Third Mind | The Downside of Personalization Algorithms
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The Downside of Personalization Algorithms

The internet. We love it. It’s why we are here, doing what we do. But have you noticed subtle ways in which what we see on the internet has been changing?

From my perspective, it’s been most easily apparent on Facebook. There was a point when I realized only a handful of my friends were posting status… or so I thought. I learned after the fact that Facebook changed their news feed preferences (yes, once again) so that the default view was focused only on  friends with whom you regularly interacted. That view is disappointingly narrow. While I don’t always actively engage all my friends, the fact that I could get a glimpse into their daily lives was a real treat. So because of Facebook algorithms – which believed they knew what I wanted more than I knew what I wanted – I lost the most personally valuable aspect of Facebook.

And Facebook is not alone.  All the major players have been following suit (Google, Yahoo, etc.) It’s called Personalization.

Wait a minute, isn’t personalization a good thing? Don’t we want personalization to weed out all the irrelevant content and deliver what I really want? Well, theoretically. But we are complex beings. Our interests aren’t defined by our past, or even current actions. We want and need much more than that.

Please take a few minutes to view a very important Ted Talk by Eli Pariser entitled “What is the Internet hiding?

As users of the internet, we should be very aware that providers are filtering… are controlling… are censoring our access to content. As developers, we should always remain vigilant about the flip side of our work, where good ideas can go wrong so that we can make them better.