Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of research into the trade-off between digital personalisation and information privacy in preparation for my digital essay on the filter bubble. I’m really enjoying learning about the algorithms that service providers such as Google and Facebook use in order to provide the user with the most relevant information at that particular time in that particular context. EdgeRank anyone?
An interesting side effect of all of this is that I’ve become a more conservative Internet user and I’m starting to notice things that were probably always there but which didn’t seem to register previously. In particular, I’m really noticing advertisements on the Internet. These advertisements seem to be stalking me. No matter where I go online I see the same advertisements. This is something that would have barely registered a month ago.
In the past I would have used Google to search for information both at home and at work. Now I use DuckDuckGo as my search engine of choice. DuckDuckGo is my new best friend for the simple reason that I really don’t like the idea of my personal information being harvested, aggregated and then used to create a profile of me. This profile can then be used by vendors that I’ve purchased from in the past such as Amazon and Aussie Bum so that they can market to me via strategically-placed, personalised advertisements when I’m on Facebook or when I’m reading The Age. Moreover, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of some faceless service provider out there in the digital universe knowing more about my life than I do.
I’ve been a Google devotee for many years but not any more. I still use Google Drive to store my stuff in the cloud (I’m intending to start using BitTorrent Sync in the near future) but when it comes to searching for information I’ve been using DuckDuckGo almost exclusively for about two weeks now and I must admit its really not that different to using Google. Not only that but it’s a nice feeling knowing that such a small change may be the beginning of the end for the filter bubble that I’ve been living in for many years now.