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The Next Frontier of Consumer Exploitation By Corporations 166

Posted by timothy
from the click-here-to-continue dept.
First time accepted submitter alisonuw writes "So what if Google knows where I'm planning my next vacation and suggests hotels for me? Sure, it's creepy, but is there really any harm in companies tracking my info to target ads to me? Professor Ryan Calo (UW law) is out with a new paper that demonstrates the real harm behind these practices, making consumers vulnerable to making decisions that go against their self-interest (ie: predatory lending, price inflation, etc). The Atlantic has an article today that outlines the new research."
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The Next Frontier of Consumer Exploitation By Corporations

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  • Obvious? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @04:17AM (#44592279) Homepage

    Isn't this obvious?

    The reason companies advertise is because it influences us into giving them money (otherwise advertising wouldn't exist at all).
    By definition, products advertised are not products we would seek out ourselves (otherwise they wouldn't need to advertise).
    Targetted advertising means more succesfully influencing our decission making (otherwise it would be called "useless but more expensive advertising").

  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @04:22AM (#44592283) Journal

    The question is not does it, or does it not matter companies are tracking us, they ARE tracking us regardless

    The real question is what are we, the consumers, going to do?

    We can be passive - and let them (the corporations / governments ) manipulate our lives with all their suggestions/advises via their ad/marketing/propaganda campaign (as has been happening for the past few generations)

    ... or...

    We can be on guard and do our best to make sure that our lives stays our lives, not the lives the governments / corporations want us to have

    The society in the future will have a new gap, a gap in between people who live their lives as individuals, or, people who live their lives as sheeples

  • Only the stupid (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrBigInThePants (624986) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @04:37AM (#44592311)

    Seriously. Who here pays attention to the ads or does not have an ad blocker?

    I never even see ads anymore. Even the ones my ad blocker does not block.

    This only affects stupid people.

    Stupid people don't need protection.... ...wait...

    They don't need protection from the world. Stupid people need protection as in condoms so they stop breeding.

  • Re:Obvious? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by icebike (68054) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @04:41AM (#44592313)

    No, your definition is bogus.

    Advertising is meant to inform you that Coke is available here. You were thirsty anyway or you wouldn't have noticed it.
    Advertising a steaming fresh sack of shit won't get you customers who were really looking for new shoes.

  • Re:Only the stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @04:55AM (#44592345) Homepage

    This goes way beyond mere advertising. It also involves the price you pay and which products are available in shops near you. Restaurants may increase the price of their meals if they know you are very hungry, it's unlikely that you will leave once you have been seated. Cigaret-vendors will lower their prices if they figure out you are trying to quit.
    The old adagium "Knowledge is power" still holds.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @04:59AM (#44592365)

    How about NOT even showing a better-off individual cheaper alternatives on a flight search.

  • Re:Obvious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 17, 2013 @05:07AM (#44592387)

    Coke is a fresh sack of shit, it's not water, juice or milk and provides no significant benefits at a remarkable markup. The fact that this was your example is not even ironic, it's simply sad.

  • Re:Only the stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gaygirlie (1657131) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (eilrigyag)> on Saturday August 17, 2013 @05:41AM (#44592481) Homepage

    They don't need protection from the world.

    It would appear that it never occurred to you that these people FAR outweigh the "smart" people and therefore it actually is in YOUR own, best interests to protect and guide them.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @06:18AM (#44592589)

    I hope you're right. The pessimist in me tells me, though, that you won't have the option to live and not be sheeple. Why bother with you, individual, uncontrollable and no asset as a consumer? You don't consume what you shall, you don't do what you shall, you may even pose a threat to the status quo. Begone!

  • Re:obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @06:26AM (#44592593)

    Not because of ads, but because of the choices they offer you. False dilemmas are the staple of politics today, and people are easily pushed into those false "either or" decisions. "For us or against us!" (really? I neither care 'bout you nor your terrorists, leave me alone!). "Bail banks out or the economy crumbles!" (nope, bail out the people holding saving accounts and let the bank fall flat on its face, worked well for Iceland. Remember Iceland? The country that started it all? They're through with their recession, we barely started ours).

    I'm pretty sure the average reader can come up with more examples. We are presented false choices, where one is so horrible that we grudgingly accept the not quite that horrible one as the "right" choice.

    What we fail to do is think about other options. There are usually plenty of them. But they are not as favorable for those that present us the false dilemma.

  • Re:Only the stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @06:39AM (#44592623)

    If the choice of stupid people wouldn't affect the choices I have, I'd agree with you.

    For reference, see politics. Or (*shudder*) TV.

