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View Full Version : Personalisation (and its repercussions)



IdleRich
30-07-2011, 08:20 PM
Interesting talk here where he speaks about how personalisation is the new buzz word for internet companies and what that can mean for search engines.

http://www.dshed.net/eli-pariser

The main thrust of what he's saying is that Google, in part response to the way Facebook etc only show you data that you're likely to like (because it comes to you via your friends who presumably like things that you like) now attempts to show you results from your searches that have been tailored to you, based on the kind of things you've clicked on before - for instance if I was to do a search on football it would be more likely to show me proper football than it would be to show me American Football (or Aussie Rules or whatever) because that's what I've looked at before. Fair enough. Problem is that this extends to politics and news; if a rabid right-winger and a loony lefty both put the same search into google they will presumably get very different pages reinforcing their respective beliefs and yet both will believe that they've just picked the first results that come out of an objective (or at least rigidly algorithmic) search of the interweb. This doesn't seem right to me, the search is telling you what you want to hear and, worst of all, most people aren't aware of this.
This personalisation thing is mentioned in this article here too although, unsurprisingly, as the quote is from a Google employee there is a much more positive spin given to it.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/30/google-plus-facebook-social-networking


"Diversity of results is something deeply baked into the algorithm tools we use, so that we hopefully give a broad perspective," said Gomes. "But if you are interested in a topic you'd tend to do a very specific query anyway, and our first goal is to give you the information you want."
Seems to me that the first claim in that quote is somewhat undermined by the second. Aren't diversity and specificity mutually exclusive?
Anyway, I don't know to what extent other search engines do this but it makes me reluctant to use Google - certainly for important stuff where I'm trying to discover what I think, not just be given what someone thinks I want to think (though maybe it is better for when you're searching for football, music etc).

Sectionfive
30-07-2011, 08:41 PM
More here http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jun/12/google-personalisation-internet-data-filtering

Afaik being logged into gmail, youtube etc will also have an effect

IdleRich
30-07-2011, 09:47 PM
Presumably you can avoid this by going to an internet cafe and doing searches - although I guess that will mean that you're searches will be tailored to an amalgam of everyone who has used that computer - or will it realise that different people are using it because different email log-ins etc will use? I guess it depends on how the personalisation works - and I assume that they are keeping their cards close to their chest on that just at they do with the standard google algorithm(s).
Anyway, I'll read that link now cheers.

IdleRich
30-07-2011, 09:49 PM
"content has been removed as our copyright has expired"
The article is from the same guy who did the talk in the first post anyway so probably more of the same...?

Sectionfive
30-07-2011, 10:41 PM
The article is from the same guy who did the talk in the first post anyway so probably more of the same...?

Yeah think so, got link from another forum.
Slightly OT there's other things like ads appearing on facebook or google for items you have sitting in your amazon basket etc. And you should always clear you cookie's when booking flights, Ryanair etc won't offer you cheaper prices if they know your check regularly before you book.

The politics and news bit is worrying though.

mistersloane
31-07-2011, 12:57 AM
That guy's website is here, it's good :

http://www.thefilterbubble.com/

IdleRich
31-07-2011, 02:34 AM
Thanks MisterS - just seen this


"Google does allow you to turn personalisation off - press the little cog wheel in the top right hand corner of the page, select Web History and then press the Disable Customisations based on Search Activity"
Which means that presumably I can make the search more objective - but, as most people aren't going to do that, there will still be a majority of people who are unwittingly having their opinions confirmed for them. It would be better if the default setting was "off" as far as I can see.

mistersloane
31-07-2011, 12:07 PM
They don't make it easy either :
Turning off search history personalization


Google sometimes customizes (http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=93704) your search results based on your past search activity on Google. This customization includes searches you've done and results you've clicked. Since personalized search treats signed-in and signed-out users differently, the instructions for turning off search history personalization are a little different in each case.
Signed in searches To disable history-based search customizations while signed in, you'll need to remove Web History (http://www.google.com/support/accounts/bin/answer.py?answer=54067) from your Google Account. You can also choose to remove individual items. Note that removing this service deletes all your old searches from Web History.
Signed out searches If you aren't signed in to a Google Account, your search experience will be customized based on past search information linked to a cookie (http://www.google.com/privacy_faq.html#toc-terms-cookie) on your browser. To disable these types of customizations, follow these steps:


In the top right corner of the search results page, click the http://www.google.com/help/hc/images/accounts_icon_gear_padded.gif gear icon, then select Web History.
On the resulting page, click Disable customizations based on search activity.(Because this preference is stored in a cookie, it'll affect anyone else who uses the same browser and computer as you).

