With the rise of online streaming services and subscription based profit models, the way large firms advertise to their audiences is drastically changing. While in many ways, the advertisements remain similar, the research behind the ads themselves has become more informed and more involved with their audience. In fact, marketing as an industry has become more technology focused than ever before. Controversy has arisen due to the intensive nature of data mining to support marketing firms and the lines of personal privacy have been questioned.
Most notably in the public eye was Facebook, with Mark Zuckerberg facing down congress. In reality, many websites track every bit of information they can about their user base to sell to advertising firms. The obvious question that seemingly has not been asked is ‘why are people okay with this?’ The normal person would likely consider advertisements an annoyance, and having one’s personal information sold is definitely a concern for many. The real truth is that the average internet user is not aware of how many advertisements they are forced to consume, nor the extent to which their information is being harvested. Regulations for these practices are practically non existent, and the internet’s lack of any regulatory norms create a strange space for advertisers where rules practically don’t exist. Large scale data harvesting and advertising to children run rampant.
In the age of information, advertising firms are using information to ‘tailor advertisements to better suit any user’, defending this practice as ‘helpful’. The argument typically used is that helpful is an accurate descriptor, as it helps people get advertisements of things they would be more likely to buy. In practice, this is hardly realistic, as the advertisements tend to be predatory on age groups like young children, who have a difficult time grasping the idea of money and advertisements. With this in mind, it seems that we should hold these advertising formulas and the ones using them more accountable.
It is certainly difficult to push any sort of restriction on corporate interests through congress right now. Perhaps a better starting point would be on state government levels. Typically, blue senators are less driven by corporate backing, and state governments are often less partisan on these sorts of issues. This could well prove a turning point in the battle for internet usage. Along with net neutrality, these are issues the general populace in the United States does not seem to care enough about.
Michael O’Malley is a Business Administration/Theatre Double major sophomore at USC. He enjoys long walks on the beach, screaming into the abyss, and dancing with friends. He grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and does know how to read.