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From algorithm to cookie to filter bubble

3 minutes reading time
6-17 years
Social Media
Foto: Agence Olloweb/unsplash.com

We come across terms like this all the time when it comes to digital media and the Internet. But what are cookies and what do algorithm and filter bubble mean? Do they influence what we see and read on the web?

I do not want cookies!

When you’re on the web, you’re asked to accept or set up cookies on a perceived constant basis. Before that, you won’t even get to the actual content you want to view. This can be quite annoying. In doing so, this query serves to protect our data.

Cookie comes from English and translates as “cookie” or “cookie”. When people talk about cookies on the Internet, they are referring to small amounts of data. The server stores them permanently or for a certain time when reading web pages. For example, it is stored how long a person was on the page or whether something was purchased. When the person comes to the page again, the server recognizes that they have been there before. Page operators can thus record the behavior and design their page accordingly. Cookies are often used to target advertising.

If personal data is collected with cookies, users must first agree to this or reject it. Therefore, when you visit a web page, the query comes. Even if it is a bit of a pain, it makes sense to set the cookies individually or to accept only “essential cookies” so that as little personal data as possible about you and your child can be stored and possibly passed on to third parties.

Through algorithms in the personal filter bubble

Through cookies, certain search terms and our click behavior, algorithms can create a digital profile of a person.

An algorithm is used in a computer application to solve a particular problem. A sequence of mathematical instructions is executed. For example, a navigation system uses an algorithm to find the fastest route to the destination. Another example is Google‘s page rank algorithm, which determines which web pages appear first in the search engine’s hit list.

As soon as a specific topic is searched for on the web, algorithms take effect – also on the basis of cookie data. Priority is given to articles that correspond to one’s own opinion and interest. Although this is practical, because there is so much information on the net that without such software we would not be able to choose the right one so quickly and easily. However, due to the large amount of data collected about us, we can also get caught in a so-called filter bubble .

Filter b ubble or bubble means content and other people that match our opinion and interests. On the Internet, our usage behavior means that we are increasingly being shown content that corresponds to this.

This can lead to the fact that we inform ourselves only one-sidedly, without wanting it. In extreme cases, we speak of a so-called echo chamber: posts and statements that contradict our opinion are blanked out and instead we keep getting our opinion confirmed. This can lead to the fact that only one’s own opinion and world view are perceived as correct. People of extreme opinions can thus become more susceptible to fake news, manipulation and certain ideologies.

Tips for dealing with the filter bubble

In this context, the variety of objective information is important in order to form one’s own opinion and to be able to adapt it to new findings. Unfortunately, however, the filter bubble cannot be completely avoided due to the algorithms on the net. But there are some approaches to keeping it as open as possible:

  • You and your child should know that algorithms and filter bubbles exist. Those who are aware of their own filter bubble can deal with it better and additionally inform themselves through other sources and media.
  • In various Internet browsers, incognito mode can be activated or “private” browsing, so that no search histories or data are stored. Certain browsers and search engines, such as Onion browser or startpage.com, store less data by themselves. When using a search engine like Google, make sure that while you are surfing the net, you are not automatically logged in there. In addition, a personalized search on Google can be objected to.
  • Regularly delete browser data and cookies on PC and smartphone. Deactivating certain ad tracking and location services on the smartphone can also prevent unnecessary data from being stored. Location, just like click behavior or certain search queries, reveals a lot about a person’s habits and interests.
  • To become aware of your own filter bubble, you can also compare your search results, e.g. on political topics, with those of other people.

Even children find themselves in a filter bubble as soon as they are active on the Net. Therefore, talk to your child about such mechanisms on the net and promote comprehensive information and media literacy. This also includes knowledge about and dealing with fake news.

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