It discusses some of the moral and ethical qualms I have when working on personalized advertising. It attempts to start a discussion around the question of whether personalized advertising will be used for good.
Let's say we build more personalization techniques and tools that allow advertisers and publishers to understand people's interests and individually target ads. How will our tools be used? Will they be used to provide better information to people about useful products and services? Or will they be used for deeper and trickier forms of deception?If you have thoughts on this topic, please contribute to the discussion, either here or over on the full post at blog@CACM.
Is advertising an industry fundamentally fueled by deception? Or is advertising better understood as a stream of information that, if well directed, can help people?
Update: About one month later, in the October 12 issue of the New Yorker, Ken Auletta has an article, "Searching for Trouble", that describes a 2003 conflict between the COO of Viacom and the founders of Google on exactly this issue, deception in advertising. An excerpt:
[You want] salesmanship, emotion, and mystery. [Viacom COO Karmazin said], "You don't want to have people know what works. When you know what works or not, you tend to charge less money than when you have this aura and you're selling this mystique."
The Google executives thought Karmazin's method manipulated emotions and cheated advertisers.