Posts Tagged ‘eli pariser’

Experts: Do-Not-Track Proposal is Lacking

June 4th, 2012 06:59 admin View Comments

Even Eli Pariser, author of a best-selling book about the threat posed by Web personalization, is skeptical about the success of current Do Not Track efforts by the Federal Trade Commission. “Do Not Track would probably offer a binary choice – either you’re in or you’re out – and services that make money on tracking might simply disable themselves for Do Not Track list members,” Pariser wrote in 2011, as his book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You went to press. “If most of the Internet goes dark for these people, they’ll quickly leave the list. And as a result, the process could backfire – ‘proving’ that people don’t care about tracking, when in fact what most of us want is more nuanced ways of asserting control.” Little has changed in the year since Pariser wrote those words.

The FTC is still considering Do Not Track proposals. Some companies – most notably Twitter and Mozilla – have already begun to comply voluntarily with guidelines. Meanwhile, some third parties are offering browser add-ons to give people the protection of a Do Not Track list. 

But in almost all instances, it remains an all-or-nothing proposition: Give up the benefits of tracking, which includes a more personalized browsing experience, or concede that sites you visit will distribute information about you to third parties, without your knowledge.

Do Not Track Can Curb Convenience

The worst-case scenario described in Pariser’s book, where vast areas of the Internet are closed to people who do not allow tracking, hasn’t played out yet, but that could change.

Aaron Messing, an attorney who specializes in Internet privacy issues with OlenderFeldman LLP in Union, N.J., has been using a third-party app to prevent tracking. The free add-on by Abine hasn’t impacted his ability to visit sites, but he has lost some personalization: For example, weather websites no longer remember his ZIP code to give him the local forecast, and Twitter no longer suggests users he may want to follow.

How this would change if the FTC takes a strong regulatory stance on DNT is not clear.

“Currently, it is unclear what, if any, website functionalities will be impaired by DNT,” Messing said. “Presumably, websites could design their sites not to function, or to provide limited functionality, with DNT enabled.”

Targeted Ads are the Price of a “Mostly Free” Internet

What concerns privacy advocates is that tracking can be used quite effectively to target advertising. They see it as personalized spam, while marketers argue that by cataloging click signals, they don’t waste consumers’ time with ads that do not interest them or apply to them. Either way, the tactic is effective: Microsoft Research found that so-called behavioral targeting can increase click-thorugh rates by 670%, while a Network Advertising Initiative study recorded 2.68 times more revenue for targeted advertising over nontargeted advertising. 

Dennis Dayman, chief privacy and security officer for Eloqua, said the trade-off may be worth it for most Internet users.

“Most people tend to overlook the fact that the Internet is mostly free… and this is tied in no small part to the revenue generated by targeted advertising,” Dayman said. “How would [DNT] impact your daily life? Add to that a lack of personalization for the ads and pages visited daily, and things would appear to be quite dismal. People need to really consider the pros and cons of limited online privacy and think about what that limited privacy means.”

The Proposal’s Scope is Limited

Elizabeth Coker of 3PMobile says while DNT standards are not yet finalized, as currently proposed, they do not live up to the original intent of the rules.

“Most consumers think it means no tracking – ever. In reality, the technical spec is only about third-party tracking without permission,” Coker said. And, she added, “Do Not Track is entirely self-regulated at this point. While privacy advocates and attorneys are part of the process, so are the companies who have the most to gain by finding ‘exceptions’ and keeping things the way they are.”

Source: Experts: Do-Not-Track Proposal is Lacking

[REVIEW] Can a Browser App Pop the Internet Filter Bubble?

June 1st, 2012 06:00 admin View Comments

The Internet’s ability to show us only what we want to see is notorious. We click things we like. Algorithms look at what we’ve clicked on and deliver more of the same. Author Eli Pariser called it the filter bubble: the sphere of agreeable viewpoints we find ourselves trapped in once the Web figures out what we pay attention to. rbutr, an app for the Chrome browser, aims to pop that bubble.

The Problem

Pariser coined the phrase filter bubble in his 2011 book of the same name. As Pariser sees it, the online world is increasingly controlled by behemoths like Facebook and Google. Because they want to sell us ads, they present to us a version of the Internet that suits our tastes and exposes us to content that we find agreeable.

