“A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”
— Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder
The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You is Eli Pariser’s fascinating account of how the personalization of the Internet is filtering out opposing viewpoints. Pariser’s thesis that the Internet’s personalization is creating reality bubbles that exacerbate partisanship is both compelling and intriguing. This book is a must read for laymen, technologists, and futurists alike.
Style – 9.00
Eli Pariser’s writing style is engaging and flows well. It would be very easy to sit down for an afternoon and read the book cover to cover. The only minor flaw in Pariser’s style was his habit of splitting his infinitives. Therefore, I rate his style a 9.0 out of ten.
Structure – 7.00
While the book flows well, the structure seemed a bit random to me. After reading the book and then reviewing the chapter headings, it was difficult for me to remember the essence or point of each chapter.
Overall, the book receives a rating of 7.0 out of ten for structure.
Substance – 10.00
The Filter Bubble provides many intriguing examples that prove Pariser’s thesis. According to Pariser, Google uses 57 signals to personalize search queries. These signals range from an individual login location to what someone had searched for before. However, by directing people only toward things they like, Google implicitly prevents them from seeing things that may conflict with their worldviews. As such, this confirmation bias becomes stronger over time and may result in increased polarization among Americans.
Pariser’s book is rife with these examples and really does a fantastic job at presenting all the implications of Internet personalization. You will have to read the book yourself for more of these examples, but suffice it to say, the book’s substance is a solid 10.0.
Sentiment – 10.00
While my political views are precisely the opposite of Pariser’s, I think he outlined the filter bubble’s potential problems in a very non-partisan and dispassionate manner. He even used the National Rifle Association’s fear of gun registry to prove his point about the dangers of private companies collecting personal information. While Pariser likely disagrees with everything for which the NRA stands, his understanding of the organization’s fears and his application of this analogy to the filter bubble is surprisingly shrewd and well-executed.
I really appreciate Pariser’s thoughtfulness and approach. Therefore, I rate the book’s sentiment a 10.00.
Significance – 8.00
On the surface, this book seems like just another popular tale about the Internet. However, I think it provides uncanny foresight into the potential dangers of Internet personalization. Pariser really raises some important emerging issues that may have been lost in the day-to-day hustle and bustle of modern life.
Because his predictions seem too difficult to ignore and he raises important issues about the dangers of the filter bubble, I rate the book 8.0 out of ten in terms of its significance.
Overall Rating – 9.00
The book’s overall rating is 9.00 out of ten, after assigning the appropriate weights to each item. If you have any interest in how companies like Facebook and Google collect information about your Internet viewing habits and use this information to alter what you see on the Internet, this book is a must read.