On the internet, everything we do is stored, indexed, mined, and crunched: Our likes, our fears, our friends, the places we go, status updates, our photos, what we chat about, the contents of our email, the stuff we buy, and how we think. It’s endlessly pervasive and mostly “stolen” via the “small print”.
We never read the small print.
It’s ripped our world apart. Already. And it may be too late to fix it.
One thousand little brothers all watching what we do and turning their back on us to alter our behaviour. All the data, all YOUR data, is aggregated and dumped into massive algorithms that are then used by everyone from John Lewis to MI5. Think Cambridge Analytica on steroids.
They call it “big data” or “psychographics” — the military have a more succinct term, PsyOps, or “information warfare” as we more commonly know it. From those on the inside, it’s highly targeted, stunningly effective, cost-effective, and groundbreaking. From the consumers point of view, it’s creepy, dangerous, magical, and ultimately the real price of the “free internet”. Data is now the most valuable asset in the world.
Much like “lunches”, nothing is free. And those with the deepest pockets have the most to gain. Depressingly, that includes politics, pharma, agrochemicals, and banking. Think Brexit, Trump. Think full-service mass influence, paid for click by click, view by view, and friend by friend.
The governments that are supposed to protect us have been woefully slow and ineffective. GDPR is the best attempt so far but it’s too little and too late – you can thank the EU for taking nearly twenty years to wake up to the misuse of personal data.
Have no doubt — and let’s be really clear — ALL the major advertisers and publishing houses use this technology. They give it cute names such as “Lookalike Audiences” (Facebook), “Smart Display” (Google), or “Programmatic Advertising” (everyone else). When the pressure is applied the tech giants simply rename it or burn scapegoats such as Cambridge Analytica.
All the while, the real product is you and me. And will continue, staying forever one step ahead of government and legislation. The folks that dictate policy, those that set the rules, have their noses in the trough – exploiting our own versions of reality. Be aware, bad actors are everywhere and weaponise the very same platforms we use to chat to our mates and share deeply personal information. This doesn’t go back into the box.
Background: In 2005 we, through a series of independent “inventions” created the concept of the “universal cookie”. It was based on tracking and classifying “user demographics” across the internet. At the time we saw the huge potential to influence buying decisions across time and different properties. In 2008 we pitched this to AOL/Time Warner who was the biggest advertising network on the web at the time. And they bit, hard. Subsequently, conversations broke down due to privacy concerns and their own own internal strife.
We killed our project development in 2010 and now employ a “we don’t need your data” policy. We embrace fairness, data minimisation and respect for private data. We encourage this in all our clients.