What Are Google And Facebook Hiding From Us?

Did you know Google uses 57 different tags to identify you? These tags are used to ‘customize’ the search results you are seeing.

Among the various tags used to identify you, you might expect the type of browser you’re using, your IP address, and the type of computer you are sitting at — but that’s three, only 54 more to go. And here’s the craziest part — even if you are logged out, your friends across the world are seeing very different results.

In this age of convenience we’ve been sold on the magic of personalization from the likes of Facebook and Google, but at what cost? It’s the age old question facing broadcast & media, who’s hold the strings to the marionette, and what are standards in which they are used?

Prepare to have your hair blown back by this amazing TED Talk (in which Serge Brin, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt are sitting in the audience).

3 thoughts on “What Are Google And Facebook Hiding From Us?

  1. Pingback: » We Are Watching I heart Wall Street.

  2. Bill Winterberg CFP®

    So the “Egypt” search example…

    What does one expect from such an ambiguous, non-specific search? Yes, Google has an incentive (AdWords) to serve up links the user is most likely to click based on past activity. That explains why one user gets current headlines for Egypt, yet another gets travel-related information.

    Users can improve their own “bubble” by being more specific about what they’re searching for.

    Googling “protests in Egypt” likely would have served very similar, if not identical, pages to those two users, I suspect, because the search is drastically more specific. The instructions, if you will, provided by the user are much more specific, thus allowing Google to better filter results based on more complete requests.

    But Facebook’s auto filtering of conservative-oriented updates: that’s more passive, since Facebook is guessing based on what users Like and what links are clicked. I don’t know how one can improve their own Facebook bubble once those filtered updates disappear. It’s not like one can easily improve search queries to restore those types of updates.

  3. Anonymous

    The bigger issue is what are the standards by which links are brought to you, if links are only shown because Google and Facebook ‘think’ you will find it more relevant (based on the 57 labels they use for you) that’s a problem, especially when the formula is a secret. 

    This isn’t just about people being dumb about searching (which many are, Facebook.com is still the #1 way people get to facebook via google), this is about these new companies holding the strings to information and not being as open as they could/should allowing people to customize their results. It’s a long way off, but at some point this will be very serious.

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