Mark's Reviews > The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You

The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser
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's review
Jun 11, 2011

really liked it
Read on June 11, 2011

Eli Pariser argues in The Filter Bubble that "rise of pervasive , embedded filtering is changing the way we experience the internet and ultimately the world." Now that companies can aggregate our web behaviors, likes, and purchases, online profiles of web users can be built that can be profitably sold to interested parties. This book therefore covers two issues: total personalization of delivered web data, and nature of these created web personas.

Regarding the first issue, I'm not as concerned as Mr. Pariser. He clearly describes the architecture underlying the web personalization process, and demonstrates how it can result in vastly different web experiences for different people, based on their interests expressed on the web. In one example, he suggests that two people googling the exact same term could receive different results custom-built to their web-perceived selves. Great, on the one hand, if you are looking for a local restaurant, but maybe not so much if you are looking up, say, a politician.

But this presupposes an absolutely passive approach to the web. I don't get my news from the Google news reader, where articles will be served up for my interest. I get my news from the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, where I will be exposed (at least so far) to the same stories as everyone else. If the day comes that they start tailoring their home pages according to what I've clicked on and read, I guess I will need a new strategy.

The second issue is of much greater concern. As the author points out, "While the internet has the potential to decentralize knowledge and control, in practice it's concentrating control over what we see and what opportunities we're offered in the hands of fewer people than ever before." Not just fewer people, but data aggregating businesses that are largely invisible to the public. Mr. Pariser calls for the creation of a federal body to oversee the use of private information, and legislation along the the lines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. To achieve this kind of regulation, though, will take an educated electorate, and The Filter Bubble does a great job of laying out the issues.
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