Facebook advertising and your digital doppleganger

As we are today all so accustomed to seeing high definition hyper-realistic moving images on a panoply of screens and devices it is hard to even realise that this is in fact reliant on an optical deception first documented by British physician Peter Mark Roget in 1824, who by the way also created the Roget’s Thesaurus.

Filming acts in motion using actors and fictional scenarios has been a compelling way to help sell products and services since television was introduced. The first US TV advert was for Bulova watches in 1941 when television first launched there, and in the UK for toothpaste in 1955, nineteen years after the broadcast service first started.

Without advertising commercial TV stations cannot operate. While the famous Welsh poet R.S. Thomas railed against the evils of modern technology and gadgets because it detracted from focussing on the refinement of our eternal soul, it is probably unusual for households in many societies to not possess a television, with an estimated 1.6 billion televisions and an estimated audience greater than 4.2 billion receiving broadcasts from approximately 22,000 stations worldwide. In comparison the “one station” Facebook has 2.41 billion active monthly users in 2019.

Television is a push model. The viewers are traditionally anonymous and the signal is broadcast far and wide, whether the television is on or not, however the Internet is a traditionally a pull model.

In a search mode I “pull” content to me. However the profitability of the global Internet infrastructure provided by the likes Facebook is reliant on advertising to an audience that is both identified and pushed to.

The Internet is a quantitative realm and an immersive realm, again, fundamentally because of the optical deception of moving images. So, due to identification, tracking and digital profiling, advertising on the internet is more effective at targeting an audience than broadcast television advertising.

Considering the enormous advertising budgets that are expended globally, 563 Billion USD in 2019 , and with Facebook taking a whopping 10% of that at 55 billion USD, this is a high stakes game with GDP sized budgets. By comparison, Google made more than twice that at 116 billion USD.

That’s a staggering 30% of all global advertising is pumped through Google and Facebook.

Facebook remotely analyses consumer journeys, uses machine learning to prepare pattern analysis of consumer responses to advertising campaign permutations and deploy trackers and other techniques that surreptitiously gather the response data. All this analytics to target micro-segments of individuals, not cohorts.

Facebooks tracking technology is called pixel. Pixel tracks conversions for seventeen events, like a purchase or a subscription. The idea is that once you have committed to a product or service the campaign will be able to retarget you with offers. Combined with Facebook Audience Network, which expands advertising across non-Facebook websites and apps, this essentially means you can be digitally ‘stalked’ by advertising across multiple contexts, not just inside Facebook.

The way commercial TV makes money is not the same way Google and Facebook make money. That’s why they provide these free services with mandatory identification and profiling happening alongside the free user experience.

A digital twin is currently a term used for building a digital model of infrastructure that can be experimented on without making a change to the physical infrastructure. LIDAR enabled UAV’s (drones) capture millions of points using lasers which are uploaded to build this model.

Facebook have taken the idea of a digital twin to build your digital doppleganger.

The digital doppleganger is all about you and your preferences, and pattern recognition of key events . A taxonomy of interests is built up into a profile that is mapped to ad preferences. With no effort on your part, this data-driven taxonomy of your interests is then used to track and retarget you with ‘aligned’ ad campaigns.

Apart from the Cambridge Analytica privacy breach, many researchers have been given access to your Facebook data to build up psychographic and personality profiles. With advances in elastic compute and ML, the 2.41 billion active users undoubtedly all have these profiles. Based on these profiles, they hope advertising effectiveness and influence can be increased.

Much of this effort seems to be predicated on the absence of critical thinking and a certainty that the general person doesn’t have free will. Freedom to choose a product or service to meet your needs in a rational economic model flies in the face of the advertising theory.

It’s an option to turn the television off, which stops the broadcast. Is it also an option to turn the internet off? The information density, immersive and interactive nature of the digital web complimented with ease of access and utility available from smartphones, tablets and internet enabled televisions all make a case for continued use.

As the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Facebook provides a superficially free service which is fantastic at connecting humans across the globe as a deceptive lure for advertising revenue on staggering scale. It’s also fantastic and predicting whether an ad campaign will be attractive to you, whether you need the product or service or not.

And that’s the key point with advertising. It’s a vacuous experience which is all for nothing if you don’t need the product or service in the first place and exercise free will each time you feel you want to click.

It is not the best of humanity that we are seeing here as 2019 rolls to a close.

Originally published at https://curiousnews.tech.

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Debate and analysis on the ethics of advanced digital technologies such as AI and robotics.

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Dr. Adam Hart

Dr. Adam Hart

phd epistemology | 30 years corptech

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