When you allow yourself to be a “product,” expect to be used

Comment from Peter Saxon
My old mate, Mark Collier, a newsreader then GM of 2UE and 2GB in the halcyon days, who also did a stint as Head of the Radio School at AFTRS, knows a rort when he sees one.
The other day, an ad for the new model Skoda came up on his Facebook page. Like me, Mark has a passing interest in the latest trends in the automotive sector, so he clicked on the ad to kick a virtual tyre or two, with no intention of buying. After all, he’d only recently taken possession of a sparkling blue Merc, albeit with a tiny blemish on the front bumper.
Next day, when he answered his mobile, to Mark’s surprise it was a sales rep from a Skoda dealership, trying to sell him a new car based on his click-thru to the ad the day before.
When Mark asked the sales guy how he got hold of his mobile number, the guy said that Mark had provided it. 

Technically, of course, this is our own stupid faults. How many of us read the fine print in the agreement? In fact, we’re the ones telling lies when we click the box that says, “Yes, I have read and understood user agreement and the privacy terms.” when we’ve done no such thing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the agreement itself is fair and reasonable. Or that FB has exercised an acceptable duty of care in selling your private details to a third party.

A few months ago, I purchased an Apple watch, primarily to keep an eye on my exersise and to pay with apple pay without having to pull out my phone and some other nifty things that it does. It also tells the time. But it has an unwanted feature.

Pauline and I are having dinner and chatting between us about where we were taking our granddaughter for her birthday, when out of nowhere Siri pipes up and says, something like, “Tickets for Frozen, the musical are availble through ticketek.” Who asked you!? This kind of thing, where Siri interupts a provate conversation, happens every couple of days. And somtimes its almost impossible to shut her up. It is proof-positive that Siri doesn’t just respond to a wake-up command, it is listening all the time.

There’s plenty of evidence of people talking about, say, taking a holiday somewhere and then getting ads for that destination all over their browser.

When individually targetted online advertising first came about, purely based on your past search patterns, it seemed reasonable to at least get ads that you were interested in, like wine rather than pimple cream. But do we, as consumers, really want a third party in our home listening to our private conversations? Or sales people calling our private number every time we click on an ad out of curiousity?

I’ll have more to say about Facebook and the tech giants over the next few days.

Peter Saxon



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