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I put three seemingly unrelated videos in one of my private YouTube playlists for watching or use later.

The first was about chocolate. The second about non-digital special effects. The third was about an autistic man. While they seem unrelated, they are linked to what and how I watch on YouTube.


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I watch SciShow religiously — I also subscribe to their podcast — so the first video is not surprising. This video feeds my need for nuanced views and to correct misconceptions.

The second might have appeared on my feed when I searched for current examples of augmented and virtual reality for a Masters course I am currently facilitating. This video appeared in my feed after that session was over and it was about neither AR nor VR, but it emphasised the importance of tactile manipulation in learning. It is something I can use in the closing session to highlight contextual use.

The third was a welcome surprise since I also facilitate a short course on ICT for inclusive education. The course stopped for a while as administrators worked out funding issues, but now that it is back I am glad to have another possible resource to spark discussion.
 

 
The link between these videos was how YouTube algorithms learnt my preferences and habits. While such algorithms are design to serve up videos and ads that might be relevant to me, it does not always do this well.

The ads are driven by more than personalisation. There is the brute force push and sell of products and services that have no relevance to me, e.g., how to be a Carousell or Amazon top seller. Those algorithms, if they apply at all, do not have my interest in mind.

The recommended videos are better. I help the algorithms out by occasionally deactivating my watch and search history. I might also use an incognito browser window. I do this to prevent the algorithms from thinking that I am interested in something new.

I also visit my watch history and delete videos listings that might misinform YouTube’s algorithms. This also helps me receive more relevant content.

The lesson is about taking control of your feeds. Do this and your feeds provide you with relevant content and serendipitous surprises. Don’t do this and you become a pawn in someone else’s game.

This CNET article is one of many that tries to provide help to those who want to control the data that Facebook has on you.

Its advice is restricted to changing settings on 1) who can tag you, and 2) how you should review posts before they appear in your timeline.
 

 
But there is much more you can do. For example, you should also check app permissions and audit privacy settings.

Facebook app permissions.

Facebook privacy settings.

The most important thing you can do is not a Facebook setting. It is a mindset and practice — you should reduce postings or refrain from posting.


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