Someone who knows things about us has some measure of control over us, and someone who knows everything about us has a lot of control over us. Surveillance facilitates control.
Manipulation doesn’t have to involve overt advertising. It can be product placement that makes sure you see pictures that have a certain brand of car in the background. Or just increasing how often you see those cars. This is, essentially, the business model of search engines. In their early days, there was talk about how an advertiser could pay for better placement in search results. After public outcry and subsequent guidance from the FTC, search engines visually differentiated between “natural” results by algorithm, and paid results. So now you get paid search results in Google framed in yellow, and paid search results in Bing framed in pale blue. This worked for a while, but recently the trend has shifted back. Google is now accepting money to insert particular URLs into search results, and not just in the separate advertising areas. We don’t know how extensive this is, but the FTC is again taking an interest.
When you’re scrolling through your Facebook feed, you don’t see every post by every friend; what you see has been selected by an automatic algorithm that’s not made public. But someone can pay to increase the likelihood that their friends or fans will see their posts. Corporations paying for placement is a big part of how Facebook makes its money. Similarly, a lot of those links to additional articles at the bottom of news pages are paid placements.
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