Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Is Your Red My Blue? Google's Gatekeeping Abilities.

The title of this article stems from an interesting question I used to find it entertaining to ask people, and engage in the thought conversation that follows.

How do you know that what you see as blue, I also see as blue?

When we are children we learn the colors, and learn to associate them objects. Objects the look the same color as the object originally associated with a color in turn are also associated with that color. We learn that the sky is blue. The ocean looks similar to the sky, therefor it is also blue. However, if one of us actually saw the sky as red, we would see the ocean looking like the sky, however we are told that the sky is "blue".  So although we are seeing two totally different colors we will not know this because since our information is coming from a unified source, be it our parents or the schooling system, when asked "what color is the sky" we will both respond blue.

What does this have to do with Google? Quite literally a gatekeeper is someone who holds the keys, to access something. In the current day a gatekeeper is someone usually associated with having the illusion of providing information will covertly keeping information from people, or giving them false or misleading information.

It is currently believed that most people in the U.S. have access to an open internet. There are relatively few restrictions to what you can access on the "internet" as it is known within the basic domain name structures of www, and ignoring the deeper "darknets" and parts of the internet people either don't know exist or don't have the technical knowledge to know how they operate. If you want to look up something, you have the free will to do so. From pornography to cooking tips, if you want it, you can find it.

Some areas of the world do not have that apparent freedom, however. For example China has large sections of the internet blocked off. When attempting to access a website they will never get the return signal, it will be intercepted, and blocked, or their request will never be allowed to be sent. This allows the administrators to determine what a person is allowed to access, or not. Material that is negative to the ruling administration in China is often censored. Likewise many companies block access to gaming websites to keep their employees productivity higher, and schools block access to pornography to prevent students from accessing that type of adult content.

From a control perspective that causes a problem. People ultimately notice that material is being censored from them. At the very least they will become curious about that information, perhaps angered that they are not allowed or entitled to see it, and go as far as to create countermeasures to access this material. As long as people know that they are being censored they will create new ways to avoid those censors. Block searching for the word "porn" people will use a new word. Block downloading movies, people will turn them into tons of little pieces and encrypt them, spread them to a ton of people, and then rebuild them later (torrents). Any method will always have a counter method.

Ultimately the only true way to censor the internet is through self censorship. Using a persons free will against them.

How does Google do this?

When you go to Google and search for something, it shows you the results, of which most people simply accept as the best results for a given search. However, what if those results were not the same for different people? By collecting vast amounts of information about people through social media, what they "like", who they follow, what websites they visit, and so on it's possible to create an individual search result for each person separately.

Instead of in the movie "The Matrix" where everyone is running within the same program, this would be an individual matrix for each person. Google can predict what it believes you want to get as a result, and give you that. Or more correctly, their version of it. If you believe that the results are only based upon the search term, and other factors, you will have no reason to ever question further. While you are not prohibited from accessing the information, if you happen to stumble upon it, you are purposely provided with only enough information so that Google believes you will stop investigating further.

Thus Google has enormous powers as a Gatekeeper. Combing the massive data-mining technologies, with social media, it can create an individual user experience of the internet that is not "real" but rather a representation of what it believes you want. It will then give you just enough of what you want to satisfy, while protecting the true knowledge. The programming is recursive in nature.

If UserA discovers Google is creating separate "realities" for each person, and showing them just enough information to satisfy them so that each person stops searching deeper then Google will show UserA just enough information about their activities of creating separate realities for each person, so that UserA is satisfied and stops searching further.

How do you know your red isn't my blue? Don't Google the answer.

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