Although this stuff is completely obvious, after reading an excerpt from “Filter Bubble” by Eli Parisher, I was completely shocked from realizing what is truly happening and the lack of privacy everyone has now-a-days.
Just like the article says, we all assume that we see the same results in Google. However, that is definitely not the case. Google is not the same as it used to be. By using algorithms, the search engine “personalizes” your search results to fit what is supposedly best for you. I didn’t see this in the news or anything but after a while, I started to get a jist that Google had changed many of their options. When I was on the volleyball team in High School, I was trying to get my stats online as well as show a teammate the same website. I told her “Yea, Google your name and the website”. Of course, the website could not be found, she was getting completely different results from what I was getting. (Similar to Eli’s example that he gave about his friends who were fairly similar trying to both get search about the company “B.P.”.) Now, I’m used to those changes Google made and think it certainly is very convenient (the same goes with cookies), saving me time for homework, school projects, etc; however, it just shows that the government or whoever sees EVERYTHING. Not only that, but how accurate could these “personalized” results be? If I search something I have never searched before and that is completely out of my interests, how do these algorithms know that that is exactly what I am looking for? Another thought, what kind of results would I get if I use a public computer such as at a library? Although I would not be logged in, the algorithms would still incorporate other people’s previous searches into mine.
Another example is Facebook. Just by looking at a random strangers page, you can learn about them in less than a minute; their “likes”, interests, music, books, school they went to, where they work, who they are dating, and even where they live. It is so easy to “creep” on Facebook, even if you are not trying to. I personally, wouldn’t want people seeing “Jessica commented on Sarah’s status saying this and that” or “Bob liked this photo”. Now I finally understand why some of my friends status updates just did not show up. Simply because they posted what I was not interested in.
If you look around, this type of stuff is EVERYWHERE. Take for example you want to buy a new car, you go to General Motors, which is equipped with “On Star”, which is VERY convenient and modern. It includes stolen vehicle tracking, automatic crash response, navigation, and roadside assistance. Doesn’t that mean if you use those features, the On Star employees constantly know where you are located? As if they are always spying on you. A popular radio host I sometimes listen, Alex Jones bought a new General Motors car, which was equipped with On Star. He actually went to a garage and had employees rip out the On Star system. Not a common request at the mechanic’s shop. Ha!This “filter bubble” exists everywhere, not just in search engines and e-mails, even in Netflix or more generally, television. For example, different news channels speak differently (negatively or positively) about certain individuals or events, trying to convince us to follow a certain viewpoint. If you watch Fox News, they’ll give you one opinion about Obama, if you watch MSNBC, they’ll give you an entirely different opinion about Obama. As said by Negroponte “Tomorrow will allow you to vary sex, violence, and political leaning”. Well there you go, we already have the political leaning throughout different channels on television. But we also have the ability to control what goes on our television with an installation of a chip or parental controls.
Privacy is certainly something everyone wants to have. But something as “private” as e-mails even gets tracked. For example, just now when I was logged into my Google school e-mail, trying to find one of my FAFSA e-mails, I was shocked to find an advertisement on the top saying exactly this “Want a $10,000 scholarship?! No essay, no GPA, no stress! Apply now!”. To me that is absolutely INSANE. This lack of privacy “flattens society”, just like it stated in The Filter Bubble.
Overall, I think Companies do not care about their customers, they would pretty much do anything just to get money from us, either illegally or legally. Of course, cookies, and these algorithms are convenient and cost nothing to us. (No one would like to be overwhelmed by millions of uninteresting information, posts, news, etc) But this lack of privacy and censorship is repulsive. There just seems to be no solutions, if we were to completely get rid of advertisements, all websites would demand a fee just to enter or view the content. Soon enough, we will be like puppets on strings, controlled by the government (even more than we are now).