Monday 5 December 2011

Targeted adverts

I am struck by the acuity of the software that selects the adverts on Facebook. I am regularly offered jobs for philosophers (although when one clicks the link, one finds that no job is available today). I am also offered courses in the English language, and hope this is because I use the German interface, rather than because of the way I write in English. Today, I was offered a villa in Portugal, presumably because I mentioned the country in a comment on a post yesterday.

Should we be scared? One might feel that the software was watching one's every move, amassing data and using it in a plot to increase sales. I am more relaxed than that, precisely because it is a mass-production software system, doing the same thing to millions of people. I do not attribute agency to the software, let alone a propensity to fiendish plotting.

I attribute agency to the people who devised the Facebook business plan, and who specified the functions they wanted the software to perform. But they were only out to make money, not to kidnap my soul. The making of money is one of the most harmless of motives a collector of data on people may have. When adverts for groups of political dissidents start to appear on the page, I shall really worry that I am being watched.


  1. If the offers are made by a machine then one does not suffer when one declines them. Otherwise it might be tiring for the soul to disappoint the offerer by declining the offers coming in huge numbers.

    The offers can increase one´s self-knowledge and emotional intelligence.
    They can be met with a roaring laughter ...

  2. Eine Flut von Angeboten macht uns zu missmutigen Verbrauchern, wir wollen aber lieber J├Ąger und Sammler sein.