Clicking on an article about Obama while skipping one about Romney, for instance, speaks volumes about a user’s taste. Over time, we create an Internet that matches our world view through the click signals we send. We aren’t exposed to different points of view, which Pariser says is a threat to everything from creativity to democracy. Adding to the threat is that the filter bubble usually works behind the scenes: In fact, it must go unnoticed to be effective. So while we make the media that ultimately makes us, we don’t notice that we’re being exposed to certain content because we never see the content we’re missing.

Pariser outlines several ways to address the problem, including building serendipity into search engines and helping users find alternative viewpoints, particularly when it comes to news. That’s the angle rbutr is trying to address.

How rbutr Works

rbutr is an add-on app for Chrome, with versions for Firefox and Internet Explorer in the works. Its goal is lofty: to give you other points of view by listing content that shows a counterpoint to whatever it is you’re reading. Say you land on the The Guardian’s negative review of Noam Chomsky’s new book. If you have the app installed, you can click on the rbutr button and see that someone has posted a link to Chomsky’s response to the review:

Read that sentence again and see if you can spot the problem phrase: “someone has posted.”

While the filter bubble works automatically and behind the scenes, rbutr needs lots of people to actively find rebuttals and post them: a cumbersome process that needs a five-minute how-to video to explain.

rbutr does have some interesting concepts built in, including an upvote feature to push the most useful links to the top. And to be fair, it is perhaps too soon to be reviewing rbutr: the app depends on people posting links to content, and it’s new enough that few people have. rbutr openly acknowledges the issue on its website, saying “this is a real problem, and our primary focus at this point.”

No Solution in Sight

Blog comments are not a perfect vehicle for airing a diversity of opinion, but they work – better than rbutr, at least. At this writing, 71 comments follow the Guardian’s review of Chomsky, which provide a diverse set of viewpoints, as well as a link to the same alternative commentary rbutr turned up.

If I’m going to take the time to find a link and a counterpoint of view, why would I post it in rbutr without comment – presumably where only other rbutr users will see it – when I could post it in the comments section of the post? rbutr ultimately takes a simple task and makes it monumentally complex. Sad to say, the filter bubble won’t be going away anytime soon.

Photo by Harley Pebley

Source: [REVIEW] Can a Browser App Pop the Internet Filter Bubble?

Facebook’s Acquisition Of Gives a New Look to Search

May 30th, 2012 05:12 admin View Comments

With Facebook’s acquisition of reportedly a done deal, all of the focus is on what the merger will do for Facebook’s mobile efforts. But there may be more to the deal than just mobile.

“Give us 14 images of you,” Google’s Eric Schmidt famously told the Technology Conference in 2010, “and we can find other images of you with 95% accuracy.”

That was impressive at the time, and that 95% is probably much higher now. But what was more impressive is that the feature, which isn’t available on Google Image Search, is expected to be offered first by As the Web becomes increasingly visual, image search is going to become increasingly important, and an acquisition of may be the strongest signal yet that Facebook is positioning itself to go toe-to-toe with Google in search.

The inevitable implications of enhanced image search are huge. One of the biggest reasons it hasn’t been launched on Google Image Search and has only been launched on a limited basis on Facebook is that the computing power hasn’t quite caught up to allow for quick searches based on facial recognition algorithms, but that is rapidly changing.

PCWorld has a comprehensive look at the good and bad of facial recognition technology, with plenty of space devoted to the increased privacy concerns. As Eli Pariser noted in The Filter Bubble, “The ability to search by face will shatter many of our cultural illusions about privacy and anonymity…[it will be] as if the whole Internet has been tagged on Facebook.”

Neither company is commenting on the deal, but there are widespread reports that Facebook would pay between $80 million and $100 million for the Israeli startup.

The rumor, coupled with recent acquisitions of photosharing apps Instagram and Lightbox and the release of its own Facebook Camera app, make it clear that Facebook is betting on a visual Web for its future growth. But it also shows that Facebook is putting the money it raised in its initial public offering to work, acquiring companies instead of going through the process of developing new products, features and services in-house.

Source: Facebook’s Acquisition Of Gives a New Look to Search

DuckDuckGo To Google, Bing Users: Escape Them Filter Bubbles!

