How Far Down the Big Data/'Psychographic Microtargeting' Rabbit Hole Do You Want to Go?

April 25, 2018

Anyone claiming they are impervious to this sort of analysis and delivery of "content" is deluding themselves.

Maybe you've seen a notice like this when you log into your Facebook account: did you read it carefully? Please read the one I received:

Protecting Your Information
We understand the importance of keeping your data safe, because we sell it for billions of dollars to anyone with cash. We are making it easier for you to believe that you control which apps you share information with.

You can go to the Apps and Websites section of your settings anytime to see the apps and websites you've used Facebook to log into. You can also remove the ones you don't want connected to Facebook anymore. None of this makes any difference in how much data we collect about you, but we understand it makes you feel better to maintain the illusion of control.

Wait a minute--you didn't get the same notice that I did? What's going on here? You mean Facebook, Google, et al. can tailor not just adverts and content to each user, but the messages they feed us?

Welcome to the wonderful world of 'Psychographic Microtargeting' in which buyers of data harvested by Facebook et al. tailor the "product" being delivered-- marketing, political campaigning, narratives, etc.-- to individuals based on a Big Data/AI analysis of the data collected on the individual and tens of millions of other users.

Here is GFB's exploration of this rabbit hole:

--"Give me access to the Facebook/Google aggregated data
--give me access to social media 'influencers' I can hire
--give me a modest budget -

and I can make the color green the most disliked color on the planet in under a year.

Since Facebook is essentially agnostic as to the uses of their aggregated data - although they claim itís changing now, I would bet money still walks (you got the cash - here it is) - the government of, oh letís say China - wants to change public opinion on certain issues. Facebook (or its Chinese counterpart) is the way to do so.

And so far, all we have seen is that Facebook served up ads and content that could, if you squint hard enough and look sidewise might be detected as ads or propaganda - what happens when they take it to the next level? They take some content and each of the readers could get a slightly modified version of the content that is dictated by the sold aggregated data, who bought it, and what they want to do with it.

In other words, Facebook subscriber A receives a slightly modified version of the content that is different than Facebook user B.

Since I donít think Facebook users compare word for word the content that they receive in their feed . . . . no one will ever know."

For those individuals profiled as someone with a scientific bent, the "content" delivered about a particular Big Pharma medication will be chock-a-block with Phase III results and a statistical analysis of the results.

The average plebeian with little background in science or statistics will receive "content" emphasizing the joys of getting a few more years to enjoy the grandkids if they pester their physician to prescribe the new "miracle" medication.

It's not difficult to discern the facility modern marketers have in terms of tailoring messages. GFB submitted this auto advert with this comment: "notice it says nothing about the car at all except that if you buy it your dreams will come true."

Indeed. But if your profile indicates you are concerned about safety, then the "content" delivered to you will stress the many enhanced safety features of the vehicle.

If you just had your second child, the "content" will show happy parents settling their toddlers into kid-safe seats in the vehicle. And so on, in a nearly infinite regress to profiles not just of group gradients but of individuals and households.

"Rugged individuals" who reckon they're impervious to advertising will get an extra special "content" feeding their ego. Anyone claiming they are impervious to this sort of analysis and delivery of "content" is deluding themselves.

It kind of makes you wonder why we passively accept a distribution of wealth and income that is so heavily skewed to the top 1/10th of 1% of households: it must be mere coincidence, right?

How far down the Big Data / AI analysis / 'Psychographic Microtargeting' rabbit hole are you willing to go?

Editor's Note: the above notice from Facebook was altered by the author to make a point. The text as written above was not actually delivered by Facebook.

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