"The Daily You": How companies use your advertising persona



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Teri Bernstein, MBA, CPA has been teaching full time in the Business Department of Santa Monica College since 1985.  Prior to that, she worked in Internal Audit and Special Financial Projects for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, CBS, Inc., and Coopers & Lybrand (which is now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers).  She attended the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.

Terry Gross interviewed Joseph Turow about his new book, The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth, this week on American Public Radio. [The link has the audio version as well as the transcript.] In the interview and the book, Turow delineated the ways that corporations track your activity on cell phones, Facebook, Google etc. to target advertisements tailored directly to you. My guess is that everyone knows this, but Turow pointed out that the software in all apps automatically picks up all of the personal linked data--not only the shopping data--from Facebook and Chat and information in other communication channels run through your smartphone and computer. Companies have the ability to use any of the data to target market to individuals. To the extent the companies are refraining from using the personal data at this time, users may be lulled into a feeling of relative safety about the data that is being mined about them on a daily basis.

Search engines and social networking sites make their money through advertising.  Turow explains one way this works: 

"Let's say somebody likes Twinkies on Facebook," he says. "Twinkies will then buy an ad from Facebook. And the ad will say, 'Joe Turow likes Twinkies.' And it will be called a sponsored story, and it will go to all of my friends on the side of their Facebook page."

This friend-to-friend marketing can be very powerful--particularly because it is personal, and it meets the need that most people have to feel seen and heard...to feel special. Nevertheless, Turow warns about companies putting individuals into "reputation silos" and that these categorizations might be used by employers to evaluate potential employees during the hiring process. 

Follow up:

  • I have loaned my sign-ins to my daughters and they have loaned the sign-ins to others to access Netflix and other sites. The profile that Netflix has for me, as evidenced by its recommendations, does not match my actual personal preferences.  (No surprise!) Are there ways in which you thwart or alter the amassing of data about your advertising persona? Please share them.
  • Read the interview highlights at the link, or listen to the whole interview (it is about 50 minutes). Make a list of the kinds of information that can be available to the social networking sites and to other companies. Where do you see dangers for individuals?  Where do you see opportunities for individuals? Where do you see opportunities for corporations?
  • Do you have any ideas about how this information highway can be made safer for individuals?


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