For many of us, the Internet has dramatically changed our lives. “Google” has become a verb and the default choice when we want to find out something. We “like” pages, businesses and products on Facebook and share updates with our friends. But the Internet has other, less obvious, effects on our lives.
The subtitle to this book – What the Internet is Hiding from You – may surprise potential readers. After all, the Internet lets us find things, right? But what you find is probably not what I would find. That’s because Google has tracked what sites you’ve chosen from other searches and tailors future results to the sorts of things you’ve shown interest in before. That can be a good thing at times, but it has some important implications.
If you’re looking for information on a controversial issue or political debate, you’ll likely only see results from sites that match your own interests or beliefs. You may never be exposed to arguments for the opposing side. Instead of promoting contact across differences, the Internet is hiding those different viewpoints from you.
We learn and grow by being exposed to new ideas. But the filter bubble not only insulates us from those ideas, it keeps us from even knowing they are out there. As a growing percentage of the U.S. population gets all of its news and information from online sources, the implications for the democratic process could be chilling. This book explores how personalization is transforming the Internet and controlling what information we are exposed to. Periser does not just point out the problems; he provides suggestions for a way forward that celebrates the technology’s benefits while acknowledging its potential pitfalls. It’s not a fun or easy read, but it is an important book for anyone who is at all interested in the implications the new Digital Age has for our society.