June 20th, 2011 06:37 admin View Comments

We all want solutions tailored to our needs for a lot of things, online and offline, but does that include a search engine that shows results for queries based on dozens of factors (and more importantly, hides from you certain results based on those factors)?

Well, I’m inclined to think that’s not such a bad thing at all, or at least not that big a deal.

DuckDuckGo, a tiny alternative search engine, begs to differ, and this morning they spread the word about a new website they’ve set up to give home to an illustrated guide of the ‘search engine filter bubble‘ concept and why they think it ducks sucks.

Go visit and please make up your own mind.

For the record, board president Eli Pariser came up with the term ‘filter bubble’ (see his TED talk), and has even authored a book about it.

Also, you can add &pws=0 to any string on Google and it will turn off personalized search results (though there is some debate about if it actually does what it’s supposed to).

(Via Hacker News, where there’s an interesting discussion about the ‘filter bubble’ being complete nonsense or of the utmost importance to mankind)


Escape your search engine Filter Bubble! An illustrated guide by #DuckDuckGo

Source: DuckDuckGo To Google, Bing Users: Escape Them Filter Bubbles!

Keen On… Eli Pariser: Have Progressives Lost Faith in the Internet? (TCTV)

June 15th, 2011 06:04 admin View Comments board president Eli Pariser has written a surprisingly critical book about the Internet. In The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from Us, Pariser acknowledges that he once bought the “mythology” that the Internet was providing a richer and more balanced view of the world than traditional large media companies. Pariser, however, has changed his mind. If anything, he argues, personalized web filters like Facebook and Google are giving us an even more distorted view of the world than traditional media networks.

So, when Pariser came into TechCrunch’s New York City studio, I asked him to lay out a solution to the filter bubble. And Pariser obliged, laying out three very coherent and practical ways that we can reform the Internet to make it a more transparent and informative medium.

This is the second of a two part interview with Pariser. Yesterday, he explained to me why a squirrel dying on your front lawn isn’t more important that somebody starving in Africa.

Have progressives lost faith in the internet?

Eli Pariser, the author of The Filter Bubble and also the board president of Move

Eli, you’ve written a very controversial and in many ways critical book about the Internet. Does your book reflect in some ways a disillusionment on the Left amongst progressives with the Internet? Because in the 90′s and even a few years ago, the Internet was embraced by progressives as a solution to various kinds of corporate dictatorships.

Are you, do you think, a symbol of that disillusionment amongst progressives with the Internet?

Well, it’s not a disillusionment with, you know, the idea of the Internet, the promise of the Internet. But it is a disillusionment with how things are actually going. You know, I bought the mythology that said that, you know, there were the sort of these corporate gate keepers and the.

The bad guys like AOL and Time Warner and.

Well, right, and that the Internet came along and swept them all away. All of a sudden, you know, we can all talk to each other freely. It’s a neutralize, democratize the media, and really that isn’t what has happened. Most people experience the internet through a handful of very large companies that, you know, have a lot of the same commercial imperatives that the old media gatekeepers like…

You mean like Google and Facebook?

Google and Facebook, sure. And they have a lot of the same, you know, dynamics that are driving what they show people and what they hide from people as the old media did. And so, it’s not quite as much of a free for all as a lot of us hoped. It’s you don’t go direct, you don’t talk to a friend directly on line, you talk to them via Facebook and you don’t, you know, go find a small business, you go through Google.

And what happens in the middle there shapes a lot of your experience of what happens and what doesn’t online.

As an activist and someone who’s been very involved with and clearly someone who’s very concerned with many of the social and economic problems in America. What do you make of the idea of the young men who have grown infinitely rich at companies like Google and Facebook, and yet also seem to maintain the idea that they cannot do any evil.

And that they are doing good in the world and that, you know, like, the Google boys can make a huge amount of money, buy a plane and jet off to Africa every so often when they want to improve the lot of humanity.

Well, mostly, I mean, to be charitable, I would say that…

Well, I don’t want you to be charitable. You’re on Tech Crunch. You’ve got to be uncharitable.

I mean, I do think that part of this is, you have people who have no particular interest in politics or political decision making or civic life who really, you know, just wanted to build stuff. All of a sudden making decisions that affect millions, sometimes billions of people’s lives in that very way.

