Thursday, 24 July 2014

impersonal personalisation

So there I was, typing up some text, going over to Google to look up a reference, when I saw the Doodle of the day:

That’s a coincidence, I thought.  I wonder whose birthday they are celebrating.  So I clicked through to see, and ended up on my own Google+ page.


That’s cute, was my first thought.

That’s spooky, was my second thought.

That’s, umm, really disturbing, was my next thought.

This Doodle made me realise how much my online experience is now uselessly personal.  (I'm assuming no-one else got this specific Doodle, because that would be really spooky!)  I can no longer trust that my view onto the web is not being severely filtered, here presumably for fun, but what about at other times?  How can I trust that my research queries, which need to be impersonal, are not being helpfully, or unhelpfully, filtered?

Of course, I knew this intellectually before, but this incident brought it home to me in a very (im)personal way.


  1. Happy Birthday, belatedly. I am glad that, unlike me, Google remembered it on the day :-)

    I am sure you know: if you want to search without customisation you need to open an incognito browser window (in which you are not signed in to Google) and then opt out of customisation at

    But regarding the main point of your post: Do you really believe that you had a less personalised, more objective access to information before Google? I would argue that your view of the world used to be even more influenced by your social environment and your available information sources than it is today, in spite of the best filtering efforts by Google and co.

    1. No, I didn't think life was previously unfiltered before Google (I'm sure there are some people for whom the phrase "before Google" has little meaning) -- it's just that it was then much clearer that it was highly filtered. My problem is that perception of filtering has decreased faster than the filtering itself.