Facebook, Google and Mis-Serving of Information

I saw a rather compelling video this week from a young LA Internet personality named Matthias.  He was about to delete his Facebook account and created the video to explain why and hopefully inspire others to do the same.  His reasons have a lot to do with the company’s constant grabbing at our personal information and turning it into salable product.  Here, give a watch (and don’t hesitate to pause – he says a lot in a small space):

It is concerning that we routinely and without thinking or even knowing grant permission to Facebook to listen in on our lives via the michrophones in our SmartPhones.  Concerning?  Hell, it’s NUTS!  Are you KIDDING ME??

And that all by itself is probably a good reason to shut it down and return to relating to others as human beings, not electronic profiles.  But I find myself at least equally concerned about something else going on, not just with Facebook, but with Google and most other giant Internet portals.  It is the ‘Filter Bubbles’ into which our information providers stuff us.

We’d like to think that the Internet is an open source kinda place, where anybody can find out about any thing at any time.  Unfortunately, that is simply not true!  Facebook, Google and others – the big players that provide access to and serve up our information – track virtually everything we do, everything we click, everything we type, every site we visit and everything we buy.  Their motives are purely Capitalistic:  they just want to serve us a strict diet of things we are most likely to like and buy, and they use the information to determine what we see and what we don’t.

The insidious thing to me is that when I look for something online, or even when I scan through my Facebook Newsfeed, I’m mostly seeing information that reinforces my own point-of-view.  I’m clicking through a Filter Bubble these Net Giants have created for me, personally, that culls from the massive amount of data available, picking and choosing items it thinks I might like and which offer them the greatest possible chance of selling something.

Here:  do a little experiment.  Next time you are sitting with a few friends and everybody has Internet access via computer, tablet or SmartPhone, Google something a little controversial . . . .say . . . ‘Obamacare.’  Then compare your results.  Unless you and your friends think exactly alike and behave in similar fashion when online, you will have different results.  Each person’s search results will be filtered to serve them items they will find ‘tasty;’  in other words, items with which they already agree!

Pardon the scatological stab at humor BUT:  it’s as if we are trapped in an elevator smelling our own farts!

I think this personalized filtering – which is EVERYWHERE on the web – is very polarizing.  It tends to put us into tight little boxes where, instead of trying to understand an opposing viewpoint, we lash out at it because we can’t believe anybody could be so stupid as to believe that!

For example, I’m a pretty middle-of-the road politically progressive kinda guy.  I’m not fan of the Tea Party or the radical right.  My search results and Newsfeed reinforce my leaning to such an extent that I am actually shocked when I run into someone I know who holds those views.  In my bubble, those guys are the lunatic fringe, a small but vocal group not to be taken seriously.  Meanwhile, my Conservative friends are getting a completely different diet in their bubbles, one that reinforces the horrors of any form of liberalism and has them believing that people like me are a misguided minority.

We end up in our own little bubbles, sabers drawn, ready to charge out and do battle with anyone who doesn’t agree with us because (according to our Newsfeeds and search results) almost everyone DOES agree with us.  It’s all just so stupid!  And it’s happening because Facebook, Google, Amazon, Comcast, Verizon and on and on need to find more ways to make Billions (and pay no taxes)!

I’m not as decisive as Matthias.  I will have to sit and stew on this whole Delete Facebook idea.  I’ll probably sit and stew until I forget about it and go back to liking cute videos of dogs.  But I think the day may be coming when a viable alternative rises and takes a big bite out of the giants’ rear ends!

Here’s a great TED Talk about Filter Bubbles:

1 thought on “Facebook, Google and Mis-Serving of Information”

  1. They’re real good at showing me ads for stuff I’ve already either bought or looked at on the Internet – gee whiz, not very helpful, really! Actually, annoying would describe it best.

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