You know, none of these are people who would ever run for mayor or city council men, or…

Well, they may, eventually, they may be the sort of, the Donald Trump’s style candidates.

We’ll, we’ll see That’s not the personality type. These are not people who like the messy, complicated world of human glad-handing that much, they like building stuff. And, the problem is, the choices that they’re making, and how these things are architected that have huge consequences that are political.

And I think they’re a little bit bipolar about those – about the dynamics there. On the one hand they sort of acknowledge that. They say “don’t be evil,” and Mark Zuckerberg talks about a transparent, connected world. On the other hand, when you sort of challenge what they’re doing, when you say, “ Why doesn’t Facebook care more about things that are important but not very likeable?”

They say, “Well, nobody has to use Facebook. We’re not really trying to - it’s just for fun, it’s just a service. Use it or don’t use it,” they’ve sort of stepped back from that responsibility. And, I really don’t think you can have it both ways. If Zuckerberg wants Facebook to a utility like a phone company, as he’s sometimes said.

So he’s essentially a utilitarian, in a good [xx] sense, right?

Well, no. If he wants it to be like a phone company then you can’t say, “Well, you know, we’re going to tape all your phone calls and if you don’t like it don’t get a phone”. I mean, you have to, you know, you have to accept the responsibility that comes with being the place where a lot of the public conversation is happening.

And all young men like Zuckerberg and Larry Page capable of living up to that responsibility?

I these more than profits. I mean, whatever you not only putting on the stuff that, you know, would be the most tune-in-able or watchable or readable, they’re also trying to provide some, some stuff of general, of civic value. And I think we could imagine that Google and Facebook would say, “We’ll, we’re making enough billions as it is.

We can afford to optimize for a long term good experience.”

On free culture and paying for news

Eli Pariser, the author of The Filter Bubble and a career progressive activist. Eli what is your feeling about the culture of free on the internet? Last week I was in Paris at the EGA and you had guys like Larry Lessig talking about the demise of the old entertainment economy. Still portraying the old entertainment companies as the enemy.

Suggesting that copyright reform was essential, that we’re going to have justice in the 21st century. But what about these arguments now increasing coming out of progressive community that creative people, in particular, have a right to the economic fruits of their labor?

Well personally, I tend to be sympathetic to a lot of what Lessig is concerned about, partly because it’s an infrastructure that allows There’s a great deal of control over everything that happens on the internet. I mean, as soon as you have digital rights management embedded in everything that’s happening you have a mechanism for watching every little packet move every which way.

That doesn’t necessarily make it easy to do the kinds of things, you know, to have the sort of upstart entities that have actually been the revolutionary entities.

Well there’s upstart entities with companies like Facebook and Google who you’ve written a book against.

Well they’re now the incumbents and what you want is to make sure that they’re not locking out the new insurgents. Who…

Who will turn out to be just exaggerated versions of the old ones.

Well, ideally you have some building there, and you have some competitive tension. That’s part of, I think, what we want is not to have a landscape just like the old media is that’s dominated by six major companies. Instead, you really want to make sure that there is a a lot of where we’re rapidly moving and it’s partly on this sort of Google and Facebook data and content and bandwidth front with net neutrality.

But what about the issue of being paid for one’s iving on the internet. What’s your feeling on that?

Well, I think,clearly, there needs to be a way to recognize the value in things people createWhat ‘s complicated is that there’s so many different things, so many. When you look at the production of news for example, there’s this And it’s redundancy. You have 1000 articles about the same event. They’re not really adding a lot of value.

And you don’t want to over value any one of those necessarily. On the other hand, you definitely want to say if you go off and do the investigative report on Haliburton, there’s some kind of return to that. Or someway of making sure that that’s incentivized. So, I don’t know the answer to that, I mean…

But what is the connection between revitalizing the economics of online journalism in particular and the problem of the filter bubble.

Well, I actually think they’re dealing with somewhat separate parts of the problem. I’m actually not especially concerned about the problem of funding investigative journalism or things like that. If I had to guess I would say that five years from now there will be more critical or, illuminating data available about big corporations and big governments then there was now, and there was five years ago.

The question is weather it actually get distributed to people in a way that they will do something about. So, to me, if Pro Publica or other new kind of journalistic entities are doing these great reports but they’re sitting somewhere on a web service where people are watching a lot of cat video’s that doesn’t accomplish the problem of having good information flows in a democratic society.

You need to have it actually reach people and the question is, how is it going to reach people if these filters aren’t optimized to let them, to let it get to people.

Three solutions to the filter bubble

Eli Pariser, the author of The Filter Bubble. Eli, you’ve laid out a number of problems with the current internet economy. So, now you’ve got your chance. You’re talking to millions of people on Tech Crunch. What is the solution? What are the concrete things that internet users need to do to solve the problem of the Filter Bubble?

Well, I think there’s three things. So, I think the first is, we do actually need to you know revamp the laws regulating the use of private information. These are laws that are 40 years old, they just don’t contemplate a world in which one click somewhere can be sold to the highest bidder to effect what happens on a website somewhere else entirely without your knowledge or consent.

That just wasn’t part of the picture when they were written. And we need to make sure that people do retain some control over knowing when and how their personal information is being used and for what purposes.

Do not…I mean are you talking about the Do Not Track legislationeducational other kinds of legislation.

Well, I think it’s something in that vein. But I think do not trek is too simplistic, because I think a binary choice is probably not not what we want, we want actually good tools to be able to make good decisions.

Is their any particular legislation now that is being discussed that you think can solve this problem, or do we need entirely new legislation? I haven’t seen anything in the works that I think totally gets at this particular piece of it. I think, you know, what it would be about is really asserting that people do have some control over this stuff and the companies that take away their control or share their data without their permission .

Really have some consequences for doing so. You do want people to have some sense of freedom about that. On the institutional side i think that they need to be much more transparent about what they are doing.

You mean Facebook and Google?

Facebook and Google and educate people, you know, use this as an opportunity to show people, you know, how they’re sifting through this information, educate them about which things are targeted and which things are not, which things are personalized and which things are not.

Yeah, but realistically you can say that, but we all know that Facebook and Google are two of the least transparent companies in the world. That their success and their viability lies in secrecy and hiding what they’re doing.

Well, I don’t even think, I think that is a bit of a canard, because I think, you know, neither of them at this point rely on the genius of the algorithm itself. You know, Bing, has just as good a search algorithm as Google does. What it ata and a massive amount of scale and a lot of other applications that are pushing people into that.

So, are you saying then that the…?

So, I’m saying they actually could be…

So, Google and Micro…

It would be reasonable to suggest that they be much more transparent than they have been and we shouldn’t let them off the hook just because they say, that it’s a not ever again.

So are you saying, hey that Google and Facebook can actually learn from Microsoft? Finally we have something to learn from Microsoft, right.

Well,what would they be learning? They would be…

Well, but you’re saying that Microsoft is actually more transparent?

Oh, I’m not saying that Bing is much more transparent about the algorithm. I’m just saying that the value of the algorithm isn’t what makes Facebook great. I mean in a funny way few people would argue that the news feed on Facebook is a terrific experience. It’s not. It’s a very hit or miss and so explaining a little bit more about what they’re doing actually could get more people working on the problem, how to make it better.

I was just talking to someone at Reddit, who said that one of the best pieces of how Reddit worked came from someone at the community who said, “Your comments are all messed up. Here’s the little piece of code that should use instead”, and they plugged it in and it worked great. The comments are much better.

You know, sometimes when you open up people can help improve your product. And the third solution?

Well, it’s on the individual side. There are still things that we can each do to make sure that we’re exposed to diverse sources of information. I think Twitter, as compared to Facebook, is a better way of managing information for us that way. I don’t hear from my conservative friends on Facebook, because Facebook thinks I’m not interested in that.

You have conservative friends?

I have conservative friends. And and I do hear from them on Twitter, because Twitter is very simple. When you subscribe to someone’s feed, you see what they are subscribing to. Maybe that won’t be the case given the news yesterday that Twitter is starting to move in this, kind of, recommendation and personalized feed direction.

But at least for the time being, you can use tools that help you manage these things in a better way.

And if there’s one thing that an individual can do, a single thing, read a newspaper?

Well, you know, yeah, collect, go out of your way to find something that challenges what you think. because it doesn’t necessarily that you are going to change your mind about what you’ve come across and that you wouldn’t have if you had been only relying on the internet as a filter bubble.

