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This is the most alarming and interesting point for me:

"Facebook will market you your future before you’ve even gotten there, they’ll use predictive algorithms to figure out what’s your likely future and then try to make that even more likely. They’ll get better at programming you – they’ll reduce your spontaneity. And they can use your face and name to advertise through you, that’s what you’ve agreed to."

The order in which you are presented with items in your feed, which likes by which friends you see, your previous actions (most of which you cannot likely recall, but all of which facebook has a perfect memory), and many other details are not only used to advertise to you - they're used to build you into the type of person that will be more susceptible to advertising in the future.

Molding and shaping opinion and personality is nothing new, but it has never been this precise, this interactive, and this pervasive. The stimulus, response, and reward loop has never been tighter. Those who use these services are being trained to exhibit particular valuable traits and behaviors, and the level of control over these manipulations will only improve as data is collected and algorithms are refined.

If you've been using a service like Facebook for several years, they know who you have been at each point in time. Imagine you've traversed states A, B, and C and are predicted to be moving toward D. If state F or Z is more valuable (and can be arrived at from state D), then perhaps through several months of training you can be led to it instead. If you're not continually aware of each small nudge in a particular direction, then your mind is absorbing and adjusting to these changes without you knowing about it.

I'd love to read more about this, and am sort of morbidly fascinated by the methods by which these mechanisms operate, and just how powerful these types of control can get.




I work in a related area (prediction, though not in the AdTech market) and keep myself up to date on the literature.

Imagine you've traversed states A, B, and C and are predicted to be moving toward D. If state F or Z is more valuable (and can be arrived at from state D), then perhaps through several months of training you can be led to it instead.

Nothing like this exists beyond very general models. There are some mood-state models, but they are short term (people argue if hourly data is too sparse for them to be useful).

The general models are roughly what you'd expect: if you are 18-22 you are likely to be a student, 55+ considering retirement. I've never seen any research on pushing people along paths, beyond things like education ads trying to get people to take courses, job ads trying to get people to change jobs and dating ads trying to get people to change partners.

Whilst general models maybe possible, my suspicion is that there are too many confounding factors for them to be very useful.


Based on the ads I have seen Google hasn't yet moved from "this guy is looking for an apartment so lets show him ads for the same apartment deal site for months" to "this guy has looked for a apartments for a short time and now doesn't, lets show him ads for some curtains" so it seems even the best predictors aren't very good yet.


But surely as more and more data is gathered over the next decade , this sort of thing could become feasible ?

For eg: I know for a fact that FB is betting very heavily on travel advertising. FB wants to be the go to place for travel companies to advertise their products , so FB has an incentive to make people travel more.

They could do this prominently highlighting when people travel to a certain tourist spot etc...


It wouldn't be just about gathering data, but also developing the algorithms that are capable of that specialization to each person. No matter how good your data is, the lack of an algorithm to examine the data and recognize applications for each unique person to manipulate behavior using a strategy that must recognize it's own applicability at that moment is going to be the huge hurdle.


I would like to say I don't use FB. I do, but only give them my mug with big sunglasses on. Big sunglasses! I only give up an email address. I never go to that account. That account is for "the one that got away". It didn't work out as planned. To be perfectly honest, I don't like my picture taken, or even asked for. I gave it to DMV, and reluctantly gave it to Costco. (Costco will never get another picture. I only utilize their pharmacy, and that doesn't require a membership picture.)

I have another fake FB account, and gave them a fake picture--Eddie Haskel's head shot. I only use at as a convent way to enter certain websites. Once FB is gone--it's going to be deactivated.

I have a feeling I'm older than most of you. Giving up my picture, and personal information is very hard. I used to think it was because I was sensitive over my appearance. I look like Shrek. Big Irish head.

I don't think that's the reason. I'm just a private person, and honestly don't like being photographed? And even more important, I don't like being pigeonholed by FB, or any marketing website.

I hope people in the future refuse to give up their image, and personal likes/dislikes. Or, demand complete control over all data they give up.


It does get very tiring to be out and about with friends and they all wish to take several group photos of different sets of the people you're with, at different times during the outing/meetup, from different smartphones (ie the same photo just from someone else's phone). This happened the other day. Even as we were about to eat, they happily waited before digging in so that some pictures of the food could be taken. Mind you, these are people in their 30s and 40s.

On the other side, I've spent the better part of the last decade abroad and realized last year that I don't have much "evidence" of my life, not in photos, not on FB (since I mostly just post articles). Not only do I share your aversion to having your picture taken, I never liked looking like a tourist when traveling (even the few sets of photos I took, most got lost over the years).

I've always thought I was above the whole "being manipulated by cultural trends" thing but isn't wanting evidence part of the whole Me culture?

____

Edit: I should also like to add that Rushkoff, after watching his talk, seems to have been influenced by Baudrillard's post-modern ideas. Here's a quick run-down https://www.cla.purdue.edu/english/theory/postmodernism/modu...


I think taking photos when going out makers you an observer, and not a participater. You're living your life and those memories are in your head and your property. Nobody can take those away. Bravo. That sounds like the right motto for life to me.

Alternatively, people posting photos on Facebook are watching other people's lives and posting the evidence of it. That's sad.

