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The Next Frontier of Consumer Exploitation By Corporations

timothy posted about a year ago | from the click-here-to-continue dept.

Privacy 166

First time accepted submitter alisonuw writes "So what if Google knows where I'm planning my next vacation and suggests hotels for me? Sure, it's creepy, but is there really any harm in companies tracking my info to target ads to me? Professor Ryan Calo (UW law) is out with a new paper that demonstrates the real harm behind these practices, making consumers vulnerable to making decisions that go against their self-interest (ie: predatory lending, price inflation, etc). The Atlantic has an article today that outlines the new research."

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166 comments

frfrsisst ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592207)

super pro?

Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (5, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#44592283)

The question is not does it, or does it not matter companies are tracking us, they ARE tracking us regardless

The real question is what are we, the consumers, going to do?

We can be passive - and let them (the corporations / governments ) manipulate our lives with all their suggestions/advises via their ad/marketing/propaganda campaign (as has been happening for the past few generations)

... or...

We can be on guard and do our best to make sure that our lives stays our lives, not the lives the governments / corporations want us to have

The society in the future will have a new gap, a gap in between people who live their lives as individuals, or, people who live their lives as sheeples

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592339)

Finally, a voice of reason on here. I agree. We need to make a decision here on whether these services are even worth all this. Marketing will always have smart people who are willing to work a niche. With all this data about ourselves online, we cant just put the genie back in the bottle and forget that the masses can be exploited for profit. The information is there, can you tell someone that they cant use ones and zeros and feel like that is the righteous answer.

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year ago | (#44593299)

consumers vulnerable to making decisions that go against their self-interest

And the remedy is. . .more regulation?
No, the remedy is to train people never to make a hasty decision. Rather, consult with your family & community of faith on whether it's a good call.

It's the only remedy that can work (3, Informative)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year ago | (#44593565)

not saying it _does_ work, but I think you'll find people are too busy living their day to day lives (work, family, kids, social networking) to monitor all the bad things companies do. There's a reason we started regulating companies. They did really bad things until we did.

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (1)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | about a year ago | (#44594147)

IOW social engineering is the solution?

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44593751)

Are these services worth it? Is tracking worth it? Are customer databases worth it? Is advertising worth it, to the consumer?

Honestly, fuck yes they are.
Would you be willing to keep records of all your dental stuff, medical stuff, insurance and everything else?
Are you the type that goes out and finds things on your own by knocking on doors with no logos, signs or even names on them?
Just imagine your local high street with absolutely no stores, just blank buildings without any notices, signs or anything to say "hey, come in, we are a bank / games / tech / music / clothes / café / other store!"
That would be fucking awful. Now imagine internet without advertising, period. I mean absolutely no references to anything, even voluntary / free advertising at all, ever, no matter how small and innocent it is. The internet would be useless. There wouldn't even be citations in wikipedia since that is a form of advertising in the end, it is a link-back to the original paper which might even be free, still advertising.

Some level of tracking, advertising and marketing IS worth it, even to the most tin-foil hatter types.
Regulation is better than none of it, period, because without it, life gets considerably harder and just downright shitty, even for adventurous people.
Would I hell want to go around trying to enter nondescript buildings trying to find out where the hell the café is.
Society would grind to a halt.

Now imagine if everyone had no faces, no identity.
Already without this part society was awful without any advertising at all, without identity it becomes a literal nightmare.
What is some dude comes up and stabs you? Absolutely 0 chance of them being found unless YOU know you were near police at the time, which you wouldn't because they would be anonymous. The person that stabbed you could easily pretend to BE the police and stab you again just for being a dicks sake.

Now let us flip on to the other side, 100% transparency, everywhere.
You know exactly who you would get on with. You would know what everyone likes, dislikes, and they would know that about you too.
You wouldn't be a special snowflake now, there is no such thing, even in the criminal world.
You would know exactly where to get what you want, there would be no hidden crap, no nothing like that.
Seems like it could be both a utopia and a nightmare. I guess it just depends if you lie to the people you know. (in other words, not tell them anything out of fear that they wouldn't like you for it, yes, it IS lies, it is not stretching at all)

Regulation is the only realistic solution. Civilian oversight. Actually fund it.

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#44594181)

You are mixing things up. Wikipedia is full of links, without any of them being advertising (apart from the self-advertising banner).

Or have you already been brainwashed to no longer see the difference between information and advertisement?

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44592589)

I hope you're right. The pessimist in me tells me, though, that you won't have the option to live and not be sheeple. Why bother with you, individual, uncontrollable and no asset as a consumer? You don't consume what you shall, you don't do what you shall, you may even pose a threat to the status quo. Begone!

