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Micro-targeted ads abuse your privacy for nothing

Privacy is a major issue in today’s world, and rightly so. The worst part is that many of the companies that abuse our privacy do so with the goal of enabling increasingly targeted ads. The claim is, of course, that the targeted ads work so much better that they are worth both the extra cost to the advertiser and the ill-defined costs of living in such a society. But is it even true?

A wired article by Gilad Edelman about former Google employee Tim Hwang’s upcoming book, Subprime Attention Crisis, does not suggest, citing a study that showed that advertising platforms targeting Australian men between the ages of 25 and 44 performed worse than random guessing. Another researcher says that it is common for platforms and media agencies to credit ads for purchases that consumers would have made anyway. It̵

7;s bad enough that we’re losing our privacy to advertisers; it’s even worse that it is not even effective. Not that this should be so surprising. Have you ever thought, “Wow! This highly targeted ad has just convinced me to buy this product that I did not intend to buy otherwise. ”

Hwang has plenty of other criticisms of digital advertising, pointing out that many ads are loaded out of sight and thus never seen, that ad blockers eliminate billions of dollars of potential revenue, and that the combination of poor placement and systemic click fraud resulted in over 50% of all display ad dollars are lost. The bigger problem for Hwang is what happens when it is discovered that the advertising industry is not wearing clothes, given that Google, Facebook and Amazon play such a large role in the overall value of the US stock market.

Subprime Attention Crisis book cover

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