You don’t know something, Google it! Want to find somebody, search on Facebook. Google is the first and the last stop for information on all fronts. Yahoo News- the largest news provider, Facebook- the biggest social networking site! Such is the enormity of these that Internet is no longer a utility of the youth, in fact even the middle aged and elderly people are relying immensely on it. You find almost everybody on facebook, even parents and although rarely, even grandparents.
But what if I tell you, the net hides things from you. Google shows you the incomplete stuff; facebook tailors your newsfeed astutely. Zuckerberg once told a news reporter, ‘ A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa ‘.
All the major websites and search engines utilize this concept. Let me illustrate. Let’s say you search something on Google, and another person somewhere else on the globe, say Africa, searches the same thing. The links and results that will pop up for both of you will be different. But, why go that far? Let me give a personal example. I searched the word FABRICATION on Google, on my phone, laptop and asked a friend of mine to do the same. In all the three cases, after the first two results, all the links were different. We had two same links, because being in close proximity with each other, in all likelihood; our searching habits are same, to some extent. But after that, where did the difference arise?
Most of us are aware that our web experience is somewhat customized by our browsing history, social graph and other factors. But this sort of information-tailoring takes place on a much more sophisticated, deeper and far-reaching level than we suspect. Did you know that Google takes into account 57 individual data points before serving you the results you searched for? Plausibly, the browser, its version, etc. are amongst them. And besides our searching habits, this is what varies in most cases.
Basically, the search engines and websites have created a bubble around you on the Internet. Whenever, we search something, they filter out the contents and present you a part of it in your bubble, hiding the rest from you. And the worst part is you don’t have any control over what is being put inside your bubble. This is based on the algorithms of the websites. The term Filter Bubble was coined by Eli Pariser, an Internet activist. He has also written a book on this titled, ‘THE FILTER BUBBLE: WHAT THE INTERNET IS HIDING FROM YOU’.
Your filter bubble is the personal universe of information that you live in online — unique and constructed just for you by the array of personalized filters that now power the web. But it’s also a real problem: the set of things we’re likely to click on (sex, gossip, things that are highly personally relevant) isn’t the same as the set of things we need to know. We continue to see more results based on our previous predilections (click history, etc.) and from our own “social bubbles” while moving away from the broad web-centric results of Internet search origins. I suspect the results are worse for people who know how to work with search engines of the past and better for people who don’t know anything about structuring logical queries.
Most of the time, this doesn’t have much practical consequence. But one of the problems with this kind of massive consolidation that these websites do is that what Google knows, any government that is friends with Google can know, too. There’s a basic problem with a system in which Google makes billions off of the data we give it without giving us much control over how it’s used or even what it is.
Not all the websites are biased. It is claimed that Wikipedia and some other browsers as duckduckgo and blekko offer unbiased information to its users. But whatever, the case may be, we as users got to be a bit alert. A step to come out of this bubble is to change our searching habits, by not being a mouse- that can be trapped easily. Vary your online routine, rather than returning to the same sites every day. Experiencing different perspectives and ideas and views is better.