The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You

by Eli Pariser

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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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101515129
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/12/2011
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 822,517
File size: 633 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Eli Pariser is the Board President, and former Executive Director, of the 5-million member organization A pioneer in online politics, Pariser is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and a co-founder of, one of the world’s largest citizen organizations. His op-eds have appeared in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal. He grew up in Lincolnville, Me.

What People are Saying About This

Lawrence Lessig

"For more than a decade, reflective souls have worried about the consequences of perfect personalization. Eli Pariser’s is the most powerful and troubling critique yet."--(Lawrence Lessig, author of Remix, Free Culture and Code)

David Kirkpatrick

"Eli Pariser is worried. He cares deeply about our common social sphere and sees it in jeopardy. His thorough investigation of Internet trends got me worried, too. He even taught me things about Facebook. It's a must-read."--(David Kirkpatrick, The Facebook Effect)

Douglas Rushkoff

"Eli Pariser isn’t just the smartest person I know thinking about the relationship of digital technology to participation in the democratic process—he is also the most experienced. The Filter Bubble reveals how the world we encounter is shaped by programs whose very purpose is to narrow what we see and increase the predictability of our responses. Anyone who cares about the future of human agency in a digital landscape should read this book."--(Douglas Rushkoff, author of Life Inc. and Program or Be Programmed)

Steven Levy

"‘Personalization’ sounds pretty benign, but Eli Pariser skillfully builds a case that its excess on the Internet will unleash an information calamity—unless we heed his warnings. Top notch journalism and analysis."--(Steven Levy, author of In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives)

Clay Shirky

"Internet firms increasingly show us less of the wide world, locating us in the neighborhood of the familiar. The risk, as Eli Pariser shows, is that each of us may unwittingly come to inhabit a ghetto of one."--(Clay Shirky, author Here Comes Everybody and Cognitive Surplus)

Craig Newmark

"The Internet software that we use is getting smarter, and more tailored to our needs, all the time. The risk, Eli Pariser reveals, is that we increasingly won't see other perspectives. In The Filter Bubble, he shows us how the trend could reinforce partisan and narrow mindsets, and points the way to a greater online diversity of perspective."--(Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist)

From the Publisher

"A powerful indictment of the current system." —-The Wall Street Journal

George Lakoff

In The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser reveals the news slogan of the personalized internet: Only the news that fits you we print."--(George Lakoff, author of Don’t Think of an Elephant! and The Political Mind)

Bill McKibben

"You spend half your life in Internet space, but trust me—you don't understand how it works. Eli Pariser’s book is a masterpiece of both investigation and interpretation; he exposes the way we’re sent down particular information tunnels, and he explains how we might once again find ourselves in a broad public square of ideas. This couldn’t be a more interesting book; it casts an illuminating light on so many of our daily encounters."--(Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth and The End of Nature, and founder

