Sixth Blog Entry Thurs Aug 18

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Here is some interesting and potentially good news for any users concerned about personalized filter bubbles hiding information from us online that we may not necessarily want to know about, as we don’t spend time trying to find out about every single news story and topic online but might need to know about. While there is no magic bullet so to speak for popping filter bubbles there are some methods to avoid them online. One of these recommendations is to delete browser cookies often, and if using a browser that allows you to disable tracking cookies users should do so via their browser’s security settings. In Google Chrome you can do so by accessing Preferences, Under the hood, Content Settings to view all cookies installed to your computer by Chrome. In Mozilla Firefox access Preferences, Privacy and enable custom settings for history. To access cookies stored on your computer by Apple’s Safari web browser depending on which version of Safari your using visit Preferences, Security or Preferences, Privacy and in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer cookies can be accessed via Internet options, Privacy.

Erasing cookies and enabling private browsing to prevent new cookies from being installed to your computer when browsing the web are good ways to reduce your chances of being caught in a personalized filter bubble.However, there are other steps you can and should take to minimize the risk of being caught in a filter bubble. If you have a Google account and happen to do web searches via Google when signed-in it is likely that Google is saving your web history. Remember the expression those who fail history are doomed to repeat it? Well a great deal of Google’s search personalization features are powered by your web history that is the list of websites you’ve accessed via Google. Translation: Google can and is saving your web search results so they know what websites you searched for and accessed via their site. By default if your logged in to their site Google tracks this information for you, compiling a long list of everything you’ve searched for on their site that can span a number of years.

To remove this stored data visit Google’s homepage, having logged-in click your username in the top right corner and access Account settings. If you have a Google+ profile when you click Accounts you will have to scroll down to the bottom of the accounts page that loads and click on the link to visit the previous version of the Google accounts screen. Then you can click edit in the My Products area and click Remove Web History Permanently to permanently remove Google’s Web History from your account.

If you use Facebook the next step is to access your Facebook account’s privacy settings and adjust them accordingly to ensure that it keeps your important data private. Facebook has often been criticized more than any other company for making a great deal of  previously private data public. A number of times Facebook has  automatically changed user’s data settings for them without advance warning. As a result for all you know Facebook could change your privacy settings without your informed knowledge or consent to make more of your private information available to the public. For examples, the pages you liked on Facebook may have been private but are now public and while all these changes might not be clear to users they enable companies to create and sell profiles with information about you to whoever they want. So the most important thing to remember when using Facebook is to not share anything on Facebook you don’t want everyone online to know about you. If you use Facebook it would be wise to increase your privacy settings to the highest level possible.

It is also worth noting that if your logged in to Facebook they can by default transmit information about you to certain websites like Microsoft’s Bing and Pandora Radio  in addition to other websites. That is they can personalize their sites using data from your Facebook account.  Therefore it would be a good idea for users concerned with privacy or being caught in personalized filter bubbles using Facebook to also turn off the instant personalization feature in the privacy section of their accounts.

To turn this feature off just follow these simple instructions. The first step is to log-in to your Facebook account, and then click Account in the top right hand corner of your screen. Next from the drop down menu that opens click Privacy Settings and under the heading Apps and websites click Edit your settings. On the page that loads scroll down until you can clearly see the heading Instant Personalization on your screen and click the Edit settings link next to it. A popup titled Understanding instant personalization may open up but is not needed so you can close it.  Finally scroll to the bottom of the page and uncheck the box labeled enable instant personalization on partner websites. This will prevent websites Facebook partners with from accessing your data.

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33 Comments

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