I am a big fan of the TED’s series of seminars and recently came across a really interest talk called “Beware online “filter bubbles” By Eli Pariser. The simple premise presented during this seminar is that search personalisation where search engines track you and try to tailor the results based on your past searching and clicking history has gone too far.
The funny things is that not that long ago, “Results tailored to you” was supposed to be a positive, now somehow its a bad thing? I think personalisation still plays a role when it comes to fact based searching. For example, being in IT myself, I am perfectly fine with search engines filtering out things related to Java (the coffee variety!) and focus on the programming language when I do search for the term “Java”. For a coffee lovers on the other hand, the results should focus on the other variety.
It’s only when you you bring in the context of subjectivity that things get a little murky. This is especially true in a political context, since you typically click on things you “AGREE WITH” you tend to get more of them. So it is alleged that the same search for “Barrack Obama” will yield two completely different result sets with one set more focused around contents from “MSNBC” (supposed to be more pro-democrat?) and the other set more focused around contents from Fox news (more pro-republican?). The worst part of it (hence the bubble that you can’t get out!) is that it becomes a vicious cycle.
So how do you get out of the search engine personal bubble? Alternative search engines such as Duck Duck Go presents itself as the solution. In fact, they have dedicated a whole URL to try to explain this key differentiation point of theirs. The whole idea is that they don’t track you, don’t lock you in a bubble and the search result you see is exactly the same as someone on the other side of the planet. The associated benefit being that since they don’t track you, don’t store your search history, they are the web’s angelic angel when it comes to protecting your privacy.
I think the verdict is still out on this one….