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An eye-opening account of how the hidden rise of personalization on the Internet is controlling-and limiting-the information we consume.
In December 2009, Google began customizing its search results for each user. Instead of giving you the most broadly popular result, Google now tries to predict what you are most likely to click on. According to MoveOn.org board president Eli Pariser, Google's change in policy is symptomatic of the most significant shift to take place on the Web in recent years-the rise of personalization. In this groundbreaking investigation of the new hidden Web, Pariser uncovers how this growing trend threatens to control how we consume and share information as a society-and reveals what we can do about it.
Though the phenomenon has gone largely undetected until now, personalized filters are sweeping the Web, creating individual universes of information for each of us. Facebook-the primary news source for an increasing number of Americans-prioritizes the links it believes will appeal to you so that if you are a liberal, you can expect to see only progressive links. Even an old-media bastion like The Washington Post devotes the top of its home page to a news feed with the links your Facebook friends are sharing. Behind the scenes a burgeoning industry of data companies is tracking your personal information to sell to advertisers, from your political leanings to the color you painted your living room to the hiking boots you just browsed on Zappos.
In a personalized world, we will increasingly be typed and fed only news that is pleasant, familiar, and confirms our beliefs-and because these filters are invisible, we won't know what is being hidden from us. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas.
While we all worry that the Internet is eroding privacy or shrinking our attention spans, Pariser uncovers a more pernicious and far- reaching trend on the Internet and shows how we can- and must-change course. With vivid detail and remarkable scope, The Filter Bubble reveals how personalization undermines the Internet's original purpose as an open platform for the spread of ideas and could leave us all in an isolated, echoing world.
You probably didn't notice it, but in December 2009, your internet changed. During that month, Google began customizing search results for each of its billions of users, based on our previous click-on history. Before long, other websites, including those keyed into Facebook, also adapted personalizing searching. Though designed for user convenience, this policy change has had a major secondary effect: Its prioritized links give us what is pleasant, familiar and confirming our beliefs, filtering out statistically less appealing results. Thus, whether you are a liberal or a conservative, you will have to dig deep to find news sources from opposing views. That, according to author Eli Pariser, is just one disturbing byproduct of this ever-refined monitoring. In The Filter Bubble, he describes the phenomenal growth of data companies devoted to mining your web history for resalable data about everything from your shopping habits to your political preferences. Alarming; informative; destined to make headlines.
…[Pariser] is to be commended for reinvigorating the conversation about the dangers of online personalization. And The Filter Bubble deserves praise for drawing attention to the growing power of information intermediaries whose rules, protocols, filters and motivations are not always visible.
—The New York Times
From the Publisher
"A powerful indictment of the current system." —-The Wall Street Journal
Eli Pariser is the board president and former executive director of MoveOn.org, which at five million members is one of the largest citizens' organizations in American politics. During his time leading MoveOn, he sent 937,510,800 e-mails to members in his name. He has written op-eds for The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal and has appeared on The Colbert Report, Good Morning America, Fresh Air, and World News Tonight.