Pariser talks about in terms of privacy, filtering, recommending and being generally overly intrusive into our habits! The thing I regret most about buying this version is that there are people to whom I would love to lend the book but can't.

Pariser's position is that we, as a society, have ceded much in the way of privacy and choice to corporations. In some ways it's about the explosion of news sources and our ability to filter out the news we don't want to hear (How many people do you know that only get their news from NPR/New York Times/New Yorker or Fox News/Daily Post? Sadly, I know far too many who are that polarized). This doesn't lend itself to a well-informed, understanding, communicating citizenry.

The other filter comes from how easy it is to allow Google, Amazon, Netflix, etc. to learn from our choices (of searches, purchases, queries, whatever) and to tailor our next experience to meet those previous ones. My buying habits must give Amazon and Google fits, as I've used them as personal and professional resources! The fact that I, in New York, will get different results than friends in Georgia or Germany, is only one problem - friends searching on their laptops in my home will get different results than I do, even though we're separated by a mere few feet.

What actions we take to regulate these companies (who are, after all, not answerable to us, their free users but to their hoping-for-big-payout advertisers and investors) and how we make friends, family and students aware of how their choices affect their on-line experience is important. My gut tells me that the vast majority won't care, even among those that read this book.

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