I do feel what you feel, Sir ! (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#44593439)

I hope you're right. The pessimist in me tells me, though, that you won't have the option to live and not be sheeple

Sir, I do feel what you feel

I too am very pessimistic over this, but still, life has to go on, and, as long as I am still living, I will try my best to not let them decide my life for me

At the very least, I will try to apply what I learn from critical thinking in my daily live, particularly in the aspects which I think they could influence me

To live as an independent individuals has become more and more harder

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592655)

You seem to be making a distinction between us and them - we are them, they are us... perhaps that is the problem

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (3, Insightful)

nickmh (2496180) | about a year ago | (#44592667)

OK, For Gggaaawwdddssss Sake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you guys not understand what you're saying here? In the original submission the writer talks rationally about practices, privacy, decision making etc etc. And the first reply talks about the Corporate/Government relationship. HEY!! Corporate/Government relationships is called fascism. And people want to talk rationally about privacy, decision making and practices? Are you lot insane. You're trying to rationalise Fascism!!!!! Wake the F&^%$ UP!!! Get your self VPN, SSH Tunneling, BitMessage, Encrypted system. Otherwise you're passive, and subject to what ever these sick power hungry, self preserving A*&^ls can come up with!

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592687)

Oh, another unemployed guy that is pissed because no one wants to cope with his BS.

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (4, Insightful)

jopsen (885607) | about a year ago | (#44592813)

We can be passive - and let them (the corporations / governments ) manipulate our lives...

If "them" includes your government then you're truly screwed... The government is exactly the structure you should use to control big corporations, through regulations.
If you don't trust your government to do a good job at that... well, then you should fix your government first.

Sure, you can try not to buy from big corporations, but at this point it is not realistic to do this successfully on a large scale

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44593339)

Ok then, but I'm not an IT dude. Ghostery and JScript is all I know what to do to protect my internet privacy, yet I still get targeted and it's obvious.
Is there any other option than to sue everybody for Privacy Infringement? I'm not clicking any 'Agree to Tracking Service' button on these websites but I still get targeted.
This distaste has led me to ignore any and all internet advertising presented to me.
FFS kids on Minecraft Forums are copying these various company's predatory advertising techniques to get people to download their maps! How is this considered O.K.?

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (1)

KGIII (973947) | about a year ago | (#44594217)

Wait a minute...

They have ads on the internet?

Add to your list of things to know - "AdBlock Plus" and you should at least be able to ignore that they're tracking you and make your choices on your own.

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (3, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#44594313)

AdBlock and RequestPolicy can help you to not ever see a single advertisement. It's quite some time since I've seen the last ad on the web.

And I'm not even in principle against ads. However, internet ads as installed now have several undesirable properties:

  • They are often obnoxious (animations, sound, eating CPU time, placed at points where they disturb reading of the contents). That's the original reason why I started to block ads. Initially I only blocked obnoxious ads.
  • They come with tracking. That's today the main reason why I block all ads (and many other third-party stuff like Facebook/Google+ buttons and Google Analytics).
  • They are an infection vector for malware.

I can tolerate most offline advertisements because they don't include those features. Some offline advertisements (especially TV ads) are, however, also obnoxious (which is the main reason why I rarely watch private TV). But at least they don't track me (I still have analogue TV, so no back channel!) and they don't carry malware (good luck trying to infect my old "dumb" TV :-)).

Nothing (4, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year ago | (#44593515)

we're going to do absolutely nothing. We're too busy living our daily lives. You're guard will slip as daily life grinds you down, and you'll gradually join the sheeple. My history teacher said it best. "I was a radical in high school. Then I got a job, a car, house wife kids, the works. One I had something to lose I got real conservative real fast".

Me? I pick my poison. I'd rather have a strong central gov't I can at least try to influence and use. Maybe if we can get the schools to indoctrinate kids on the importance of democratic participation instead of the intrinsic beauty of capitalism....

Re:Does It Matter If Companies Are Tracking Us ? (1)

taustin (171655) | about a year ago | (#44594679)

The article says "Firms will increasingly be able to trigger irrationality or vulnerability in consumers"

This is not a problem with the firms. This is a problem with the consumers. And these techniques are not new. They've been in use for centuries, by people commonly called "scam artists." And yeah, it's bad for the gullible, but civilization hasn't ended from it, and won't.

And when 'not just the right good, but a customized pitch, delivered late at night, when the company knows you, particularly, have a tendency to make impulse purchases." is the problem, the solution is to go to bed early instead of surfing the internet.

Most people can figure that out on their own.

I predict Mr. Calo will be having a book come out soon, and it will be advertised on the basis of "buy this book or dingos will each your children," and talked about on the 60 minutes, in an episde that will be advertised on the basis of "watch our program or you will die."

In other words, it's Tuesday. Yawn.

obvious (2, Interesting)

Tom (822) | about a year ago | (#44592259)

You need a paper to demonstrate that other people making decisions for you is not necessarily in your best interest? Seriously?

And yes, they make the decisions. You are a fool if you think that it's just suggestions. I've worked in corporate environments long enough to know that the people who "prepare" the decision are really the ones making it, because by the selection you make, the way you present the alternatives and the data you choose to use or discard, you can pretty much make sure that any of the choices left is in your interest.

Re:obvious (2)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44592297)

Oh come on, other people are not making decisions for you just because they show you an advertisement.

In fact most people simply gain more resistant to advertising the more blatant it is.

You over state your case. Yet, I wager you consider yourself more immune to advertising than the average man on the street.

It's much more than that ... (1, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#44592315)

Oh come on, other people are not making decisions for you just because they show you an advertisement

If you think everything boils down to mere advertisement, you gonna have some big ones coming to ya !

