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The video “I Love Alaska” gives a glimpse into the world of data mining and shows just how much you can learn about a person based on their search history.  In this relatively short video, we were able to learn a huge amount about what this person does with their life, who they are as a person and what it would be like to be around them.  The list of their searches tells us that they are concerned about their health, that they were having an extramarital affair and that they are obsessed with the sex lives of celebrities.  This brief snapshot into just one small facet of their lives (what they search for online) was enough to get a fairly well rounded picture of this person.

This analysis does not even begin to touch on the possibilities of the data mining that could be done by a computer given the same person.  Not only could the computer find more patterns in the search history than humans can with the brief snapshot, but it also has access to the data of what links the user clicked on when they made these searches.  This means that they can tell exactly what the user thinks is worth their time and makes it even easier to target advertising directly to them.  For instance, this person’s searches show that they are both religious and are interested in online dating (despite the fact that they are married).  A smart algorithm could use this information to advertise for Christian Mingle, which is a website that helps Christian singles meet.  This would probably be enticing to this person and would therefore make AOL money by having her click on that advertisement.

This type of targeted advertising and data mining has incredible implications for how we view the web.  Even now, there is no 1 Google that everyone has access to.  Instead, there are 38 different markers that Google uses to customize searches.  This means that two different people could search for the same thing and come up with two completely different lists of links, just based off of what they had searched for in the past.  Even people that are not using their own Google account or computer will still not see the same thing as someone else in the same situation.  Two different people using internet cafés will see different results based on the geographic location of the computer that they are using.  Google has an immense amount of power over what people see on the internet.

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  1. […] Dan discusses how Google customizes our search results based on data that it knows about us and perhaps changes our attitude in the process. We have discussed how this type of filtering happens all over the Internet, but we have reason to […]

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