Beware Of The Personalized Web
Information is power and there is no real argument against that. We have shifted from an information scarce society to one of information excess. This shift has its challenges and we are still trying to come up with the best way to manage them. The internet is a beautiful thing, it knocks down knowledge barriers and levels the information playing field. It was not too long ago that I wrote about the issues surrounding net neutrality and believe me, the issues still stand, however, I am now troubled by another, less discrete herding of information; the personalized web.
Many of us have come to enjoy web 2.0 and the fruits of a more “effective, personalized” web experience. With its suggested YouTube videos, Facebook Ads, Google searches, and many other instances, our web activity is tracked in order to customize our results thus creating our own unique internet. By default (which can easily be changed through settings), Facebook aggregates your news feed by selecting and taking information from the friends you engage with the most. Have you realized that some of your Facebook friends have begun to”disappear” from your home page? This is just one example of what the personalized web means; it is a reflection of what we want to hear and see. Avoiding the enormous issues of data privacy and web tracking all together, we must begin to understand what the personalized web experience means, especially when regarding not only the short term effects but also the long term ones.
Briefly describing and understanding the short term benefits, we have to consider the often, unintended long term consequences. The issues of net neutrality and the exclusivity of the personalized web only differ by the gatekeepers. Though both ultimately controlled by companies, the latter is done through consent of the user. Many have heard the cautionary tales of groupthink and of narrow perspectives. As individuals and groups, we need counter arguments and perspectives to not only secure our own beliefs but to challenge them. Looking at only part of the story is still a distortion of the truth, we have to take it upon ourselves to leave our comfortable ideologies and force ourselves to try to understand the counter argument.
During a recent conference, Facebook announced its latest move. Users now have the ability to download their entire Facebook history in a single zip file. Continuing to move towards a more “open” network, Facebook lets users download all their Facebook activity since 2006.
So why would one even need to have a hard copy of their activity? For one, it’s simply cool to own and observe all the hours that have gone into a single website. Spending afternoons on the site for years, this could easily replace a diary and come out with more detail and insight into your past than you could probably remember! This is also considerably easier to browse than having to click through hundreds of pages of wall posts, you would simply open up your extensive document and have a look. I am sure people could come up with creative ways of organizing this information too. I am excited to see what happens!
However, a scary thought comes to mind… Imagine a world where a job interview requires your full Facebook history printed out or downloaded to a PDF file? What do you have to hide? History has a funny way of repeating itself…just saying.
Who knows…It’s an interesting development at the very least. Looking at my history now, who knew I quoted R. Kelly so much?