Many times by NOT making decision you already made one, and those who are in the field know very well how to put people on the spot and, even without blinking an eyelid, the future of the sheeples have already been pre-arranged

Re:It's much more than that ... (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year ago | (#44592349)

Many times by NOT making decision you already made one, and those who are in the field know very well how to put people on the spot and, even without blinking an eyelid, the future of the sheeples have already been pre-arranged

That sounds very grand and sinister, but it doesn't actually say much. Care to give some examples?

Re:It's much more than that ... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592365)

How about NOT even showing a better-off individual cheaper alternatives on a flight search.

Re:It's much more than that ... (2)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year ago | (#44592379)

How about NOT even showing a better-off individual cheaper alternatives on a flight search.

Which is scummy, to be sure, but doesn't sound anything like OP's hyperbolic scenario of doom.

Re:It's much more than that ... (2)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#44593345)

This kind of thing already happens. There was a controversy a while back when it was discovered that travel sites show more expensive [usatoday.com] travel options to Mac users first. Since macs cost more than PC's it was presumed their users had more disposable income.

Re:It's much more than that ... (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about a year ago | (#44594253)

It's been happening for years in more and less intelligent forms. There's nothing new here. You either stop Madison Avenue, or go off the ad grid.

Oh, wait.....

Re:It's much more than that ... (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44592603)

I had to work with unemployed people quite a bit in my life. It's fascinating how they are being pressed into "jobs" for ... well, whatever the economy currently needs. No matter whether they can do it, whether they have any kind of affinity with it or whether they are absolutely unsuitable for it.

Over here, to keep your unemployment money, you have to jump through the hoops presented to you. So people do it. You get sent to various training courses that change in interesting ways over time. About 10 years ago, everyone was sent to a "web designer" and "network administration" class. Today, they prefer to send people to classes dealing with nursing and geriatric care. Again, whether the people have any kind of social skill, whether they can actually lift weights that easily pass the 100 lbs (or 200 lbs, depending on the person they have to lug around), whether they have any kind of affinity with it, doesn't matter.

People are exchangeable. And expendable.

Re:It's much more than that ... (2)

meanthinking (1926218) | about a year ago | (#44593269)

- Presenting tariff plans, insurance plans, deals 7 packages, any-kind-of-option in complex and opaque ways that use 'friendly' language, and pics of smiling people — so they can channel you towards whatever 'sounds' like a good deal.
- Changing the way the issue is discussed so the opinions form to 'prefer' what lobbyists favour (creationism, climate change, health-care, the wars, politicians)
- The entire PR and lobbying industry and everything it does.

And thats just the top of my head. — Did you seriously think you invented all the choices you made? You were shown pre-prepared points to discuss, and you just chose one. Not much freedom (or intelligence) in that.
Then they make people who think outside the norm seem like freaks, so you tend to ignore them, rather than discuss them. Try this for size: http://www.alternet.org/print/visions/chomsky-us-poses-number-threats-future-humanity-our-youll-never-hear-about-it-our-free-press [alternet.org]

Re:obvious (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44592593)

Not because of ads, but because of the choices they offer you. False dilemmas are the staple of politics today, and people are easily pushed into those false "either or" decisions. "For us or against us!" (really? I neither care 'bout you nor your terrorists, leave me alone!). "Bail banks out or the economy crumbles!" (nope, bail out the people holding saving accounts and let the bank fall flat on its face, worked well for Iceland. Remember Iceland? The country that started it all? They're through with their recession, we barely started ours).

I'm pretty sure the average reader can come up with more examples. We are presented false choices, where one is so horrible that we grudgingly accept the not quite that horrible one as the "right" choice.

What we fail to do is think about other options. There are usually plenty of them. But they are not as favorable for those that present us the false dilemma.

Re:obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592989)

Actually Iceland is headed for a big fall. They didn't fix their problems, they just pushed it off to the future.

Re:obvious (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#44592863)

Oh come on, other people are not making decisions for you just because they show you an advertisement.

What do you think politics is?

Politicians can use this data to make sure their public image is exactly what the public will respond to. Politicians don't need actual policies any more, just this data.

Once they get voted in, you can bet they're making decisions for you.

Re:obvious (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year ago | (#44592309)

And yes, they make the decisions. You are a fool if you think that it's just suggestions. I've worked in corporate environments long enough to know that the people who "prepare" the decision are really the ones making it, because by the selection you make, the way you present the alternatives and the data you choose to use or discard, you can pretty much make sure that any of the choices left is in your interest.

We're talking about advertising here, not actual purchases. Now, I have no doubt that advertising can influence people to buy things they normally wouldn't buy, or buy Brand Y when they'd normally buy Brand X, and that the first links to come up in a Google search are the ones that most of the time ultimately lead to money changing hands--but no one is actually eliminating choices with targeted ads, for God's sake. Buyers still have the choice to find what they actually want.

Re:obvious (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592357)

    Buyers still have the choice to find what they actually want.

Informed buyers, not the hoards that are in the marketplace.

Re:obvious (1)

Totenglocke (1291680) | about a year ago | (#44592471)

If you're too dumb / lazy to try and make an informed decision, you deserve to be ripped off.

