Filter Bubble, fiction or reality?

Lets talk about Internet Privacy, shall we? While government authorities are struggling to define regulation in cyberspace due to its dynamic fast pace nature; the Internet giants like Google, Facebook, Twitter and the like are progressing at the speed of light.

Every time you sign for a new application, most likely you consent to have your information shared with more than one service providers although you think you signed up for one. Internet companies choose to use, sell or share their customer data which sounds absurd, but all of us unknowingly have consented to this.

Besides the obvious legal issue of signing Terms and Conditions that you do not read or do not understand – simply because it is almost impossible to go through these small letters; the other issue I see is the nature of information flow in the pre and post Internet times.

While traditional media and news agencies were controlling the information their audience would have access to, nowadays, even though you technically have access to anything that has ever been posted on the web, in reality you live in a filter bubble. In essence, the Internet has not changed the information flow.

Assuming that all information the Internet conglomerates are collecting on their users – such as what is their favorite restaurant through Foursquare, what kind of products they browse on Amazon, where they go on vacation via Expedia and who they are connected to on all kinds of portals – stays safe and only for the use of the selected service provider, this does not make it any better. The metrics of my online life have created a digital profile of who I am and what I might like and these companies make a number of decisions on my behalf. The Internet conglomerates decide what I need to read, what I need to see, what I need to buy based on my previous searches. In fact, my browser knows me so well that I get recommendations for items I have already purchased!

Thus when I use a search engine to read about Greece, most probably I will get very different results compared to another person who is not Greek or not interested in politics for example. Fiction? More like reality. We tried this experiment with a few more communication specialists and journalists at the Kennedy School, and while I was reading about the recent fiscal developments of my country, my foreign friends got vacation recommendations on the Greek islands. My question is how is this filter different to governments or traditional media conglomerates controlling the news? Both traditional and new media models have drawbacks. Whether information selection is to skew the truth or to customize reality to my needs, neither is free access to information.

That is a lot to consider and quite complex to resolve, but it is at least worth to keep in mind as we see the news agencies migrating online one after another. Maybe the DailyMe is much more than an MIT lab experiment, it is a glimpse of future news.


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