In 2013, I exposed a nasty advertising practice I had been following for several years : False advertising. Incredibly, it had become more and more obvious and nobody seemed to mind. Today, however, the advertising industry, including Google, seem to have no remorse using out-and-out lies in their ads to get people to click. This is not just a travesty to the general web population, it is a criminal act.
Then today, I ran across this article in adage.com where Jason Jercinovic, the global head of marketing innovation and global brand director at Havas, addresses the troublesome aspect of AI and the ethics of using AI in advertising. Jercinovic writes :
As an industry, advertising has long been obsessed with understanding human behavior. The ability of artificial intelligence (AI) systems to transform vast amounts of complex, ambiguous information into insight is driving personal analysis into market behavior.
This is truly worrisome because the population is bleeding data at an alarming rate and this onslaught of personal data has spawned a rapidly growing industry of data brokers without scruples. You can buy just about what ever you’d like to know on huge segments of the population — — or just a single person. Jercinovic continues
But AI also introduces troubling ethical considerations. Advertisers may soon know us better than we know ourselves. They’ll understand more than just our demographics. They’ll understand our most personal motivations and vulnerabilities. Worrisomely, they may elevate the art of persuasion to the science of behavior control.
Aside from these fears, there are more practical considerations around the use of AI in advertising: inherently biased data, algorithms that make flawed decisions and violations of personal privacy.
As an experiment, I posted this infographic to the DTG Facebook Group and enough people went and clicked the ad until it disappeared from the page. Many reported back that the ad had THEIR state listed rather than Virginia.
What’s really bad is someone just argued with me the point of how bad NSA is, and how whistle-blower Edward Snowden was a hero for pointing out how evil it is to track phone usage. Under careful scrutiny, NSA is kindergarten compared to this. Then they admitted that Google, Facebook and today’s social media channels are taking ten-times as much data, but it’s okay because people agree to it. To me, that’s the epitome of stupidity.
How many felonies do you want?
We start a congressional inquisition over a tweet, but ignore cyber crime all around us. Are people really that stupid?
How many? Well, we just don’t know how many. At one point Google said they serve 20-million ads a day. One of the ads was seen on a YouTube page that boasted 4-million views? Could that false ad (Felony) have been committed four million times? What would they do with a rapist who raped 4 million women? (Yes, folks, it’s the SAME level Felony!)
What percentage of Google ads are false? We have no idea, and there’s no way to count, and they have become so slick that few people will even recognize they are false. Only Google knows. But hey, they ain’t talking because they’re making hundreds of millions of dollars off these felonies. Here, this Federal Code describes these ads perfectly.
If you or I were caught practicing what the online ‘big guys’ are doing freely, every day, we’d go to jail. Think about it — let that sink in for a moment.
Shame on us for letting this get way beyond honorable decorum. And, when one of the most “trusted” entities on the planet — one we all use every single day — becomes a dishonorable crook, we’re all in trouble.
Then all this talk about mobilegeddon, and how Google has become the internet police and the ministry of information — all about ‘honesty’ on the web. This was before the media familiarized the public to “fake news” . . . but folks, it’s been going on a long time. Way before Trump. Way before Obama. Just ask Google.
Google’s “honesty” took a big hit when I wanted to contact a Tupperware sales representative in my own town. What was it they said? “Do no harm”? But, the search results were the last thing I expected — and certainly the last thing I wanted. Thanks, Google!
The results were clearly false advertising, but before I could write this article, I had to make sure I understood what “false advertising” is . . . so I looked it up in the dictionary . . . and guess what :
I seriously GOT what I asked for: the definition to False Advertising, and a vivid example of false advertising from Google. Yes ladies and gentlemen, there are NO “Tupperware consultants” in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Additionally, there are NO residents in Harrisonburg, Virginia who are “rattled” by that ad or the web site advertised. It’s false advertising. Google cannot fool me, I live here. Hmmmmm.
No honesty among thieves these days . . .
Now you have to ask ‘what makes Fred think this is false advertising?’ . . . well, if you’ll read the rest of the story, including more screen captures, I’ll explain it all to you — then you can recognize false advertising too:
This article was first published in 2012. The ads disappeared for a year or so, but now I see they’re back. That’s why I have rekindled this article. What’s interesting, is with all the focus on “fake news” and internet advertising, nobody has mentioned this insidious form of false advertising. Perhaps people have become numb to it? Do people realize there’s a thin line between false and fake? Fake ads you recognize right away. Like the ones that claim to increase the length of your _____ stamina over night. False advertising is not as blatant, and much more insidious.
Our good friend Chuck Green recently made a post to Facebook about the digital colorization of historical photographs. His complaint was followed by a ponderous tome of learned comments from both sides of the isle. An alarm went off in my head. I’m thinking; hey, everyone already knows about that — but then, do they? So I went digging for all the “Digital Ethics” information that I’ve written about since the late 1980s and discovered — OMG: over a decade has gone by! These “newbies” could very well not be informed about Digital Ethics.
I became aware of and cautious of digital ethics very early in my computing life. In 1987 I was an editor and publisher for the Computer Users for Social Responsibility (CUSR) and a contributing news editor for the Mug News Service (MNS). We were building the first forums for America Online, and were acutely aware of the need and importance of security and ethics in the new online world. (Nobody used the term “digital” in those days!) As part of the MNS we distributed news or articles to user groups around the country. The first digital ethics article we published was in 1990 — an article called “Personal Computer Software and Ethics” by James Redelfs, then director of the Omaha computer group.
With the advent of Photoshop, and the high-end photo retouching softwares, a very lot of serious retouching could be done cleanly and invisible to all but a trained professional. So my 60-Second Window edition #168 ran an article that covered the obligations of digital artists. I have updated that and uploaded it to the site — providing links below.