Re:obvious (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44592613)

I would agree with you if it didn't mean that a supplier that doesn't deserve to survive survives.

Seriously, anyone here not able to think of at least a handful companies that ONLY exist because consumers are effin' stupid, and that would do the world (and their industry) a huge favor if they just vanished?

Sadly, often they're even the market leaders. Flies and shit and all that...

Re:obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592987)

Like all banks, for instance.

Re:obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592347)

Challenging democracy eh?

Re:obvious (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44592617)

Representative democracy is the poster child of "being offered a limited set of (viable) choices".

Re:obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592731)

That would only work if all alternatives are controlled by one entity, which they are not.

Re:obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592807)

I had a great example of this problem. After having developed facility with, and then reliance on, Google searching and Google Maps to locate places to service various needs (such as automotive, hotel, and restaurant services while travel planning), I had a mid-trip need to alter plans. So I used an iphone to research these services enroute. Google became a lot less useful when it was apparent that the search results being displayed were clearly not unbiased matches to my queries, but rather were all advertisements. I doubt these "choices" where ones that met my priorities of thrift and frugality.

Obvious? (1, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#44592279)

Isn't this obvious?

The reason companies advertise is because it influences us into giving them money (otherwise advertising wouldn't exist at all).
By definition, products advertised are not products we would seek out ourselves (otherwise they wouldn't need to advertise).
Targetted advertising means more succesfully influencing our decission making (otherwise it would be called "useless but more expensive advertising").

Re:Obvious? (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44592313)

No, your definition is bogus.

Advertising is meant to inform you that Coke is available here. You were thirsty anyway or you wouldn't have noticed it.
Advertising a steaming fresh sack of shit won't get you customers who were really looking for new shoes.

Re:Obvious? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592373)

Exactly this.
Coke advertises to convince people that it will give you more fun than Pepsi.
OMO gives you whiter whites than any other laundry detergent.
Kleenex is the softest tissue paper.
Advertisements don't make you purchase something that you would never buy, it sways you to one brand or another.

Re:Obvious? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592387)

Coke is a fresh sack of shit, it's not water, juice or milk and provides no significant benefits at a remarkable markup. The fact that this was your example is not even ironic, it's simply sad.

Re:Obvious? (2)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about a year ago | (#44593589)

Coke is a fresh sack of shit, it's not water, juice or milk and provides no significant benefits at a remarkable markup.

Coke is a significant jolt of caffeine and sugar. If that's what you want, buy it.

If, on the other hand, you prefer your caffeine hot, buy coffee or tea, and sugar it to taste....

Re:Obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592391)

Is advertising really the problem?

Re:Obvious? (5, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#44592721)

No, your definition is bogus.

No, your definition is bogus.

Advertising (really marketing) is at least two things:

1) To inform you of options to fill a need.
2) To convince you that you have a need.

(1) is useful in society, (2) is destructive to society

The problem is that practically all marketing tends to (2) over time. For example, sexy girls in advertisements. When they are in ads for stereotypically men's products (like beer) its obvious they are of type 2, but even when they are in ads for women's products like clothing they are still manipulative because they tell women if you just had this product you would be sexy too.

Re:Obvious? (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#44594779)

#2 cannot be arbitrary designated as destructive just because you find some products advertised as being something you wouldn't seek out for yourself.

Ignorance is equally destructive to society. Advertising campaigns can also educate.

Re:Obvious? (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about a year ago | (#44592895)

Advertising is meant to make you equate cola with Coke, so that you'll spend twice as much for a coke as for a generic brand cola that tastes exactly the same. I don't have a problem with that, though -- if the consumer cares about their money they're perfectly capable to ignoring the brand advertising.

Re:Obvious? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#44592897)

Most companies sell sacks of shit. Advertising is how they convince people to buy it. No-one needs a car capable of 180MPH, no-one needs a £1000 watch, no-one needs this year's fashionable clothes.

Re:Obvious? (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#44593077)

> Advertising is meant to inform you that Coke is available here.

That has got to be the most ludicrous thing I've ever seen positively moderated.

So the coke advert in my sunday newspaper is to tell me there's coke available in my own flat? The coke advert at the bus stop is to tell me that there's coke available at the bus stop? The advert tells me that coke is available somewhere in the country, nothing more.

But it gets worse:

> You were thirsty anyway or you wouldn't have noticed it.

How can I not notice the whole fucking page of the sunday magazine? If you read newspapers without noticing entire fucking pages, then you're doing it wrong. And how can I not notice the entire width of the bus stop? Given that at least half of the time I'm at a bus stop I've just come out of a bar, no, I am not thirsty. Needing a piss, more like.

Re:Obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44593145)

Advertising a steaming fresh sack of shit won't get you customers who were really looking for new shoes.

Tell that to the De Beers and other folks selling diamonds as something of value when it's simply a hunk of carbon in a crystalline structure:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/02/have-you-ever-tried-to-sell-a-diamond/304575/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Beers#Marketing

Once you're done that, watch this CBS "60 Minutes" segment on Luxottica, which controls a good portion of the world's (sun)glasses business selling things from $100 items to $1000 D&Gs made in the same factory:

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50149025n

Then watch Adam Curtis' BBC documentary on the rise of advertising and the changing of American from a need-based economy to a want-based economy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Century_of_the_Self

You'd be surprised at home many people will purchased a steam fresh sack of shit if you offer them a two-for-one deal (call now!)—at least enough to make the venture worth trying.

