The internet has a personalization problem

All the big names promised me personalized news, but they all failed and failed again

Tarek Amr


Privacy online is everyone’s concern.

When apps and websites started to track us, they promised us a better experience. The promise of a personalized content was their justification for their tracking cookies and hidden pixels.

Photo by Yasamine June on Unsplash

But, unlike Amazon’s same-day delivery, this promise was never delivered. Not even by Amazon itself.

News, the ultimate personalization frontier

Before the internet, the mass media helped us keep tabs of what matters: New movie releases in our local theatres, road closures, the weather forecast, as well as every other piece of news that we needed for our next small talk occasion with our neighbours.

The term “mass media” is an antonym for personalization. Nevertheless, even they catered better to my needs than the likes of Meta (Facebook) and Alphabet (Google).

Screenshot of Google news, taken by the author

Here is what Google News think is the most relevant news to me today:

It’s news about Trump! I am sure Google knows that I do not live in the United States, yet they think I care about Trump and his news more than anything else! Let alone that it’s 2022 already. I wasn’t aware that Trump is still relevant to anybody yet.

Facebook or Meta or whatever they call themselves nowadays, had a different approach to news. They promised to let us keep tabs on our friends and the interesting stuff they stumble upon.

That sounded reasonable till it didn’t. Open your Facebook and its timeline will tell you why no one checks it anymore. It’s all irrelevant crap from people you barely know.

I always wanted news tailored to my interests. This is my eternal problem that was never fixed. You know, if Google News or Facebook were able to fix it, I could have forgiven their parent companies for all their spying activities.



Tarek Amr

I write about what machines can learn from data, what humans can learn from machines, and what businesses can learn from all three.