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Targeted advertising - cool or work of the Devil?

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Last response: in Toms Network
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August 20, 2012 1:18:37 PM

Not that I actually think that Satan is in the advertising business, but...

I just posted a comment on Microsoft Office Home and Student edition 2003, and up pops an ad for the current version. So the topic is how much I hate and fear targeted advertising, what you think on the topic, and whether or not I am crazy for this particular opinion (this thread is not for the general topic of whether or not I am crazy).

I have two major (and several minor) problems with this kind of business. The first is a privacy issue. The above example isn't that much of an invasion of privacy, unless it's stored somewhere. But several companies are building databases not only of what I buy but what I browse and, apparently, my posts on Tom's. This statement is not just paranoia; look in today's New York Times for an example. I don't like people collecting information on me. Heck, I'm opposed to Street View in my back yard.

Heck, it happened decades before - in the late 1970's, I had to chase off someone who just walked onto our property and started taking pictures. A real estate agent who was going to list the house although my family had no intention of going anywhere. Making a buck - that's all anyone wants from that, whether the subject wants to be catalogued or not.

The second issue is being used as a commodity. My information is sold and bought specifically so that companies can make more money from me. Period. Any cashier who offers me a store card so that "I can get bargains on things that I use frequently" will get a scowl and risks my wrath. Trust me, this ain't for my advantage.

The concept of customer as commodity, bolstered by huge amounts of data which lets companies cherry-pick the customers that they want, is leading to the death of customer service. At one point in time, companies had to treat the customer as their number-one asset, woo the customer, and be nice to the customer. I haven't had an experience like that with a merchant very often these days. Heck, a brownout blew out a lot of electronics in my house, and led to a thousand-dollar repair to my central air conditioning. The response that I go to my claim to the power company indicates that they didn't even read it - it includes the legal statement of their responsibility for power outages. The power wasn't out, it just bounced. It's not so much that they denied my claim that annoys me, it's that they didn't read it.

So being spied on, having data that should reasonably considered none of anyone's business compiled and traded, and being treated as a replaceable bean (food-type, not Java) by the companies that I do business with are the new form of marketing. Does anyone else feel strongly about this, or that I am overreacting, or make their living from it and cringe every day that they go into work?

(BTW, that last choice has a bit of history behind it. Quite a few of us at a company I used to work for, whose main product was increasing liquidity in the stock market, realized that what we were doing was probably bad for the economy. We didn't contribute to the huge world-economy collapse, but we look back at flash crashes and other damage done to the markets by high-speed trading and realize that, in some small part, this was our fault.)
August 31, 2012 2:49:10 AM

I run Firefox with AdBlock+, NoScript, & Do Not Track Plus. Haven't been troubled by an ad in years.
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