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What the Ultra-Personalized Internet Is Hiding from You

What was once an anonymous medium is now a tool for soliciting and analyzing our personal data. Here's why we should care.

In the spring of 2010, while the remains of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig were spewing crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, I asked two friends to google "BP." They're pretty similar—educated, white, left-leaning women who live in the Northeast. But the results they saw were quite different. One of my friends saw investment information about BP. The other saw news. For one, the first page of results contained links about the oil spill; for the other, there was nothing about it except for a promotional ad from BP. Even the number of results returned by Google differed—about 180 million results for one friend, and 139 million for the other.

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