Amazon is using purchase data to sell targeted ads, which is creepy, but not because they've invented a mind-control ray


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/02/06/trivial-insights.html


#2

Targeted adds? Yes, that’s my favorite thing to do when my Dear Wife leaves her browser open. She’s a great gal, and one hellava sense of humor too to put up with me.


#3

Has Amazon denied inventing a mind-control ray?


#4

Still, the part where you have an in-person conversation on a delicate topic with someone and then both of you start getting ads relevant to that conversation because both of you have phones with the Face#@&k app installed is a bridge to far.


#5

…but since Amazon still can’t tell the difference between “bought a baby gift for someone else off their baby registry and had it shipped to their house” and “ZOMG YOU MUST BE HAVING A BABY”, I’m not too worried about their algorithmic modeling.


#6

Mind you, I bet The Algorithm can process:

  • 6-pack of humorous onesies
  • 1500ml Jack Daniels

#7

Amazons ads are the worst. I add something to my wish list it shows up in a ad. Ignore.
I buy a shirt on Amazon, they show me an ad for a shirt. Ignore.
It’s not like any of the others are better. I ignore most of them and yea I block the most annoying.
Maybe these ads work for some people, but not for me.


#8

Those are the best. “You just bought a refrigerator! Would you be interested in buying a…refrigerator?”

I’m sure the VP responsible for that bit of genius got a bonus for it bigger than my lifetime income.


#9

Be nice, Mind-Control Ray is a friend of mine…


#10

Makes me glad boingboing is constantly linking to Amazon with affiliate links.


#11

Yeah that is why I always roll my eyes at targeted advertising. So done my research and have purchased the item but for months I get sale on item I have already purchased and don’t need more of now.


#12

Yeah, YouTube thinks I want more information about my concealed carry weapons and I’m in the market to buy a yacht. eBay thinks I want black and white photos of 1930’s Hitler Youth women. I don’t think the promise of big data has panned out yet.


#13

That’s a…weirdly specific, um, error.


#14

The absolute worst idiocy is when You look something up with shmoogle, like let’s say “Death in elevators”, then the first ad that shows in the results list reads “Buy Death in elevators now”.

These are the times when I truly believe that evolution totally wasted its energy with humans. As a matter of fact, it only created a major liability.


#15

There are many creepy ways to do targeted advertisements, and significantly fewer ways to do it well. And doing it well almost certainly requires significant government regulation, which does not exist today in any meaningful capacity in the USA and many other places (Europe seems ahead).

But I am not at all totally against targeted ads. Maybe it’s because I work in M&E as a technologist, but I see a lot of promise in not-creepy targeted advertising. Consumers themselves need to have a MUCH greater ability to control that experience incredibly granularly and with full access to raw data.

But you know what? I’m totally effin’ sick of watching countless drug ads for horrible conditions I don’t have and am not even in the correct age/gender range for, and whose side-effects sound worse than the condition that is supposedly treated. I don’t think TV drug ads should exist, period, and they are banned in I think almost every other country. They are horrible, dare I say psychologically abusive.

I would vastly prefer to dial in ads for my interests, set real limits on what data is available to advertisers, and get all sorts of ads for stuff I really want, and the advertisers get a MUCH better bang for their buck. Fact is, media is suffering right now – very tough to shift business models when you’re competing with Youtube, and countless and growing numbers of other media sources. I mean, don’t get me wrong, people are making money, but it’s increasingly difficult, and this is leading to a lot of consolidation. That’s something I don’t like.

Author and very smart guy David Brin wrote about how there was no way we were going to avoid the ultimate surveillance state. What we need to do is make sure it is very well regulated (like our militias are supposed to be, but I digress). Currently it is not, because people keep voting for assholes. That is the core issue we need to address.


#16

Maybe he was a teenager in the 70’s.


#17

Great, I clicked on the link and now I’m going to get a constant barrage of ads for Italian sadiconazista VHS cassettes. Idiots, I already have them all!


#18

As Seanan McGuire put it: No, Amazon, I just bought cat food. Now is not the time to show me ads for cat food. Now is the time to show me ads for cat litter.


#19

Quite the contrary, they’ve revealed the full details of the technology, and will even demonstrate it for anyone who asks.


#20

If they do indeed have a mind-control ray, then any denial (or admission) would be purely academic. Mind-control ray, you know. :slight_smile: