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 and shows how we can - and must - change course.
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Now in the top 3 best books I've ever read
- Brian Esserlieu
A rambling, elitist, political, alarmist rant
There are few tidbits of knowledge in here, if you can filter out the blatant false claims, internal inconsistencies, and stunning political bias.
When the author actually covers internet filtering, there are some interesting tidbits of information, but the reader needs to filter which passages are fact and which passages are the author's opinions. For example, when describing Google's ranking algorithm, the author claims that the algorithm is so large and complex (hundreds of thousands of lines of code), that not even Google's engineers understand how it ranks your personalized searches. Yet, in the book's conclusion, when arguing for public disclosure of Google's algorithm for the sake of guarding against evil (while mocking the intellectual property value of the algorithm), the author makes the stunning claim that the public will 'intuitively' understand page ranks. So, when the algorithm is private, it's incomprehensible even by professionals, but when disclosed to the public, it becomes intuitively obvious!
Given the author's liberal peppering of his political agenda throughout the book, i understand his point of view. Regrettably, the incessant political undertones tremendously detract from the subject matter. Some examples include the claim that inanimate objects are the root causes of evil, not the misuse of those objects by humans -- Google's algorithm can't harm anyone by itself, rather the misuse of the algorithm by humans may cause harm. Applying the author's twisted political logic to computer viruses and malware would put the blame for damage on the virus code rather than the malcontents who wrote and distributed the virus code.