According to one blog, “Google is developing a service that will tell you what you’re reading.”  Um, thanks?

I gather it’s an extension of the program that notices when I’m on a page in German and offers to translate, which is usually a very nice thing.  Hero was very impressed with that feature of Chrome.  But now it’s working on detecting political bias and other features of the writing, which must be an interesting problem to solve.

My first instinct, of course, was to wonder what Google is smoking – the language thing is nice, but I usually know the bias of the articles I read.  On the other hand, I gather it’s really meant for developers to use to gather demographic information and that sort of thing.  Be interesting if Facebook tried to use it to replace public opinion polls.  (Of course, that’s one heck of a selection bias!)

The algorithm isn’t very good yet, from what I’ve read, but it’s probably getting there.  I suppose they’ll eventually use it to improve search results – I’ll search for “health care libertarian” and get only articles about the wonders of medical marijuana.  This has its advantages, of course, but it also means that people who are already dogmatically polarized will only get more so, through lack of exposure to other opinions, and that will be a pity.  On the other hand, I guess most such people are already pretty good at ignoring other opinions, so it’s not that big a change.  And Google worries far more (and rightly so, I think) about finding what we asked for than finding what Google thinks we need.

And so the Google cocoon wraps around us.  I can’t say I mind, since they do a good job and seem to be pretty responsible with personal data.  (Unlike Facebook.)  They may well turn into Microsoft in another few years and we’ll have to move on, but for now I use Google for quite a lot.

This chap has a demo of the Google differentiator, should you want to play.

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