60 Seconds Exploring Design & Technology since 1988

False Advertising and the ethics of using AI in advertising


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.

I built this infographic in 2014, to expose the false advertising practices of “The Register” … Long before Trump!

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.

This is the actual reference from the Federal Code. Below are links to more references!

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.

Thanks for reading.

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60 Seconds Exploring Design & Technology since 1988
Fred Showker explores design, graphics, computing, social media, marketing, and the online world with an eye to entertaining, amazing information that will possibly make you think!

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