The Algorithm of Ads
I watched Zeynep Tufekci’s TED Talk, “We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads” and I enjoyed it immensely. I’ve always known that companies capture and use our data for one purpose: money. I know that everything you do online is saved and traceable, but I’ve always just accepted it and moved on. Who has time to read the terms and conditions every time you want to use an app or go on a website, right?
What Tufekci said about looking something up and it following you resonated with me. I remember looking up stickers on a website but deciding not to buy them. For the next week, I saw an ad for those stickers (and similar ones on the same website) in so many places. The ad was on almost every Buzzfeed quiz I took one day. Even after I finally bought the stickers, I still got an ad for them, and I decided to click “not interested” in hopes that I would be left alone.
I thought it was interesting that she focused on Facebook and didn’t mention other social media sites like Instagram, where I get multiple ads (that I do click a lot of times) every time I swipe down my feed. The way Facebook uses its user's data and advertises to them became more and more concerning as the TED Talk went on. Just another reason to dislike Mark Zuckerberg. The fact that tickets to Vegas could be shown to bipolar people about to enter mania was very concerning to me. Social media in general can mess with mental health and ads on social media should not have this much power to potentially harm people. I believe that someone should be monitoring these algorithms more closely in an attempt to stop the Vegas ticket scenario from becoming a reality. Yes, it will cost these big companies money and will take effort, but it should be necessary nonetheless.
I laughed when she asked if the audience has ever ended up watching 27 videos in a row on Youtube. I have found myself on a What Would You Do? Or a conspiracy theory marathon too many times. But the Youtube algorithm works and is one of the most effective of all the social media sites I use. I also thought it was interesting when she talked about Google ads and Youtube. I know there have been multiple times when Youtubers who maybe have published a cute family-friendly video and gotten ads that their audience, liberal teens and young adults, won’t even relate to. For example, a few weeks ago there was a conservative woman who talked about topics like dressing modestly all over Youtube, and people were confused about why she was recommended to them. I think in some cases websites won’t even use their algorithm to show you the best-tailored ads and will show an ad simply because they were paid a lot of money to do so.
As technology and algorithms become more and more complex and advanced, concern for the future is called for. The fact that face detection technology can be used to arrest people who are simply fighting for what’s right, like what happened with Black Lives Matter protesters, is despicable. Technology and social media have done a lot of good, like allowing people to keep in touch with their friends and family. But the way companies use data and target individuals is very concerning. If only everyone had good ethics and approached using algorithms and technology in the right way, the world would be a better place.