“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads”
Brick and mortar retailers like Target have been tracking you for years, rapidly improving their statistical methods to make educated guesses about how to advertise at you more effectively, but as the internet becomes more and more ubiquitous the practice is moving online and getting bigger than ever.
Almost all of your favourite companies are gathering data on your surfing habits in a massive interconnected web of ad trackers. The primary goal is to serve more effective advertising, but these companies now hold enough data on you to bring privacy concerns to the fore. A Wall Street Journal investigation a year and a half ago found a burgeoning industry with millions of dollars flowing through it holding detailed records on you, making increasingly precise predictions about your behaviour, and a recent investigation by Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic takes a philosophical look at your anonymity among the machines.
The New York Times’ reporting on how companies like Target track your shopping habits and try to capitalise on periods in people’s lives where their routines are in flux and their brand priorities are up for grabs.
The Wall Street Journal’s 2010 investigation into online advertising companies. They don’t have your name, but they can make educated guesses about almost every other aspect of your personality.
Alexis Madrigal’s voyage into the business of ad trackers. Millions of dollars flow through these companies, and though their methods raise new questions about privacy, he argues that the health of the internet relies on them.
Rob Horning disagrees with Madrigal’s argument. “One might argue that the fact that it seems as though we can’t have an internet not fueled by advertising is a sign that the internet is already unhealthy, sick unto death.”
Veronique Greenwood spent a day online with Collusion, a tool that records who’s tracking you online. By the end of the day, almost every website she visited was connected by a vast web of ad trackers.
(Image via The Atlantic)