Fast forward to 2013
So it’s been some years since I authored my article — and now well-known author and designer, Chuck Green posts to his Facebook page:
Now even the prestigious Smithsonian Institute seems to be condoning the digital colorization of historical photographs. As I have said before, I believe a photograph is a creative work that should be protected from this type of defacement — ethically, if not legally. I can’t image anyone having the temerity to colorize Ansel Adams’ The Tetons — Snake River. Or Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. And I doubt most would look favorably on a budding writer who decided to add a chapter or two to Joyce’s Ulysses and republish it.
Is this any different?
The thread addresses a Civil War photograph being colorized for a Smithsonian article
Yes it is. You have to ask yourself if Matthew Brady had been able to take color photographs in the Civil War would he have? Of course he would. Photos like Ansel Adams’ Tetons and Full Moon Overe Half Dome were purposely taken in B&W. They are studies in contrast and part of their allure are the clean, well-defined lines in the photos.He was not trying to bring out colors but shapes As far as Picasso, I’m pretty sure he used every color he wanted to painting Guernica. To that point, art archivists restore old paintings all the time in order to bring them back to their original color pallete.
I’ve seen these colorized civil war era photos referenced in the article. They are a far step ahead of the kind of block color typical of the first 30’s and 40’s film conversions that appeared about 20 years ago. To my eye they get the color and lighting almost perfectly. There is a further benefit to seeing this done in that it helps the viewer to better see these historic figures as people they might recognize today it helps to deromantisize our view of the past. I think they are fantastic and I think Matthew Brady rather than being enraged at the bastardization of his work would be enormously grateful that viewers are able to see more exactly what he saw 150 years ago.
Chuck Green replies:
Martin, unless you talked to Matthew Brady (which would be a whole different conversation), you simply don’t know if he would have used color.
In the “skeptics” section of an article on “color photography,” a Wikipedia author points out that Harold Baquet, a photographer known best for documenting New Orleans civil rights — was not keen on color. He preferred, to take pictures mainly using black-and-white film. When asked about his reasoning for this preference during an interview, he replied ‘The less is more thing. Sometimes the color distracts from the essential subject.
See this page in Wikipedia with huge enlargements of Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother”
Someoneed mentions Dorothea Lange’s iconic “Migrant Mother.” Her photographs, which are typically characterized as documentary in nature, were shot (in large part) for a government agency, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) — yet she used black and white. And, I believe, “Migrant Mother” was photographed in 1936 a year after Eastman Kodak introduced Kodachrome.
Click on the above picture for a more detailed comparison of the retouched photo.
I like the colorizing. I agree with Martin and Silvia and Von. No, this person didn’t do a great job, but hey. This is photojournalism, right? Nothing precious about it. If color were as easy then as it is today, money says these pix would have been shot in color. And NOT POSED, which is merely a necessity of slow shutter speeds. How many black & white portraits were hand-colored BACK THEN? It was a whole profession. People choose color. It’s what life looks like. Virtually all photography today is in color; only “art” is deliberately shot black & white. Ansel Adams is a special case; coloring his pix would remove the drama and make them ordinary. Colorizing Civil War pix makes the past real. As for the migrant woman, early color photography was a pain in the darkroom and on the press; black & white was for decades more convenient for documentary, not to mention cheaper.
And besides all that, the colorized version does not destroy the black & white original, so the purists can stay happy.
A number of others chime in, some agreeing and some not. The discussion expanded to a long, tedious record of various people’s opinions and thoughts on the subject — just as any Facebook discussion goes! Yet, the mood of the discussion seemed to draw a hard line between “news” or actuality photography as opposed to pure artistic photography. I believe colorization is, in fact, justified at times. However the legal rules of intelectual property should alwasy be kept in mind and followed. At any rate, there’s a lot more to this issue than can be discussed in this article — or a Facebook post for that matter.
The moral of this story is to give some thought to the ethics and issues surrounding the modification of any image make by someone else. If it’s your job, and the boss says “… here , colorize this image for the web site by tomorrow…” ask about permissions and consider the reason for colorizing. Do it properly, and do it well.
I wish I could give you a link directly to the actual discussion on Facebook, but Facebook doesn’t want me to do that. So, I can only direct you to the links below.
Chuck Green posted this on October 7. Sorry we cannot link directly to it, so you’ll just have to scroll and scroll until you get down to Oct. 7 … look for the thumbnail
So, you’ve seen those clickbait ads at the end of the articles online — just about every news site online is using them now to raise revenue. Don’t you yearn to click on some of those images? They try their best to make you think they’re news items, but secretly you know it’s all spam? Have you ever clicked? You really want to see those pictures, don’t you? You really yearn to see if they’re real.
Here’s a trick that might let you look all you want without actually clicking the spam link.
Folks, I’m sure you’ve learned that if you click on any of those type come-ons, you’ll be tagged and stalked. Certain subjects get you on lists you really shouldn’t be on. Some will put you in harm’s way. Many of the sites redirect to malware infected sites, or cause loops just to get revenue.
If you just cannot stand to ignore the juicy lead, then here’s the technique that will keep you off the spam and stalker sites, and give you many more images.
This one has been going around, it’s called “Amazing Naughty Sand Art Sculptures” — there are clickbait pages and even a YouTube video. But ignore all those.
Take the premise or title of the subject and paste it into a Google Advanced Image search.
So, paste “Amazing Naughty Sand Art Sculptures” into Google, and here’s what you get. Don’t forget to delete Pinterest by putting minus Pinterest in the search queue, since Pinterest really poisons Google searches. If you’re a Pinterest user, and you want to see the same stuff on Pinterest, then just log in before starting this exercise.
Have fun, and . . . thanks for reading. Good day!
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Fred’s 60-Seconds has been published online since 1988