Many Internet companies (like Google, Microsoft, Netflix, and Amazon) tout the virtues of search personalization.  By using a multitude of factors, the companies can provide more relevant information to a person.

I agree that there are benefits to it.  When I google “Montgomery County Public Libraries,” search engines can use my IP address – that indicates that I’m in the Washington, DC area – to assume that I’m looking for the libraries in Maryland instead of Pennsylvania, Texas, or Alabama.

However, as I noted in June 2011, Eli Pariser examines many drawbacks to personalization in his book The Filter Bubble.  Many of his points are about privacy concerns and more erudite qualms about web sites only presenting information that conforms to one’s world view, and Orbitz – the travel site – now provides a clear consumer protection argument against personalization.  The Wall Street Journal headline says it well, “On Orbitz, Mac Users Steered to Pricier Hotels.”  Basically Orbitz found out that Mac users tend to spend more on travel, and to capitalize on it, the company now presents pricier options to people using Apple products than it does to PC users.

Search personalization can both help us and work against us.