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Sunday, July 10, 2011

TECH WORLD: What the Internet hides from you!

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DEEPA KURUP / The Hindu / BANGALORE, July 9, 2011.

Is personalisation of Web search leading to an information dystopia?
The word ‘googling' has, in our Internet age, become a somewhat acceptable verb for searching for information on the World Wide Web. The ‘na├»ve' Web users that we are, we believe that the ‘10 blue links' that pop up in response to our queries are fairly sacrosanct; that is, your search results are no different from mine.
However, critics allude to a growing information dystopia on the Web. Most famously, at a TED talk this year that went viral on the Web — where else — Eli Pariser spoke about what he calls the online “filter bubble”. In his recent book, titled The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, Mr. Pariser makes a compelling argument against search personalisation, a strategy that is widely believed to be the future of Web search.
Web personalisation is fairly ubiquitous. For instance, micro-blogging site Twitter offers a personalised recommendation service, both for who you may want to follow and what you would like to see. But Pariser's observation is far more important, and disturbing. He uses a compelling example to present the invisible shift in information flow on the Web by comparing search results encountered by two friends.
When they searched for the phrase ‘Egypt' (at the height of the Egypt revolution), one found links to the political crisis and protests in Tahrir Square, while the other found his search page full of tourist information on the country


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