The Great Debate: Personalization of the Web

There’s a new debate cropping up about the impact that personalization of the web is having on us as a society. Some argue that new online elements, such as the filtration of search engine results through Facebook networks, is making us more uniformed.

Eli Pariser, the former executive director of MoveOn.org, recently presented this case at the TED Talks. He argued that the “invisible algorithmic editing of the web” give us what it thinks we want and takes away options that we may otherwise consider.

He offered himself as an example, saying he realized that the newsfeed of conservative friends he followed was diminishing the more he clicked on links posted by more liberal friends. Pariser considers himself “progressive” when it comes to politics and therefore likes to look at both political viewpoints.

However, Facebook began to think that what he wanted was only one viewpoint and therefore deemed the other unnecessary and filtered it out. This, Pariser warns, is not good for individualistic thinking.

Pariser suggests the sites like Facebook and Google let users know what is being filtered out and allows them to control how that filter works. He believes that diversity in our search results is still a very important element that can’t be lost.

Ultimately the choice of what we consume and what we discard must be left up to the individual, not the web. It’s an interesting argument, especially given how dependent we’ve become social network filtration.

What do you think? Is this a valid point? Do we need to have control over how our content I filtered, or is the integration of social networks and search engines a necessary aspect of today’s digital world?