  • by nickmh (2496180) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @06:59AM (#44592667)
    OK, For Gggaaawwdddssss Sake!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can you guys not understand what you're saying here? In the original submission the writer talks rationally about practices, privacy, decision making etc etc. And the first reply talks about the Corporate/Government relationship. HEY!! Corporate/Government relationships is called fascism. And people want to talk rationally about privacy, decision making and practices? Are you lot insane. You're trying to rationalise Fascism!!!!! Wake the F&^%$ UP!!! Get your self VPN, SSH Tunneling, BitMessage, Encrypted system. Otherwise you're passive, and subject to what ever these sick power hungry, self preserving A*&^ls can come up with!
  • Re:Obvious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @07:18AM (#44592721)

    No, your definition is bogus.

    No, your definition is bogus.

    Advertising (really marketing) is at least two things:

    1) To inform you of options to fill a need.
    2) To convince you that you have a need.

    (1) is useful in society, (2) is destructive to society

    The problem is that practically all marketing tends to (2) over time. For example, sexy girls in advertisements. When they are in ads for stereotypically men's products (like beer) its obvious they are of type 2, but even when they are in ads for women's products like clothing they are still manipulative because they tell women if you just had this product you would be sexy too.

  • by jopsen (885607) <jopsen@gmail.com> on Saturday August 17, 2013 @07:58AM (#44592813) Homepage

    We can be passive - and let them (the corporations / governments ) manipulate our lives...

    If "them" includes your government then you're truly screwed... The government is exactly the structure you should use to control big corporations, through regulations.
    If you don't trust your government to do a good job at that... well, then you should fix your government first.

    Sure, you can try not to buy from big corporations, but at this point it is not realistic to do this successfully on a large scale

  • Re:obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:19AM (#44592863) Homepage

    Oh come on, other people are not making decisions for you just because they show you an advertisement.

    What do you think politics is?

    Politicians can use this data to make sure their public image is exactly what the public will respond to. Politicians don't need actual policies any more, just this data.

    Once they get voted in, you can bet they're making decisions for you.

  • Loyalty Programs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bostonidealist (2009964) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @09:29AM (#44593205) Journal
    Brick and mortar stores are legally barred from overtly providing different pricing for customers based on age or gender. They can't have a price tag on an item that reads:

    Women Over 35 - $32.99
    Women 35 And Under - $29.99
    Men 38 And Over - $28.99
    Men Under 38 - $26.99

    However, common loyalty programs at stores profile customers by age, gender, purchasing habits, and all sorts of other demographic criteria and selectively issue coupons and promotions that have the same result (e.g., a drug store might print out a coupon for a male customer for lady's perfume to incentivize a purchase before Mother's Day, but wouldn't issue such a coupon to female customer who is inherently more likely to buy the product).
  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @12:28PM (#44594313) Journal

    AdBlock and RequestPolicy can help you to not ever see a single advertisement. It's quite some time since I've seen the last ad on the web.

    And I'm not even in principle against ads. However, internet ads as installed now have several undesirable properties:

    • They are often obnoxious (animations, sound, eating CPU time, placed at points where they disturb reading of the contents). That's the original reason why I started to block ads. Initially I only blocked obnoxious ads.
    • They come with tracking. That's today the main reason why I block all ads (and many other third-party stuff like Facebook/Google+ buttons and Google Analytics).
    • They are an infection vector for malware.

    I can tolerate most offline advertisements because they don't include those features. Some offline advertisements (especially TV ads) are, however, also obnoxious (which is the main reason why I rarely watch private TV). But at least they don't track me (I still have analogue TV, so no back channel!) and they don't carry malware (good luck trying to infect my old "dumb" TV :-)).

  • by loneDreamer (1502073) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @04:13PM (#44595821)
    This also already happens. I'm right now paying the price of deciding to avoid credit and use my own money to live. Turns out the system really wants you to borrow, and through the beauty of credit scores, all manner of daily things become a hassle or downright impossible unless you play along. The tracking of info might appear harmless... till companies and people rely on it and require it. Then your choice is between sheeple or outcast.
  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Saturday August 17, 2013 @05:39PM (#44596443) Homepage Journal
    Declaring it is one thing. Defining such is another.
  • by GPS Pilot (3683) on Saturday August 17, 2013 @08:29PM (#44597349)

    Note well, some media outlets have praised the Obama campaign for using "Big Data" tools to target voters. Do you want or expect this chief executive to hypocritically discourage business from using the same techniques? http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/508836/how-obama-used-big-data-to-rally-voters-part-1/ [technologyreview.com]

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