The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser

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Synopsis

An eye-opening account of how the hidden rise of personalization on the Internet is controlling-and limiting-the information we consume.

In December 2009, Google began customizing its search results for each user. Instead of giving you the most broadly popular result, Google now tries to predict what you are most likely to click on. According to MoveOn.org board president Eli Pariser, Google's change in policy is symptomatic of the most significant shift to take place on the Web in recent years-the rise of personalization. In this groundbreaking investigation of the new hidden Web, Pariser uncovers how this growing trend threatens to control how we consume and share information as a society-and reveals what we can do about it.

Though the phenomenon has gone largely undetected until now, personalized filters are sweeping the Web, creating individual universes of information for each of us. Facebook-the primary news source for an increasing number of Americans-prioritizes the links it believes will appeal to you so that if you are a liberal, you can expect to see only progressive links. Even an old-media bastion like The Washington Post devotes the top of its home page to a news feed with the links your Facebook friends are sharing. Behind the scenes a burgeoning industry of data companies is tracking your personal information to sell to advertisers, from your political leanings to the color you painted your living room to the hiking boots you just browsed on Zappos.

In a personalized world, we will increasingly be typed and fed only news that is pleasant, familiar, and confirms our beliefs-and because these filters are invisible, we won't know what is being hidden from us. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas.

While we all worry that the Internet is eroding privacy or shrinking our attention spans, Pariser uncovers a more pernicious and far- reaching trend on the Internet and shows how we can- and must-change course. With vivid detail and remarkable scope, The Filter Bubble reveals how personalization undermines the Internet's original purpose as an open platform for the spread of ideas and could leave us all in an isolated, echoing world.
 

About Eli Pariser

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ELI PARISER is the board president and former executive director of MoveOn.org, which at five million members is one of the largest citizens' organizations in American politics. During his time leading MoveOn, he sent 937,510,800 e-mails to members in his name. He has written op-eds for The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal and has appeared on The Colbert Report, Good Morning America, Fresh Air, and World News Tonight.
 
Published May 12, 2011 by Penguin Books. 304 pages
Genres: Computers & Technology, Professional & Technical, Political & Social Sciences, Science & Math. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Filter Bubble

The New York Times

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A progressive political activist asks whether the personalization of search-engine results is a blessing or a curse.

Jun 10 2011 | Read Full Review of The Filter Bubble

The Wall Street Journal

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By tracking individual Web browsers with cookies, Google has been able to personalize results even for users who don't create a personal Google account or are not logged into one.

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The Wall Street Journal

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Will the information superhighway turn into a cul-de-sac because of automated filters?

May 20 2011 | Read Full Review of The Filter Bubble

AV Club

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The Filter Bubble’s most straightforward point is that megacorporations filtering the Internet are the new gatekeepers, taking over from newspaper editors and TV producers, but “we’ve given very little scrutiny to the interests behind the new curators.” Part of this is related to the techno-utopi...

Jun 23 2011 | Read Full Review of The Filter Bubble

Washington Independent Review of Books

This overfitting of your personality not only shaves off the growing edges of chance, creativity and serendipity but also leads to what Pariser calls a “global lobotomy.” Whatever you search, see and do online creates your preferences, and your preferences are whatever you search, see and do online.

May 25 2011 | Read Full Review of The Filter Bubble

DNA

In The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser argues that excessive personalisation of the internet is beginning to keep us in the familiar and comfortable, closing off discovery, new information, and alternative perspectives.

Jul 17 2011 | Read Full Review of The Filter Bubble

London School of Economics

The upshot of which, according to Pariser (assuming, probably rightly, that the internet will dominate the way we intake news and information about the world, over more traditional forms), is that we have a different understanding of the world dependent upon our search histories.

Aug 23 2012 | Read Full Review of The Filter Bubble

First Monday

Using the drug Adderall — a mixture of amphetamines whose effects on cognitive activity are somewhat unexplained — as an analogy for personalized online filters, Pariser argues that online personalization can hinder creativity and innovation in three ways: it artificially limits our mental capaci...

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