Customer Reviews

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Litlmom More than 1 year ago
We are so controled and have no idea. If you are a thinking person, you should read this and recommend it to anyone you care about who uses a computer. There are programs in the workplace that keep track of every key you touch and the records are archived. Please read this and be more informed with what you can do to stay outside of the box that we are slowly being forced into.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's interesting to see how much information others actually have on us. I never really thought about it before. The knowledge in this book made me contentious of how I use social websites and search browsers. SOPA is kind of a small matter compared to what can/has happen already.
lukespapa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a world of warm and fuzzy internet giants such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, etc., all may not be well according to the author of the new book, The Filter Bubble. While we theoretically have access to more than ever, what we access, algorithmically derived from our own previous click history, is actually limited in scope. Due to ¿embedded filtering¿ our own ¿personalized internet¿ purportedly limits one¿s ability to encounter new ideas, serendipitous discoveries, and opportunities to learn. Where the internet initially was rooted in anonymity, the filter bubble creates a homogenous online environment where privacy is but an illusion. In an apparent twist on selling our souls to the devil, these free internet-based services use personal histories, preferences, and data without our explicit knowledge or approval to extend their power, control, and profit-margin. Certainly alarmist, this book is food for thought for creatures of habit though technological determinists are likely to see it as a false alarm.
janegca on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An interesting look at how the web is changing with the push for 'personalization' leading the way; a push that is reducing the 'World' in 'World Wide Web' to 'access'. We can all access the web but we don't all see the same content even if we are all on the same page!The author argues for the need to pressure Google, Facebook and the other big internet players on transparency; we need to know exactly how what we see is being 'personalized'; just what personal data they're holding on us and who else has access to all or part of that data. Whether we'll get transparency or not is another matter. All corporations 'tend to their own good', any public good they generate is a collateral benefit, and, like collateral damage, is 'just business' although in this case (and maybe in all cases) IT'S PERSONAL. The information collected by the various sites is our personal data and is being selected and stored based on the personal decisions of a small handful of people. Decisions that impact literally billions of us everyday, yet most of us are completely unaware that the same Google search will return different results for different people. Or that Facebook news feeds ignore many a 'friends' updates. One thing the book does make abundantly clear: everything we do on the Web and, increasingly, off the web, is being tracked, stored and used by someone to their gain and, potentially, our loss not just of personal privacy but of a collective civil society. If all we see on the web is our own reflection what a small, dull world it will be.
artistlibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The subtitle is what caught my attention: What the Internet is Hiding from You. I use the Internet every day but I don¿t really understand how it works. Pariser, board president of, is making it all clear - and frightening. His basic argument is that large companies such as Google and Facebook are prying personal information from us and then selling it to advertisers and websites eager to get our attention. Because of this, we get out of the Internet only what we put into it - trapping us in a filter bubble that blocks us from new ideas, innovation, and a global perspective.It¿s hard to be informed in the filter bubble. Going online to news sites isn¿t enough. Seeing what your friends are up to won¿t pop the bubble. Reading Pariser¿s book will. One of the quotes Pariser uses is by John Dewey. Dewey used the term ¿bars¿ but I¿ve replaced it with ¿filters¿ to show how relevant his concern is to today¿s society: ¿Everything which FILTERS freedom and fullness of communication sets up barriers that divide human beings into sets and cliques, into antagonistic sects and factions, and thereby undermines the democratic way of life.¿
detailmuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If you¿re not paying for something, you¿re not the customer; you¿re the product being sold.Attributed to a commenter on the Internet and oft-quoted by LT¿s Tim Spaulding, that line lays the foundation of half of this book (thematic half, not structural): that virtually every website you visit collects, compiles and integrates your personal data and then uses or sells it for commercial purpose. Google and Facebook are particularly vilified: Google captures your searches and result-link clicks; Facebook doesn¿t have to capture data, users provide it voluminously.The other half of the book is the stuff of the title -- that the Internet increasingly uses that collected data to tailor itself to you, creating an online space that is your own little filtered bubble. Used to be, you could Google something and tell someone to click the third link on the first page -- those ¿Page rankings¿ (named after Google¿s Larry Page) having been based on what was most relevant to the whole of Internet users. But since 2009, Google searches are individualized and ranked according to what¿s most relevant to you, i.e. what you¿re most likely to click on. Google yourself and you won¿t get the results I get for you. Google a controversial topic and you¿ll get results in line with what you already know; same with the prioritization of your Facebook feeds. Online (and increasingly offline), you are what you click on the web; you are what you share there or link to ¿ did you know that your ¿real life¿ credit-worthiness is affected by the credit-worthiness of your Facebook friends?Pariser acknowledges that media has always been filtered (network news and newspapers) and that at least with the Internet, you can go find what you don¿t know ¿ as long as you know you don¿t know it; stumbling on ¿unknown unknowns¿ is harder. But he riles against the lack of transparency in data collection and cautions that Internet filtering puts techies in charge of the dialogue and discourse that create society. That reminds me of Edward Tufte¿s caution in The Visual Display of Quantitative Information: ¿Allowing artist-illustrators to control the design and content of statistical graphics is almost like allowing typographers to control the content, style, and editing of prose.¿If I recall correctly (I listened via audiobook), Pariser suggests there is little solution other than regulation; he offers a couple suggestions to mitigate, for example setting your web browser to delete cookies/history each time it closes.The book is revelatory. It or another book on the topic is required reading for every person who goes online.
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