The next bubble

The next bubble will not be real-estate, or tech startups and we actually aready live in it. It is… The Filter Bubble (book by Eli Pariser).

It means that your search results are personalized and customized according to your habits, friends, and taste. It also means that two persons searching the same term can receive very different results. Google started doing that in 2009, and up to now, I have never really cared a lot about this (as most people will have). However, they introduced ever more services since then that all collect your data. Notably they know your location via your Android phone, and your friends via Google+, as well as their posts and locations. They know your appointments via Google calendar, and your contacts via your address book. They know every search term ever entered, and the links clicked from the result pages.

Today I opened the Google Homepage and the previously bare page was cluttered with advertizements to install their Google Chrome webbrowser, to search Google+ and whatnot. Combined with their current privacy policy update which clarifies that:

Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

This leads to a very dangerous mix. Why am I sceptical about improved search results? See for instance, Eli Pariser’s TED talk here.

Google gives you search results that you and your friends will like, e.g. the blogs they read, the links they click, etc. This leads to an even higher degree of selective exposure than we usually have. In effect it means a compartmentalization of the Internet in areas where you feel warm, cozy, and comfortable, being shielded from things that differ from your opinion, or are likely to appall you. Is this always a good thing? It facilitates group-think and prevents you from being challenged by different world views.

Do I like relevant search results? Obviously yes! Am I concerned about living in a filter bubble? Yes, very much so…