Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Filter Bubble

Filter Bubble? What the … ! Please read on:

A filter bubble is a result state in which a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as location, past click behaviour and search history) and, as a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles. Prime examples are Google‘s personalized search results and Facebook‘s personalized news stream.
Filter Bubble on Wikipedia

Briefly this means that some search engine (like Google) know you so well – through tracking technologies – that they have the ability to tailor search results to what they think you want to hear.

Does this matter? Well consider this case a Search on “BP”;

I had two friends this spring Google “BP,” one of them got a set of links that was about investment opportunities in BP. The other one got information about the oil spill. Presumably that was based on the kinds of searches that they had done in the past. If you have Google doing that, and you have Yahoo doing that, and you have Facebook doing that, and you have all of the top sites on the Web customizing themselves to you, then your information environment starts to look very different from anyone else’s.
The Filter Bubble : Lynn Parramore interviews Internet activist Eli Pariser on the Atlantic

Clever? Yes. Convenient? Well it depends, do you want to be oblivious to views different to those that Google Facebook etc. think you want to see? Do you want to be unaware of the strength of an opposing opinion?

If our new Foreign Secretary was to use Google to research the European Union his results would be skewed with Euro-sceptic results (UKIP and the Daily Mail higher up the search results with stories of bent cucumbers coming before stories about the benefits of EU membership.)

If you use Google to research the “nasty rash” that a friend is worried about, the filter bubble will then assume that you are interested in “nasty rashes” and allied issues and serve up search results skewed towards such delicate issues. (You will also get similarly targeted adverts.)

There is a way to get “neutral” results returned. Use a search engine that respects your privacy and logs neither the search terms that you use nor the links that you explore and does not use such information to give you a distorted view of what is on the internet. Two well-known privacy respecting search engines:

DuckDuckGo Search Engine

DuckDuckGo Search Engine


Startpage Search Engine

Startpage Search Engine

(Click on either of the above to go to the Search Engines and have a look)

Since these search engines by default use a global index, you will also see a full set of results and not a set of results with European “right to be forgotten” links removed.

So why continue with Google? Bookmark either www.startpage.com or www.duckduckgo.com and be confident that you are getting a view of what is out there on the internet without being biased by what others think you want to see.



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One thought on “Filter Bubble

  1. Pingback: Are the geeks inheriting the earth? | Outside the marginals

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