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The Search “Filter Bubble”

May 6, 2011

I’m a huge fan of TED Talks. What started out in 1984 as a conference to bring people together to share ideas about Technology, Entertainment and Design has blossomed into a wonderful online portal for inspirational ideas. I TRY to catch at least one talk a week. This week I caught a really interesting talk from former Executive Director and current President, Eli Pariser and his recent experience with search results.

The crux of his talk focuses on the levels of personalization services currently being implemented by a lot of websites. From Facebook to Google, the information you see every day depends more and more on the data these sites collect about YOU. Interact with more friends than others on Facebook? Those are the friends you’ll see more of. Are most of your Google searches related to travel? That’s the kind of content you’ll see when searching a current news event location like “Egypt”.

Pariser believes there is a danger within this framework of personalized filtration – and I have to say I agree with him. We seek information for a variety of reasons. To learn, to broaden our world view, to find important support information for work or home – whatever the reason, our optimistic hope is that we are getting the full spectrum of information. That somehow when we search online we get a good sense of the whole picture collected from a global perspective. If sites like Google and Facebook start to “decide” what content I access, what does that mean exactly and what are the long term ramifications?

Watch the whole talk. I’d love to hear your opinion. Well, if that’s okay with Google.