Re:Obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592909)

I always wondered why Slashdot just happened to post shit agan that I want to read, now I know... Tracking !

Only the stupid (2, Insightful)

MrBigInThePants (624986) | about a year ago | (#44592311)

Seriously. Who here pays attention to the ads or does not have an ad blocker?

I never even see ads anymore. Even the ones my ad blocker does not block.

This only affects stupid people.

Stupid people don't need protection.... ...wait...

They don't need protection from the world. Stupid people need protection as in condoms so they stop breeding.

This only affects stupid people ? (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#44592321)

This only affects stupid people

HA !

Those who think that they are not stupid, ARE

Re: This only affects stupid people ? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#44592795)

That's half the people on slashdot, who think they are geniuses and need to protect everyone else

Re:This only affects stupid people ? (1)

DKlineburg (1074921) | about a year ago | (#44592847)

I'm stupid, does that make me smart?

Re:This only affects stupid people ? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#44593359)

I'm stupid, does that make me smart?

If you really know that you are stupid, at the very least you are not as stupid as those who think that they are not stupid

Re:Only the stupid (5, Insightful)

CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) | about a year ago | (#44592345)

This goes way beyond mere advertising. It also involves the price you pay and which products are available in shops near you. Restaurants may increase the price of their meals if they know you are very hungry, it's unlikely that you will leave once you have been seated. Cigaret-vendors will lower their prices if they figure out you are trying to quit.
The old adagium "Knowledge is power" still holds.

Re:Only the stupid (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#44592447)

There are many ad blockers.
Which ad blocker do you use?
And why did you choose that one?

Re:Only the stupid (3, Informative)

johanw (1001493) | about a year ago | (#44592509)

I use multiple: AdBlock Plus and Ghostery in my browser, a hosts file and since I'm using Peerblock anyway to block the RIAA and cronies from my torrent client I added an ads blocklist there too.

Re:Only the stupid (3, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#44593523)

I use multiple: AdBlock Plus and Ghostery in my browser, a hosts file

Try RequestPolicy [requestpolicy.com] it is better than a hosts file because it is on a per-website basis. You can let "slashdot.org" pull content from "fsdn.net" while blocking all other websites from pulling content from "fsdn.net"

And it is a whitelist system rather than a black-list like the hosts file, adblock and ghostery, so nobody sneaks through just because you haven't updated it. The downside is that if those approaches are like driving an automatic transmission, using RequestPolicy is like driving a stick-shift.

Re:Only the stupid (1)

Threni (635302) | about a year ago | (#44592993)

They're free; it doesn't matter; the most popular one, so the lists is uses are kept up to date; they aren't advertised.

Re:Only the stupid (4, Insightful)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about a year ago | (#44592481)

They don't need protection from the world.

It would appear that it never occurred to you that these people FAR outweigh the "smart" people and therefore it actually is in YOUR own, best interests to protect and guide them.

Used cars salesmen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592507)

Can you imagine a world where everybody has the moral flexibility and the greed of a used cars salesman, but is backed by asymmetric knowledge about every detail of your life, things you don't even know about yourself, and predictive psychological and economical algorithms? Or shorter: Would you like to pay more than you have to for practically everything?

Re:Used cars salesmen (1)

taustin (171655) | about a year ago | (#44594761)

The most fun I've ever had that didn't involve naked women was buying a car. All the power is in the buyer's hands, because cars are fungible. Even if you are utterly, completely committed to a particular model with particular options, there's no reason you have to buy it from a particular salesman, or dealership. They know this, and try desperately to keep you from realizing it. Once they realize you do know it, they realize their choice is not how much commission they'll make, but whether they'll make a small commission or none at all. If you play your cards right, this will happen after they've invested some time in you. In other words, if you're not a complete idiot, it's trivially easy to use their own techniques on them, because the buyer makes the decision.

This applies pretty much everywhere else in life where goods are services are fungible. The person who makes the decision is the preson who makes the decision. Many sellers want something from you, and it's up to you which gets your money.

But you have to a) not be a drooling idiot, and b) not be a pussy, and c) not be a drooling idiot. It also helps if you're not a drooling idiot.

And, BTW, as for the effect of all those drooling idiot pussies on me, I say bring 'em on. The more idiots that buy the wrong car for too much money because the sales drone coerced them in to it, the more complacent the drone will be, and the more easily I can screw him out of his eye teeth. I say this from experience.

Re:Only the stupid (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44592623)

If the choice of stupid people wouldn't affect the choices I have, I'd agree with you.

For reference, see politics. Or (*shudder*) TV.

Re:Only the stupid (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#44593433)

This only affects stupid people.

People like you are the easiest ones to sucker because you think you are immune.

This stuff isn't just about overt and in your face advertising. It is also about product-placement, paid-for reviews on big-name websites, shill reviews on "consumer" websites and pretty much anything people with hundred million dollar marketing budgets can come up with - like this nationwide campaign [teamcoco.com]

If you believe that you are able to withstand a hundred million dollars worth of research into how to manipulate the human psyche, you are delusional.

