The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser shows some of the implications of personalization, especially for the public discussion and our community political discourse. Google is one example, where the search results differ based on geography, previous searches and many many other factors.

When we first started work on federated identity and attributes, we thought the primary use for attributes would be authorization: granting or refusing access. We were wrong. In the first two years of handing out attributes, we discovered that personalization is the primary reason for requesting information about a person. Attributes are used for personalization, and controlling attributes is under-estimated. We need to work more on attributes and how to share enough information without revealing too much. Cross-site scripting is a security threat, cross-site personalization is a risk to our integrity.  Personalization is available on most modern web sites.

The Filter Bubble points out some of the dangers for our society as the news streams get fragmented and we slide into ghettos where there is no shared reality anymore. Shared reality is important for democracy, as we need to sort out where our choices are, during a public discussion.

My sister is a public servant, working for the Norwegian government. Someone set off a bomb just outside her office less than a week ago, because he hated the current political regime, killing 8 people. He then went on to the Labor Youth summer camp, killing 68 (current number, there are several missing persons), where he was arrested. All the evidence reported by the media points to a person who has been living in a filter bubble with a strong reinforcing feedback hatred for Muslims, as explained in the Guardian by Thomas Hylland Eriksen. The terrorist has been using anonymous discussion forums online to confirm his ideas and get ideological backing. Conspiracy theories flourish in such environments.

The Filter Bubble on our Internet gets really scary when we encounter:

  • There is no transparency, we do not know how reality was altered to fit us
  • The invisible ghetto I live in have walls, and I believe they are the end of the world
  • We have no interest in our community and cross-partisan discussion fail to deal with large (and small) political issues
  • Personality tests used for job interviews gets replaced by an interpretation of the bubble the job applicant live in (there is probably an app for doing this, at least in the US, where such information is for sale). Knowing about your bubble gets more important than knowing you.
  • Critical thinking is made more difficult by incongruent information, since search results and news flow differ significantly
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