The readings this week examine how the Internet as evolved into a tool of personalization. An environment that allows users to see news, advertisements, etc. that are personalized to their interests. While some may view this technology advancement as positive, there is a flip side, individuals are now in a ‘filter bubble’ where they have the option to only see the content they want to see, not the content that they need to see to make informed decisions.
In Eli Pariser’s “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You”, he discusses how powerful websites, such as Google and Facebook, have become. Their technologies have advanced in ways that allows data about your interests and behaviors to be applied to almost every other aspect of the web. This allows personalized advertisements, suggestions, web searches, etc. Not only are websites able to track what you do on their website, but they are able to track where else you go on the web, what you click on, who you interact with, etc. The more data that is collected, the more personalization occurs.
In “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom”, Morozov discusses how the Internet and the personalization of content has effected political involvement and attitudes in many authoritarian counties. For example, in Russia, instead of the typical censorship many authoritarian counties place on the Internet, content on the Internet isn’t as screened as one might think. However, personalization has been used in ways that suggest users are only seeing what they want to see, entertainment content, and not what they need to see, political information. Both of these readings discuss how personalization may distract users from getting objective, well-rounded information
In the past and even now, though tradition journalism is shrinking, newspapers were able to act as a ‘watchdog’’ over the government because they received funding from advertising, not from the government. This allowed the citizens to receive objective, un-censored news. Now, with the decline of newspapers and the increased involvement in the Internet, is the same true? Do advertisers or even large websites such as Google have enough power to decide what information we see and what we are exposed to? Pariser’s idea of a ‘filter bubble’ can be applied here. Many people think of a ‘filter bubble’ as the users choice; if an individual only wants to view certain information, they now have that choice; they don’t have to go looking for diverse content. However, I think large online companies now have the power to personalize what we see, but also filter out items that might be of interest to the users, but not in the interest of the company as a whole. Do you think large website such as Google and Facebook know too much about us as individuals, and could us it in ways to sway opinions?