Re:Only the stupid (2)

faedle (114018) | about a year ago | (#44594153)

I think you missed the point. This was about marketing, not advertising (advertising is just one small part of marketing).

So you're blocking advertising, great. But what if the fact you have an adblocker installed on your machine (which is generically trivial to detect, BTW) means you automatically pay 10% more for everything? That's the world the author of the original study is warning us of. That the data collected via widespread tracking can be used to penalize one class of customers for fuck-all reasons.

It's already begun. There have been cases of Orbitz presenting higher prices to Mac users [time.com] . Or some of the pricing slipperiness Amazon [cnn.com] has engaged in.

This sort of "different pricing for different people" is already somewhat pervasive in society, even in B&Ms. As a member of a particular grocery chain's frequent shopper program I get special coupons every three months in the mail. Those coupons are custom-printed for me, and are different than the coupons somebody else on the same program would get, because they're based on my shopping habits and demographics. At what point does that start heading into becoming discrimination and/or "unfair"?

Re:Only the stupid (1)

taustin (171655) | about a year ago | (#44594711)

I've never found the need for an ad blocker. I don't see them anyway, even when they flashing on the screen. They just get tuned out. I do keep the speakers turned off, though, except when I want the computer to make noise.

In store tracking (4, Interesting)

assemblerex (1275164) | about a year ago | (#44592359)

If you have a phone, as you walk around a shopping center or store will are being tracked.

If you linger in the baby aisle, expect to get baby ads and coupons without asking for them. You might even find out your teenage daughter is pregnant from coupons you get. [forbes.com]

Very intrusive: Get served ads to your phone and all devices based on store browsing and the kind of stores. You have no choice to opt out.
Medium intrusive: Get asked if you would like coupons for what they think you like. Ads on devices or apps that are ad supported are targeted.
Low level: You get coupons on your receipt based on your walking pattern and habits. (this already happens)

Future exploitation, the terrifying final form.
Location based A.I. scans your physical body for any and all brand name clothing. Tied into the parking lot cameras, it logs your car and plate number. Using sets of data (The estimated outfit cost, car value, car color psychological assessment, insurance carrier) it evaluates your income bracket and psychological profile.
A.I. scans all store records for purchases that match what you are wearing. If the purchases is detected to have not been made at the store, coupons and ads targeted at those articles are sent (You too can get Feragamo shoes here).
Each time you stop, the time and location and nearby goods are noted. Any regular walking patterns are logged. If you walk the same pattern every time, the lcd screens change to ads targeting you along your route.
As you approach merchandise displays, eye tracker record what items you look at and what in the adverts your eyes followed.
As follows: 15seconds female cleavage, 5seconds product, 1second dog.

Unregulated ,the future of consumer exploitation is terrifying.

Re:In store tracking (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44592631)

Given the quality of the average AI, you'll get ads for women's lingerie and directions to a nearby transvestite club, the product and a beasty porn page.

Re:In store tracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594495)

Ooh, furries, yay.

Re:In store tracking (1)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#44592743)

Unregulated ,the future of consumer exploitation is terrifying.

I see several current regulatory obstacles for a would-be intrusive advertiser. For example, suppose they uncover a medical condition through such monitoring. That falls under some pretty serious regulations for how they store, use, and distribute medical data.

Otherwise, I see diminishing returns to this sort of strategy. Ultimately, even with perfect knowledge of the shopper's state of mind and behavior, it's just a somewhat more challenging environment for potential customers. There's only so much you can influence people.

I think the shopper will prevail. And if they make the shopping environment too adversarial, that will show up in loss of sales.

For me, the real concern would be if someone implements a 1984-style total surveillance system based on such technology.

Re:In store tracking (1)

DKlineburg (1074921) | about a year ago | (#44592871)

Ok, lets just take the medical. I have psoriasis. Even scanning me would reveal as such. Does that mean I get spit out because of HIPA?

Re:In store tracking (1)

DKlineburg (1074921) | about a year ago | (#44592861)

Question. Me and My fiance split up the shopping and only occupy half the store. We join at the check out stand. Wonder how that got tracked?

Re:In store tracking (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#44594427)

Question. Me and My fiance split up the shopping and only occupy half the store. We join at the check out stand. Wonder how that got tracked?

It would be a strange coincidence that two unrelated people come in together, then cover the whole shop without significant overlap, but also without omitting any significant portion of the shop, and then meet again at the check out stand (probably even one waiting until the other arrives). This behaviour clearly shows you two belong together.

Re:In store tracking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44593507)

And this AI watches who your friends are, and who aren't your good friends but share a particularly lucrative interest, and weighs advertising success accordingly.
Then is weighs how much you like certain family members and what their interests are, and finds lucrative niches there.
After this it compiles a list of co-workers and what they may be buying for their job, but it finds that one of your family members dislikes this product and you like this family member; therefore the A.I. chooses to aggressively target your naive boss on the point of saving money, instead of you directly.

