The personalization trend turns a corner and goes too far

In this week's Searchlight: Google's next move in personalization, what's on Tim Cook's mind, new challenges to Net neutrality and more.

Big data, small world. In what seems like the ultimate me-focused development in the personalization trend, Google will soon roll out the newest version of its map service, which promises to get you where you're going by providing a simulacrum of your own little world. But how will Google know you're more interested in getting to Joe's Coffee than Jane's Beanery (and therefore leaving the latter off your map entirely)? The same way it knows most things about you -- by the things you like, the things you mention in your emails and what you share with friends on social media sites. The type of "stuff" we talk about when we talk about big data.

Karen GoulartKaren Goulart

It's amazing stuff, and it's also too much. This week's lead Searchlight item from Slate writer Evgeny Morozov looks at the cost of this kind of hyper-personalization from a sociological angle. Sure, it's a great deal for Google and advertisers and may make users' lives easier. But is it the best, most responsible use of data? With all that we gain in terms of convenience by having information catered to our every need (and anticipated need), there are also losses in privacy and, it could be argued, humanity and our desire to relate to it.

"Way back," when word got out that Google was adapting its search function to show users sites, news and images that would be of most interest to them, there were rumblings of concern. I was one of those rumblers, thinking how awful that sounded -- limiting or at least downplaying exposure to ideas and opinions folks don't already have. Surely there would be some backlash -- no one has to use Google, buut we all continued to anyway. But I'm sensing a change in the zeitgeist -- a lot more talk of Big Brother and less unalloyed admiration for these modern conveniences. Maybe the early rumblings over Google's map service will at least spark debate about not just how companies use our data but what we do when it's repackaged back to us.

Check out SearchCIO's own coverage of these topics

From standardization to personalization, the shift in IT productivity

Living in the moment with real-time data

CIO's cloud strategy creates business solutions

Also in this week's Searchlight, what's on the mind of Apple's Tim Cook, how finding focus can fortify your future, new challenges to Net neutrality and more.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Karen Goulart, Features Writer.

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