What Facebook and Google are hiding from us

Very interesting, I had no idea these algorithms existed on Google search.

Ian, thanks for the disconnectme link, I am definitely going to try this out, although, I am on the other end of the spectrum, i get all the wars, the civil unrest, the "truth behind" stories, and none of the x factor and twilight... perhaps i'm being saved!

Stephen - spam, delicious spam - as it says in the Python song is only partially targetted and strangely put in that box anyway. I am part of professional networks that send out announcements like jobs, publications and so on and roughly 25% of that finds its way to my spam. I killed my spam a few times and found it all going in there, so had to edit my user details to stop that and now send those non-spams back to my normal inbox. On the other hand I get thins beginning 'dear betty' offering me nrusing jobs in the USA' that evade the spam filter regularly. Try as I may I cannot get rid of them. Clicking an unsubscribe box only confirms your existence and proliferates spam. Doing what the new one asks, which is a disclaimer pronouncing that the spam is not spam according to the conventions and laws (non-existent at that) therefore you must open it before responding or deleting, etc, gets you a tidal wave of spam. I suspected that and it took somebody more 'trusting' (or naieve) to follow their plantiff a frustrating amount of time to work with me to try to kill the tsunami off (to no avail). GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc are all vulnerable so live with it. 'disconnect.me' Ian reco's works so long until the spyware, etc finds a deviation to get back in and limit its effectiveness. It is much like the virus game, you are caught if you trust what looks good whereas if you are healthily mistrusting you can live without AV software. Live with it or give up and buy some pigeons, as I was told when I had a really heavy period and moaned a lot.

The one that worries me is GMail . I use it and have done for years (and given where I am , it is terrific) but it effectively "reads" your mail to target advertising based on the content. No problem- no one forced me to use it and it does me no harm.

However it does have one very significant flaw: If you go to your Spam folder to delete things, it detects that you are in the Spam area and offers recipes for cooking with Spam - its making me feel a bit nauseous and scared as to how many recipes there are :-)

"But really no one cares about you except to sell you stuff.

Spot on David.

In fact there are a lot more than 57 factors that can help a web site to determine that a connection is coming from a particular specific infividual PC. It means that if people want to track what you are doing, regardless of whether you are trying to browse anonymously, they can. It is a scary place.

On the other hand, if you use Chrome, Firefox or Safari you can go to http://disconnect.me/ and download an extension that looks for personal information when you are browsing and removes it. The idea is to counter precisely what the guy in the TED talk is speaking about.

TED, by the way, is a wondeful resource.

A really interesting POV.although I'm not that keen on having selected information. I'd rather see the whole picture...thanks for sharing will be careful with my first click, from now on.

Interesting error there. I wrote 'thinks' instead of 'things', which is in the former case probably appropiate if grammatically wrong!

Nice one David. I remember the geeks who used to programme and write algs and their like on the old mainframe in Cambridge and the vast majority were barking. One should not be prejudiced of course, but we were so close to the computer laboratories where it happened that one met them. Given their inability to do rather inane tasks like pump up bike tyres (they had a choice of theoretical phsyicists including a well known one in a wheel chair, sociologists or we social anthropologists - most of whom were usually little better!) or work the big water bottle in the computer terminal room (permanent puddle when any of them came to play with JANET), then heaven only knows what the present generation of blimp's algs are really like. Sometimes I seriously wonder how any prog works given there are masses of these incoordinate individuals supposedly coordinating with each other to make thinks work!

The internet is being used to sell you things, that is all this is about. The only reason your info is filtered and aimed at you is to keep you tuned in, so you will click on more ads relevant to you. The internet is not the free and wonderful place this guy imagined - the big companies got hold of it years ago, and they want your money. Therefore the algorithms SHOULD in general make your searches more useful for you in particular. If you are really paranoid go ahead and use something open source like Tony suggests. But really no one cares about you except to sell you stuff. And really the only problem as far as i can see is that the algorithms aren't accurate enough. Just because i have an interest work-wise in employment law does not mean i want all the crap google ads are trying to sell me right now! If the algorithms were better, they would know i am far more interested in finding a good, reliable, cheap supplier of frames in France. Having met one of the geeks who writes these algorithms earlier this year (for Facebook as it happens), I'm really not surprised at how poorly they work!

My wife and I get very different results when we do searches, so we both do them at the same time to support each other. When we expand the respective parameters it is up up and away. So it can also be useful. But oh yes, there we have an Orwellian world plus... Love or hate but be appropriately afraid of where it is going.

It's really an eye opener. Thanks James!

Just read the comments and the Blue Man comes to mind. "Who is watching the watchers????">>>>>>..... thanks James for opening my eyes... G.

Very thought provoking and scary too! To be fed only what someone else wants us to see, they used to call it Communism!

Very interesting! I am lost for words (unusual for me!)

Interesting stuff, I was aware of the algorithms on Google but hadn't realised quite how much filtering was going on to personalise specifically for me, I assumed it was more to do with SEO of the site rather than individual personalisation. Scary stuff is that people can think they are getting a wide perspective on things when in actual fact they are getting a narrow filtered view based on their previous viewings, thus creating a more and more closed view of the world. Not great for tackling extremism of any sort!

Have you read the Facebook story? Originally we were able to choose who we saw/heard more of but now it's done for us...not ideal really.

We need someone to create a free web again, by that I mean unfiltered/depersonalised for information, I guess the way Google/Facebook make all their money is by targeting ads using their personalised filters so this will become more and more complex/commonplace but all of this is at what cost to us?