The dark side of Personalized Search

One of the perks of the internet 2.0 is that we can benefit from heavily personalized internet use. Companies can tailor their products and advertising to target potential customers in a much better than before and the consumers get tailored search results, ads and product recommendations.

This blog post will focus on personalized Search.  Speretta and Gauch (2005) defined Personalized Search as search engines that give search results based on user profiles, description of user interest and cookies. In this way equal search queries may give different search results depending on which user is searching.

On first sight, this seems like an amazing feature, your search engine cuts through billions of pieces of information to get you exactly what you are looking for.

But is always getting what you are looking for not also a danger in itself? Are the things we want also the things we need? In a less serious case you might be looking for new music in a different genre then you normally listen to but your Search Engine hides these new artists and songs because it does not fit your profile.  In a more serious case, for example, elections are coming up and you are looking for a suitable candidate to pick on the topic of Renewable energy. For the sake of the argument, you have a neutral view on this, in previous elections you have voted  right wing which often have relatively conservative energy policies. So when researching the topic of Renewable energy you might get a very biased view as your profile seen as someone who is not pro-renewable energy.

Eli Pariser has coined this with the term ‘’Filter Bubble’’. He argues in his book ‘’Filter Bubble’’ (2012) that this Bubble we live in will hamper society’s progress due to people being uninformed or ignorant to current issues in the world. It may also cause the “truth” to be hidden for some people.

One can argue that personalized search defeats the purpose of the internet. The internet gives you the possibility to connect with the world and get to know things on a whole new level but the Filter Bubble might hamper this. On the other hand, in the pre-internet era people were only exposed to their own paradigms but during this time society still progressed significantly.

What do you think? Are Personalized Search results a blessing or a curse?





Speretta, M.; Gauch, S., “Personalized search based on user search histories,” in Web Intelligence, 2005. Proceedings. The 2005 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conference on , vol., no., pp.622-628, 19-22 Sept. 2005

Pariser, E. (2012) Filter Bubble. London, United Kingdom. Penguin Books.

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