Cmon Mr. asseblerex, you could have been more creatively interesting than you were. Our data shows you were holding back.
Would you like to read some sample pages of this self help book, [amazon.com] a great value at the low, low price of $11.93?
 
//edit: CAPTACHA = "HABEAS" (Wikipedia: A Habeas Corpus writ (legal action) is a writ that requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court.)

GFYS

Re:In store tracking (1)

taustin (171655) | about a year ago | (#44594785)

If you have a phone, as you walk around a shopping center or store will are being tracked.

In less than 0.001% of stores, so far.

Very intrusive: Get served ads to your phone and all devices based on store browsing and the kind of stores. You have no choice to opt out.

I have already opted out. My phone doesn't receive ads. And if they text me, I'll make a scene in the middle of their store about how illegal unsolicited text ads are, in front of their other customers.

Unregulated ,the future of consumer exploitation is terrifying.

Only for the weak and the stupid, who have always been terrified of their own shadow. The obnoxiousness of some retailers is why so much business has moved online, where it's far, far easier to control how much advertising you get forced down your throat (and, in fact, it's far easier to simply ignore).

MADD supports Iphone app DUI Dodger (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592405)

News story for you, with Labor Day around the corner I suggest you shed light on preventing Drunk Driving! iPhone app âoeDUI Dodgerâ is supported by MADD

iPhone app DUI Dodger www.duidodger.com

Call me if you'd like more information, I am the creator of iPhone app DUI dodger and located in Anaheim, CA. My personal cell phone number is listed below.

Please take a minute to view our press release
  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/4/prweb8314573.htm

(714) 299-0458

Caveat emptor (2)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#44592443)

As always, responsible people should ensure they check the facts before spending money.
I find the Internet, including Goggle quite useful for this, actually... /sarcasm
Recently I got a much better price for renting a car via a specialist site than I could on the renter's own website, and it's often the same for hotels.
So yes, I can believe that you may not get the best deal if, say, Hertz partners with Google to target you.
But nobody is forcing you to click on the ad...
Yet.

Re:Caveat emptor (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44593403)

But are there other options? What happens when those options are blocked and you can't purchase the item from a competitor? This reminds me of Network Solutions putting a 4-day hold on any domain name you search on: http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r19769068-Network-Solutions-holding-domains-hostage

Think of the collusion that is possible for a travel site when someone is looking to book a trip where there is limited space. Think about a cruise ship, if the travel site knows your looking for a specific cruise, it could pre-emptively block out the rooms you are interested in, forcing you to buy through their site rather than a competitor. I'm not sure how feasible this specific case would be, as I'm not a travel agent, but it is easy to imagine.

predatory lending? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592549)

when will these pie-in-the-sky Progressive academics learn that no amount of Nanny State legislation will prevent the stupid from being stupid - and con artists and grifters will exist until the end of time

ignore the facts, many folks are just dumb as a box of rocks - you have to educate, protect, and think for yourself!

Re:predatory lending? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#44592639)

There are other options. My lawyer said that it's still illegal and that the suggestion reminds him of Nazi Germany, but there are other options!

Ad blind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592745)

Am I the only ad-blind slashdotter around?
Besides having adblock and noscript, it's been a looong time i have "seen" an ad, even if itìs there.

Am I illuding myself?

Re: Ad blind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592931)

I'm like that too. The presence of an ad registers with me but I usually have no idea about what it's content is. What makes this easy is that advertisers don't seem to be very original and put ads in the same places all the time. It makes it easy to filter them out.

"price inflation" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44592885)

I cannot find the word "inflation" anywhere in the paper, but by "price inflation" I suppose the submitter might have been referring to the practice of charging higher prices to people based on their utility preferences, ie. capturing more of the surplus between the marginal cost and marginal utility curves - so more of the surplus is producer surplus and less is consumer surplus.

Are we supposed to be concerned by this? Why or why not?

Another thing, from the intro:

Jon Hanson and Douglas Kysar coined the term “market manipulation” in 1999 to describe how companies exploit the cognitive limitations of consumers. Everything costs $9.99 because consumers see the price as closer to $9 than $10.

So they coined the term "market manipulation" to refer to something for which "cognitive manipulation" would have been a more obvious coinage.

Got mine (1)

jago25_98 (566531) | about a year ago | (#44592915)

Looking at the number of people with iphones and no clue instead of Android and cranking up permissions controls I think the most realistic course of action is to allow the majority of people to suffer the consequences while taking action ourselves to take advantage of (hopefully) lower prices we can achieve by gaming the system in various ways.

The only problem with this might be if maintaining privacy or gaming the system starts costing more than it's worth.

Blindness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44593003)

Not a word on political freedom and social order based on new technologies.
There is so much more there than a hotel price and location. That kind of debate is part of the problem as it is so narrowly focused on economics that it tries to to make us blind to everything else that is going on.

Loyalty Programs (3, Insightful)

bostonidealist (2009964) | about a year ago | (#44593205)

Brick and mortar stores are legally barred from overtly providing different pricing for customers based on age or gender. They can't have a price tag on an item that reads:

Women Over 35 - $32.99
Women 35 And Under - $29.99
Men 38 And Over - $28.99
Men Under 38 - $26.99

However, common loyalty programs at stores profile customers by age, gender, purchasing habits, and all sorts of other demographic criteria and selectively issue coupons and promotions that have the same result (e.g., a drug store might print out a coupon for a male customer for lady's perfume to incentivize a purchase before Mother's Day, but wouldn't issue such a coupon to female customer who is inherently more likely to buy the product).

