The Filter Bubble: Why the Internet Knows You're a Dog
Eli Pariser, political activist and internet guy, has written what looks like a fascinating and important book about how much the internet knows about us - and why it's worrying: The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You.
A friend and I were recently discussing why technologies like the internet could be said to be genuinely revolutionising humanity, rather than simply projecting us further along a predetermined path. One of the things he suggested was that the web has created a world where people are increasingly trustful of data, algorithms and analytical services which promise to meet their needs with a new level of precision.
The problem is that all that data floating around in cyberspace (am really trying to bring this fantastic term back into common use) is unseen by most, and few understand the extent of it. Eli Pariser's book aims to "pull back the curtain" on that data, and explain how the ways in which it has accumulated are far more invasive and consequential than many people realise.
The Observer published an adapted extract from The Filter Bubble today, and it makes for a tantalising preview of the full thesis. For example, Pariser relates how when two of his friends were asked to search for "BP" on Google during the time of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, the sets of delivered results were markedly different. One received news reports about the spill, the other found hardly a mention of said catastrophe but was served with information on investing in the company. In a cyberspace where all content is, unbeknownst to us, tailored and shaped depending on our personal, intangible dataset on web giants' servers, the freedom and impartiality we once ascribed to online information begins to dissipate. As Pariser puts it;
"Ultimately, the filter bubble can affect your ability to choose how you want to live. To be the author of your life, professor Yochai Benkler argues, you have to be aware of a diverse array of options and lifestyles. When you enter a filter bubble, you're letting the companies that construct it choose which options you're aware of. You may think you're the captain of your own destiny, but personalisation can lead you down a road to a kind of informational determinism in which what you've clicked on in the past determines what you see next – a web history you're doomed to repeat. You can get stuck in a static, ever- narrowing version of yourself – an endless you-loop."
Should make a great read! The book is out on June 23rd and you can, of course, pre-order it from Amazon - who will probably be expecting you to...
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