Thursday, December 19, 2013

Is Google the Ultimate Example of Targeting?


A friend shared a 12/18/13 posting from delanceyplace.com titled The same internet search yields two different results.
Here’s the intro:
  • In today's selection -- from The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser. Because of the personalization of the internet, an internet search of the same term by two different people will often bring very different results. We are each increasingly being served not only ads for what we are more likely to want, but also news and information that is familiar and confirms our beliefs. The issue is that we are increasingly unaware of what is being filtered out and why -- leaving us each more and more in our own unique and self-reinforcing information bubble. Author Eli Pariser calls this "the filter bubble" -- and it is leaving less room for encounters with unexpected ideas:
    • Most of us assume that when we 'google' a term, we all see the same results -- the ones that the company's famous Page Rank algorithm suggests are the most authoritative based on other pages' links. But since December 2009, this is no longer true. Now you get the result that Google's algorithm suggests is best for you in particular -- and someone else may see something entirely different. In other words, there is no standard Google anymore.
    • It's not hard to see this difference in action. In the spring of 2010, while the remains of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig were spewing crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, I asked two friends to search for the term 'BP.' They're pretty similar -- educated white left-leaning women who live in the Northeast. But the results they saw were quite different. One of my friends saw investment information about BP. The other saw news. For one, the first page of results contained links about the oil spill; for the other, there was nothing about it except for a promotional ad from BP.
    • Even the number of results returned by Google differed -- about 180 million results for one friend and 139 million for the other. If the results were that different for these two progressive East Coast women, imagine how different they would be for my friends and, say, an elderly Republican in Texas (or, for that matter, a businessman in Japan).
Interesting stuff.  The book sounds worth the read, doesn't it?
  • Some read what Google is doing and worry about the consequences ... think it is similar to NSA’s spying.
  • Others see it as a tool to reinforce our own stereotypes and thus increase the strident dialog within society.
  • Some may see this as the ultimate in target marketing. Similar to how Amazon provides you with ideas similar to what you have read or purchased in the past.
I fall in to all three camps.

What about you?

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