Or, if you'd rather just delete the current cookie storing searches from your browser and start fresh, clear your browser's cookies (http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?answer=497).

IdleRich
31-07-2011, 12:46 PM
So, if you're signed in you can only avoid this happening by deleting your history? Love the spitefulness of that - if you won't let us use your info we're not gonna let you use it either.

Slothrop
02-08-2011, 04:03 PM
Is there a specific objection to this apart from the difficulty of finding an impartial range of opinions on a political issue?

It does raise interesting questions regarding privacy and stuff (in the same vein as things like supermarket reward cards) and how much you're happy to have people target adverts at you in exchange for finding stuff better. But you seem to be reacting as if it's a deliberate Kapitalist Konspiracy to prevent people from accessing a full range of political opinion...

muser
02-08-2011, 04:29 PM
I'd like to see some better examples of how Exploratory searches are carried out/ affected by these algorithms. I know it was mainly being said as an example for the different results you get but who really searches "Egypt" with no particular idea in mind about what they want to find out. I think pretty much all my searches are quite specific tbh so I cant see how this would effect me. It is still nonetheless a pretty worrying direction everything seems to be going in.

IdleRich
02-08-2011, 05:51 PM
"Is there a specific objection to this apart from the difficulty of finding an impartial range of opinions on a political issue?
It does raise interesting questions regarding privacy and stuff (in the same vein as things like supermarket reward cards) and how much you're happy to have people target adverts at you in exchange for finding stuff better. But you seem to be reacting as if it's a deliberate Kapitalist Konspiracy to prevent people from accessing a full range of political opinion..."
You being me right? I think that my main objection to this is the range of opinions issue though yeah. Obviously, to use my previous example again, it's better for me that a search I do relating to football focusses on the right kind of football - even in this case some people have issues about the data to allow that focus being stored at all, that's not really a huge concern of mine at the moment although I'm not saying I'm not willing to be convinced on that one.
The objectivity around an issue thing however is more serious; not just in that I may find information that confirms my prejudices (obviously I don't have any), but that other people's searches will confirm theirs as well, and if they aren't aware of this functionality then they won't even know that the information they are accessing has been selected for them. This just seems to be another example of the internet which was supposed, idealistically perhaps, to bring people together, actually working to move them further apart. In fact Google is supposed to be a tool that increases people's knowledge and understanding but in this case its effects are likely to be the opposite.
Not a conspiracy of course, just another triumph for pragmatic money making over the idealism that these companies espouse. Yes, you'd have to be stupid to believe in the mission statement of BP or Barclays or whatever but once upon a time internet companies were supposed to be different, although fair enough that time seems to be very long ago now.

Sectionfive
25-01-2012, 03:37 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/google-tracks-consumers-across-products-users-cant-opt-out/2012/01/24/gIQArgJHOQ_story.html?hpid=z3

Google announced today it will be following you across all platforms and there will be no opt out

Sectionfive
12-02-2013, 12:03 AM
an ever increasing pain the arse tbh

Mr. Tea
12-02-2013, 08:39 AM
Presumably you can still get around this by using Chrome and starting an Incognito session? Though of course if you want to buy something you have to enter your address, card details and so on each time.

mistersloane
13-02-2013, 11:26 PM
Google the other day told me that my search history was erratic - I can't remember the exact term they used - and asked me to input two words into one of those random word generator things in order to prove I was a human. So I inputted "fuckyou" and "i'mmovingtoopera" and switched off.

Little fuckers.