Well, it’s not even necessarily.

But a particular example.

A lot of it is whole topics they just wouldn’t know anything about. I mean, I’ve really, I’m not sure that I would know much about Pakistan if it wasn’t highly promoted by newspapers who think they’re doing to show me stories about Pakistan. I’m not sure that I would have sought that out. It’s not something that is relevant in my life in Brooklyn.

Necessarily in a very narrow way, but it is relevant as a citizen of the country. So a lot of the time, it’s not necessarily that you’re going to come away with some dramatically different view is that you see different parts of the human experience. You see different parts of the world. You’re aware of different perspectives and you’re a little more skeptical about what you believe yourself.

You recognize that maybe I might be wrong.

So perhaps we should just force all Americans to listen to the BBC World Service, I know that.

I’m not sure that that will get us all the way.

Source: Keen On… Eli Pariser: Have Progressives Lost Faith in the Internet? (TCTV)

Keen On… Why a Squirrel Dying on Your Front Lawn Isn’t More Important Than Somebody Starving in Africa (TCTV)

June 14th, 2011 06:55 admin View Comments

The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, Eli Pariser’s New York Times best-selling new book, has been applauded by net skeptics like Jaron Lanier and Evgeny Morozov as well as digital optimists like Clay Shirky and Craig Newmark. It’s an important book which argues that leading websites like Google and Facebook are delivering personalized information to us, thereby shielding Internet users from the broad news and ideas that traditional newspapers delivered to us.

Pariser, who is the President of the Board of is concerned that the Internet isn’t living up to its original promise. And the Filter Bubble is a passionate polemic against Facebook and Google algorithms that simply serves up information that it believes the user wants to see. For Pariser, this is creating a less and less well informed public and compounding the ghettoization of contemporary intellectual and political life.

This is the first part of a two part interview with Pariser. Check in tomorrow to hear whether Pariser believes that progressives have lost faith in the Internet.

What is the internet hiding from us?

Why a squirrel dying on your front lawn isn’t more important than somebody starving in Africa

Learning media literacy and unlearning commercial messages

Source: Keen On… Why a Squirrel Dying on Your Front Lawn Isn’t More Important Than Somebody Starving in Africa (TCTV)

The Rise of Filter Bubbles

May 15th, 2011 05:21 admin View Comments


eldavojohn writes “Eli Pariser gave a talk at TED that posits that tailoring algorithms are creating ‘filter bubbles’ around each user that restricts the information that reaches you to be — unsurprisingly — only what you want to see. While you might be happy that your preferred liberal or conservative news hits you, you’ll never get to see the converse. This is because Google, Facebook, newspaper sites and even Netflix filter what hits you before you get to see it. And since they give you what you want, you never see the opposing viewpoints or step outside your comfort zone. It amounts to a claim of censorship through personalization and now that every site does it, it’s commingle a problem. Pariser calls for all sites implementing these algorithms to embed in the algorithms ‘some sense of public life’ and also have transparency so you can understand why your Google search might look different than someone with opposing tastes.”

Source: The Rise of Filter Bubbles

DuckDuckGo To Google, Bing Users: Escape Them Filter Bubbles!

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

We all want solutions tailored to our needs for a lot of things, online and offline, but does that include a search engine that shows results for queries based on dozens of factors (and more importantly, hides from you certain results based on those factors)?

Well, I’m inclined to think that’s not such a bad thing at all, or at least not that big a deal.

DuckDuckGo, a tiny alternative search engine, begs to differ, and this morning they spread the word about a new website they’ve set up to give home to an illustrated guide of the ‘search engine filter bubble‘ concept and why they think it ducks sucks.

Go visit and please make up your own mind.

For the record, board president Eli Pariser came up with the term ‘filter bubble’ (see his TED talk), and has even authored a book about it.

Also, you can add &pws=0 to any string on Google and it will turn off personalized search results (though there is some debate about if it actually does what it’s supposed to).

(Via Hacker News, where there’s an interesting discussion about the ‘filter bubble’ being complete nonsense or of the utmost importance to mankind)


Escape your search engine Filter Bubble! An illustrated guide by #DuckDuckGo

Source: DuckDuckGo To Google, Bing Users: Escape Them Filter Bubbles!