The Dangers of Personalised Search
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The Dangers of Personalised Search



Slides from my talk at the Friends of Search 2014 conference, where I spoke about the hazards of increasingly personalised online experiences, causing us to view the world through advertising-biased ...

Slides from my talk at the Friends of Search 2014 conference, where I spoke about the hazards of increasingly personalised online experiences, causing us to view the world through advertising-biased filters.



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The Dangers of Personalised Search The Dangers of Personalised Search Presentation Transcript

  • The Dangers of Personalised Search Friends of Search 20 February 2014 Barry Adams
  • Vulgar self-promotional slide Barry Adams is…  Digital Director at multi-award winning digital agency The Tomorrow Lab in Belfast (formerly known as Pierce Communications)  Dutch (yes, really)  SEO polemicist  Twitter ranter @badams  Editor & blogger for award-winning blog  Also blogs at award-nominated
  • Google’s Business Model
  • AdWords launched in Oct 2000 90% of Google’s revenue is from advertising; Not advertising Advertising
  • Personalised Search
  • What is Personalised Search? “Search results that vary based on the searcher’s profile and past behaviour.”
  • Elements of Personalised Search • Location • Search history • Browsing history • Social circles • Known interests
  • Smart Personalisation
  • Not-so-smart Personalisation
  • Dumb Personalisation
  • Creepy Personalisation
  • But all that is the stuff we notice…. What about the personalisation we don’t see?
  • October 2012 research from DuckDuckGo:
  • Political bias >> SERP bias Query: ‘climate change’; • The Right-wing voter will see climate change denialist SERPs • The Left-wing voter will see climate science SERPs Which are the ‘best’ results?
  • Google Maps Personalisation
  • Personalised Maps “In Google's world, public space is just something that stands between your house and the well-reviewed restaurant that you are dying to get to.” - Evgeny Morozov Source: ization_will_hurt_public_space_and_engagement.html
  • What’s next, a Personalised World?
  • Why is this a bad thing?
  • The Filter Bubble • Google will show you things it knows you like;  Your SERPs will be full of sites you visit regularly.  Your news will be from the sites whose perspectives & viewpoints you agree with.  Your maps will be full of places you & your friends have visited before.
  • Why wouldn’t you want that? • Because you’ll rarely be exposed to something new and unexpected. • It erodes the commonalities between all people. • Our worldviews will become increasingly polarised, isolated, and self-perpetuating.
  • Why is it dangerous? • People get things wrong all the time. • But if you’re never exposed to alternative viewpoints, you’ll never know when you’re wrong. • Result: unshakable convictions that are (probably) based on flawed information.
  • Technology can imprison us • Technology does not automatically liberate us;  If left unchecked, technology can serve to contain us • New technology is not released in a vacuum;  Existing corporate & government structures will capitalise on and subvert the Next Big Thing
  • Silicon Valley ≠ the Real World Corporate campuses like the Googleplex are isolated communes of geek productivity.
  • What can you do?
  • Embrace doubt “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” - Bertrand Russell
  • Enjoy serendipity “I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.” - Franklin Pierce Adams
  • Reject Google’s Filter Bubble Personalised search in Google is unavoidable. Thanks to Google+ you are logged in all the time, so Google tracks you everywhere.  Stop using Google.  Seriously. Stop it. Alternatives: DuckDuckGo Blekko Yandex
  • Reject an advertising-mediated worldview • Use Amazon when logged out. • Install AdBlock Plus. • Read different newspapers. (Just for the sake of all that is good in this world, NOT the Daily Mail!) • Explore stuff online! • Read Eli Pariser’s book ‘The Filter Bubble’.
  • What’s next?
  • What’s next for Google? • Microphones in every ceiling • Microchips in our brains • Self-driving cars • Balloons over Africa • Robotics...
  • Thank you. @badams