The More You Know (the Better You Can Target Ads)

Via SEW, Google has a new customized homepage module called interesting items for you.

Based on your search history (and perhaps toolbar feedback if you have a Google Toolbar installed) Google will recommend related searches, related web pages, and related homepage gadgets. Right now here is what the interesting items for you module recommends for me:
Google Related Searches.

Google Related Pages.

Google Related Widgets.

For Google to be building technology to recommend all types of things I should be consuming you know that eventually that sort of technology is going to work to enhance what ads I see while searching and while on content sites. Thus, Google will be able to exploit for maximal profit potential whatever profitable flaws I may have in my identity (see the recent Bob Massa interview for more info on how that works).

What I find frightening about automation and creating maximally efficient ad networks is that inevitably they promote the businesses with the deepest pockets. Like corporate structures, capital is amoral, and you don't get the deepest pockets without doing some shady stuff. More often there is more money in deceiving people than in truly solving problems and helping people. Plus, as marketing continues to evolve, and it is easier to test and gain feedback, it will be easier to control people through instinctive predictable animal behaviors.

Psychology Today published an article about Why We Hate, which stated:

Researchers are discovering the extent to which xenophobia can be easily—even arbitrarily—turned on. In just hours, we can be conditioned to fear or discriminate against those who differ from ourselves by characteristics as superficial as eye color.

And, to me, that becomes frightening when I think about how I just played a video game for a few hours, and Microsoft bought a video game ad targeting company. It is even worse when you consider how much money the military spends on marketing, and that they use their own high end shoot em up video games and pizza parties as recruitment devices on 13 year old children.

What really concerns me about Google (and others) continually improving social recommending engines is that they may make it harder to realize our own prejudices.

The guilt of mistaking individuals for their group stereotype—such as falsely believing an Arab is a terrorist—can lead to the breakdown of the belief in that stereotype. Unfortunately, such stereotypes are reinforced so often that they can become ingrained. It is difficult to escape conventional wisdom and treat all people as individuals, rather than members of a group.

How long until machines know us better than other people do? Are you comfortable with a profit agenda driven machine making life suggestions for you based on your categories and flaws? How much will we let a machine's interpretation of conventional wisdom make choices for us?

How long until there is a Luddite backlash? And should I register so I am ahead of the curve?

Published: September 12, 2006 by Aaron Wall in marketing


September 14, 2006 - 11:09pm

Thanks Aaron. Thanks that you share all of that information with us, the youngster webmasters from all over the world, like me from Bulgaria. I often come here, to read what you say, I respect your opinion and admiration of what you do.

September 12, 2006 - 5:52pm

I'm surprised that the google recommendations aren't more varied - you always seem to be reading and quoting a huge range of psychology, marketing, philosophy, etc.

I think the AOL data thing should serve as a warning. We're living the days when people will type anything into a search engine, go to any URL. And as you pointed out, put any Toolbar on their browser. Someday that's gonna change.

In the meantime, Google is getting Terabytes of clickstream, and I don't even think they know what to do with it yet...

LudditeMarketing is pretty funny btw.

PS. You tab index on your comments for is messed up for me in Firefox 1.5. After typing the blog url input field, I press tab, and the whole page scrolls up to the top. It'd probably work better if you took the tab indexes out...

September 12, 2006 - 8:18pm


To me, it sounds like they are trying to build the database of intentions that Battelle wrote about. It will be interesting to see how it progresses in the next few years.


September 14, 2006 - 12:56pm

Excellent post Aaron - having gone from reading your post on political blogging to this I have to say I'm all in favour of you adding this kind of commentary.

Perhaps this IS because it reinforces my own beliefs, but I also think it's a positive thing for people's assumptions to be challenged on a regular basis rather than to receive a repetition of the same outlook time and again such as that you get from modern media.

Alex K
September 14, 2006 - 4:33pm

Luckily for the time being this type of thing is relatively easy to ignore, and it's relatively easy to obfuscate or screw up the search data you generate to throw off the mind-control algorithms...

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