23:10 PM

Facebook Fallout: Big Brands and a Rapidly Narrowing Future for Ad Tech

To save a few bucks on sales costs businesses have financed the collection of private data that now leaves their customers vulnerable to hidden political manipulation and other abuses.

There's a much larger fallout ahead from the recent Facebook data scandal.

Doc Searls, Editor of Unix Journal writes, "Facebook's Cambridge Analytica problems are nothing compared to what's coming for all of online publishing."

...Every person, and what they look at online, is routinely profiled by companies that receive these data from the websites they visit. Where possible, these data and combined with offline data. These profiles are built up in "DMPs".

Many of these DMPs (data management platforms) are owned by data brokers...There is no functional difference between an #adtech DMP and Cambridge Analytica.

I agree with much of Doc Searls's analysis but I would change the headline to: "Facebook's Cambridge Analytica problems are nothing compared to what's coming for all the Big Brands."

All publishers even large ones such as New York Times contribute a tiny fraction to the overflowing consumer data lakes that are financed by the largest corporations. It's not publishers -- but the Big Brands and their Big Brother ad strategies -- that now come into sharp focus.

Marketing costs have always been huge -- 50% to 80% depending on your industry. If you are a large business like Procter & Gamble -- marketing has always been a science and digital ads make it into a data science because of the vast amounts of information a simple ad collects. 

  • To save a few dollars on selling soap powder or any other product and service -- every aspect of our online wanderings both desktop and mobile -- is analyzed and categgorized.

People are told that targeted ads will mean better ads and even maybe less ads. But they aren't told that the same data will make you vulnerabke political manipulation and abuse. And it will get worse as the ad technolgies get better.

Welcome to a future consumer hell where our ad tech is is jeopardising our democracy. 

People don't mind data being used to sell them more stuff that they like --  consumerism is fun. They don't want to be judged by others -- or more vulnerable to hidden manipulation. 

Targeted advertising forces Big Brands into an adversarial position to their customers -- which side are they on?

Take a look:

- Big Brands have been financing the ad technologies that spy-and-snitch on Internet users for years and building ever larger private data dossiers on each consumer.

The data on consumers will grow and continue to be used in unintended but potentially damaging ways for years.

- Consumers are judged by society and governments because of data used to sell products. By collecting for one innocent purpose you enable the second far more harmful purpose. There's no way to separate one from the other.

- The European GDPR data laws will lead to even more powerful ad tech precisely because of the constraints on sharing data.

- Big Brands' problems will worsen as the ad technologies improve. Advanced AI and algorithms will make the spy-and-snitch ad tech far more effective, powerful and intrusive -- and people will be far more troubled and resentful in the future than today.

Foremski's Take: Big business won't be able to defend its continued use of ad tech and data collection because it runs counter to the interests of society as a whole -- and their customers.

For the sake of a Procter and Gamble being able to save on selling soap powder we have created the means for monitoring and controlling the behaviors of billions of people and making them vulnerable to political and idealogical manipulations. The costs are too high. 

Selling ideas uses the same data as selling shoes. Consumerism enables the technologies of totalitarianism --my fear is that we could paint ourselves into a very unpleasant corner -- a N. Korea but with far more powerful systems for oppression and suppression of dissent.

Ethics will matter...

It's worth highlighting the fact that the Facebook/CA scandal did not involve anything illegal -- it was the terms of service that were broken. It's the overall ethics of the matter that matter.

Businesses will try -- but it's going to be impossible to defend their continued and rapidly improving means of data collection.

Simply put companies have to consider this equation: Saving money on advertising costs versus the colossal potential damage to society and individuals.

If the data isn't collected it can't be leaked, stolen, or abused. Businesses will have to stop the practice otherwise, how will they build the trust they need to do business?

Trust me...click here

Richard Edelman, CEO of the world's largest private PR firm Edelman, warned earlier this year of "an unprecedented crisis of trust in the US" and other countries. A global survey of 33,000 people across 28 countries revealed the issue.

"Building trust is now the No. 1 job for CEOs, surpassing producing high-quality products and services," Edelman said.

How will CEO's build trust while employing spy-and-snitch ad tech and maintaining ever more detailed dossiers on customers?

Trust cannot be built if you are using devious means to sell products and exposing customers to all sorts of other issues and abuses.

Brands will have to side with their customers or accept a permanent adversarial position toward them. The future is rapidly narrowing for the ad tech industry.