Why all the fuss? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44593225)

I don't know what all the fuss is about. Get Firefox with Add Block Plus and clear the cookies at program end. Use Ixquick for searches.

Re:Why all the fuss? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#44594485)

I don't know what all the fuss is about. Get Firefox with Add Block Plus and clear the cookies at program end. Use Ixquick for searches.

Why would you want to prevent Firefox from adding? ;-)

On a more serious note: Don't forget NoScript, BetterPrivacy and RequestPolicy.

Not worried yet... (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | about a year ago | (#44593255)

I'd be more worried if this stuff actually worked. Take bogeyman Facebook. I've been on Facebook since 2009. I post regularly - Links, photos. I check in regularly at various locations. FB should have a wealth of information about me - Should know where I live, that I have two kids under 5, that I'm male, Gen-X on and on. Yet FB has NEVER been able to serve up an ad for ANYTHING I care about. Never. All I get is Candy Crush garbage, vocational colleges and credit cards.

It's Saturday morning. I'm about to head out with the kids to give my wife a break. Facebook 'knows' I do this most Saturdays. If someone gave me an ad with a coupon this morning, I'd go there. Instead Facebook wants me to know where to get eyeglasses. I'm 20/20, morons, unlike these omnipotent 'tracking servers.'

Consumer exploitation is only a distraction (1)

fascismforthepeople (2805977) | about a year ago | (#44593383)

Just wait for the next generation of employee exploitation. We keep stripping away worker's rights and reinforcing the rights of the "job creators". You will look back fondly at times when we worried about companies tracking their customers when we arrive at a time where companies are working their employees 60 hours a week for 30 hours pay without benefits and able to blacklist them permanently for the most minor of infractions.

Distracting the average American from the real problem is just one step towards establishing fascism for the people.

at least they can get their own health care plan (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44593519)

at least they can get their own health care plan under the law if there job does not offer it.

Re:Consumer exploitation is only a distraction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594763)

Just wait for the next generation of employee exploitation. We keep stripping away worker's rights and reinforcing the rights of the "job creators". You will look back fondly at times when we worried about companies tracking their customers when we arrive at a time where companies are working their employees 60 hours a week for 30 hours pay without benefits and able to blacklist them permanently for the most minor of infractions.

Distracting the average American from the real problem is just one step towards establishing fascism for the people.

When you say "We" I guess you mean US? Because I live in a Scandinavian country where worker's rights and benefits are as strong as ever, if anything keep getting better. So what you have is not a given trend to give up against. We also have close to 80% of the people engaging and voting to make sure we keep politicians and balance of power in check.

Just wait for the Columbia House of vacations (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about a year ago | (#44593517)

Just wait for the Columbia House of vacations where if you don't say no to the trip of the month or year you get billed for it and it's non refundable after that.

Choice and competition (1)

dumky2 (2610695) | about a year ago | (#44593757)

The concept of exploitation of consumers by corporations is a distraction. First, no corporation can force you to buy anything. Second, customers can easily avoid and boycott a company if they think it is mistreating them (costs/harms larger than benefits), so competitive pressure is effective.

What is this supposed "exploitation" distracting us from? First, consider that government can force you to buy something. Second, consider that only government can literally prohibit new entrants and exclude competition.

So while corporations do have some power over consumers (marketing influence, switching cost and other stickiness), government is where the real power is at. Corporations still are limited to influence and persuasion, but cannot literally force you to buy their products.

A quote to illustrate this fact: "Let me suggest an experiment. [...] [In one year] don't buy or use any of Microsoft's products. [...] At the same time, send the government no money. That is, don't pay your taxes. Then wait. Watch who comes after you for your money and how and with what weapons." -- Richard M. Salsman


To address the paper (rather than the sensationalist /. title), I think this quote from the paper captures its essence well: “Once one accepts that individuals systematically behave in nonrational ways, it follows from an economic perspective that others will exploit those tendencies for gain.”

While that is a reasonable observation, it sadly applies beyond corporations. Politicians and regulators will similarly be tempted to take advantage of those tendencies for their own gain, as well as they will be vulnerable to those tendencies themselves in their role as politicians and regulators.
Even in a democracy, I would think those two effects are worse in the realm of politics because consumers are more trapped there (government has legal monopoly of coercion power) than they are by corporations. See Bryan Caplan's "The Myth of the Rational Voter".

Nope no harm... none at all. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44594653)

Until you are on somebodies bad list because their database says you called someone who they have labelled as a terrorist, once too many times (whether you knew it or not) and find yourself the target of a drone attack... I mean... it is perfectly legal for the US gov to assassinate its own citizens now thanks to America's complacency towards their gov.

But whatever... those internet shutin's that still live in their mom's basement can finally be productive members of society employed operating those remote controlled drones which raises drone demand and increases competition between drone manufactures.

See how all this spying helps the economy !!!
WIN!! WIN!! WIN!! :D

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