I love TED talks – inspiring to say the least; but every now and then, a talk hits me out of leftfield and leaves me asking a lot of questions. Some personally, some professionally, and this is one of those rare occasions where it hit me on both counts.
This short video is of a presentation given by Eli Pariser on the way the two behemoths of the web, Facebook and Google, are using algorithms to filter content served to an individual.
This is something we’ve been aware of for a while now. Only the other week the digital development manager and I were comparing what content we were being served based on the same search terms.
In some ways this is fantastic – that given our search history, political propensity, general interests and many numerous other factors, Google can serve information that we, personally, will be most interested in. However this is a tool that can be used for censorhip as well as relevance. When you look at international government intervention as they seek to control the web, and the fact that two corporations are the direct link between Government and web audience, and that these two corporations have been happy to bow to Government pressures (such as censorship in China) I can’t work out whether I’m more grateful or disturbed by these latest innovations.
Although the quantity and quality of sites on the internet is changing at a rapid pace, the way it’s being given to us is is also evolving at pace. Eli Pariser is right when he says that we need transparency in what is being filtered, why it is being filtered, and ultimately what information is held on our search trends, how it is linked to us as individuals and who has access to that data. Let’s not forget – Google and Facebook provide free services, but these services are monetised. I would hope that the main mechanism of monetisation is through selling ad space, but the cynic in me wonders what details are being sold to third parties, and Government agencies.
Political rant aside, this presents marketers a whole new set of challenges, and factors to consider when helping our clients achieve prominence online through all available channels. If ever there was a topic worthy of debate, this is it… please share your thoughts.