Hence the rise of the egotistical selfie.


A bit generalizing, but nevertheless philosophical, thought provoking and interesting point.


In many(all?) states you can ask to have the photo omitted from your license, in which case they will print "Not valid for identification" on it. I started doing this when they started adding dmv photos to a facial recognition database. I just use my passport for id, which I prefer anyway because it doesn't list my address, weight, or organ donation preferences.


I don't use Facebook. But I'm noticing these trends elsewhere - in online Ads. I was browsing for "interesting things" on Amazon recently, one such thing was a hand powered torch light. It was interesting because it recharged via mechanical energy but I knew that the dynamo would be crappy and it would stop working after a couple of days. So just left it there.

Then, magically, when I was reading a blog which had Google Ads in it, I saw an Ad on the right which showed "Hand-pump based rechargeable batteries" and I was like "That's so cool! I want to buy it", then realized how Google's algorithm was influencing me to buy things that I didn't even know existed.

Somehow Google was able to make out that I'm interested in things that are hand-powered. I'd like to think it was random, but I know that's not the case.


I don’t find it coincidental that around the time programmatic advertising became a norm for the advertising industry, adoption of ad blocking technologies started to spike. All that around 2011. From a point of view the online advertising industry is on a path of self-destruction. They’ll spook users too much that they’ll end up blocking ads altogether, regardless whether they’re targeted or not. It’s already happening and my guess is that it will continue on a steady pace. Once it reaches 50%, which I estimate will happen in the next two to three years, the online advertising industry will implode. At least every other week we read an article from a major venue that discusses the effects of ad blocking. The funny thing is that although they’re worrying their reaction till today is almost nonexistence. I’ve yet to witness a panel in a digital marketing conference where there is an honest discussion about the issue. They just don’t care, they only thing they care about is how to circumvent ad blocking technologies.


You've hit the nail on the head there. This is my exact experience. As I started to notice the retargeted ads, I found them creepy. That led to my initial research into using ad-blockers.

My first reaction though was abhorrence, and a refusal to ever deal with the company using that ad- retargeting. The practice feels like something a really scummy sly used car salesman would use.


>My first reaction though was abhorrence, and a refusal to ever deal with the company using that ad- retargeting.

I don't think you realize how many companies you've decided to not do business with.

>The practice feels like something a really scummy sly used car salesman would use.

How different is it from walking into Home Depot and talking with a salesperson about paints to touch up the home you're about to put on the market. Then, upon return a month later, that same salesperson recognizes you, inquires as to your new home and mentions a deal they're running on Sherwin Williams paint?


In that case, I've gone back to the store, so it's clear that I'm prepared to do business with them.

It's also a social interaction. If the sales person did that of their own volition, then I'd react positively.

However, I'd be less responsive if the information had been retrieved via, say, facial recognition in some way.

The difference is that one case is someone (or a business) wanting to help and improve my life -- and, yes, to sell me something. The other is someone wanting to ell me something.


>The difference is that one case is someone (or a business) wanting to help and improve my life -- and, yes, to sell me something.

I think you're being overly generous in the case of the former. The person's livelihood depends on selling you something. She or he is just wrapping it in a social patina that will prevent your "I'm being sold something" warning lights from going off.


because it's more like you get home to find the salesman has let himself into your house


Based on the people I have talked with, who are non-technical, and need an adblocker, it was youtubes commercials before the video that made them install the adblocker, not any idea about tracking.


Exactly. The monetizing of web services thru advertising, while extremly common now, is nothing but a short term (self-destructing) strategy, it can not be viable for the long future.


Occam's razor leads one to think that there is an obvious textual correllation from one hand-pimped thing tonthe next. In other words, a simple keyword based 'related to' algorithm, rather than a deep understanding of why you didn't want the flashlight and offered you the batteries instead.


One obvious thing I've noticed is that whoever is serving ads to me (on YouTube for example) has an idea about my sex. A few months ago I did some research on period tracker apps (i.e. products exlusively for women) and immediately noticed a burst of advertising that assumed I was female.


Sure, a simple logistic regression will pick that up. Doesn't mean there is that much thought (rather, 'intelligence') behind it.

Besides, I quite happy (if I have to see ads at all) to not be shown tampons and pokemon cards. I'd much rather see things I might be interested in.


Adsense bidding is going to offer advertisers advertising options based user profiles which are somehow anonymized. So it's not a case of falling into a "cluster": even though I'm a typical male in other respects, the strong correlation of certain pages/searches with particular gender-specific interests swamped everything else and made me apparently attractive to a new set of advertisers.


Any ad for tampons shown to a guy is a waste of space. Its in their interest to classify you by demographic as much as possible. Google has (had?) a page where you can view all your data and they had a list of all your interests (according to your searches presumably).


*hand-picked - I don't usually correct my typos but this one is too ambiguous not to...


That's certainly the hope. But I'm not sure it will turn out as intended though. The thing about people on Facebook is that they are people on Facebook. It might capture some of who they are (or who they want people to think they are anyway) through the lens of social networking. But it's going to be at best a one dimensional view and I'm not sure how effective at summarizing or manipulating people (that part is coming later:).




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