Emotional Engineering: Has Facebook been messing with my mind?

Yes, I admit, I am a fan of conspiracy theories. In a nutshell, I prefer to watch over Big Brother, than letting Big Brother watch over me. Recently I viewed a Vice episode about Brazil’s Retaliation of FIFA, World Cup 2014, and the upcoming Olympics. A very surprising example of Digital Eyes of Mordor is the multitude cameras installed by the government in a few of most notoriously troublesome slums surrounding the World Cup stadium. The show argues that the cameras have been installed to spy on the population, as opposed to using these constantly live streams to respond quickly to gang activities and other extremely dangerous situations occurring in the slums daily.

But do we really need to go as far as Brazil to find some concrete reasons for concern relating to our freedom of opportunity? Not really! Although in its core, the Internet is supposed to allow us all to connect freely. Certainly, the “freely” aspect has been rapidly challenged in recent years. Concerns relating to Net Neutrality, for example, are on the forefront of many social media scholars.

There’s really no need going that far, though. Even if you are not a conspiracy theorist, I am sure you have also noticed how your personal information, Google searches, and location coordinates are being constantly pinging away all manners of personal data from your digital devices. Where does it all go? Some black cloud or the Death Star? I sure don’t know.

One of the creepiest things I have been noticing in the past year or so, is how Facebook “nonchalantly” reorganizes my feed, grouping certain updates together. Most of the time they are harmless, border-lining ridiculous. Nonetheless, the scrutiny over MY private info is disturbing. And I have often wondered about who makes the decisions regarding what I see on my wall, and what is it that I don’t get on my feed?

But it gets even worst! Apparently, in January 2012 “Facebook identified 689,003 English speaking users to run a psychological experiment on, for the duration of a week. They began to manipulate the newsfeed of a group of these users to remove posts with a negative emotion attached to them, and removed all posts with a positive emotion for the other group. The objective of the study – can we be emotionally influenced by what we see in our Facebook newsfeed? And if so, how much?” (Singh, 2014)

This tale gets even creepier. What Facebook has done is performing A/B testing-type experiment. Even though the ethics of such approach are certainly questionable, all the legal concerns are ironed perfectly in the company’s Terms of Service document all Facebook users must sign prior to starting socializing.

Sadly, Facebook isn’t the only social networking platform to use us as guenea pigs. On the Contrary!

“In fact – this is true for most (if not all) social networks. LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest – all of these websites are designed and engineered to influence us to click more, engage more and interact more with them. The nature of their algorithms is never revealed, but one thing is always made clear – they’re doing all they can to give us as much relevant content as possible.” (Singh, 2014)

 Emotional Engineering

Photo courtesy Social Media Today website

   Yet the most disturbing aspect of such hidden, but ongoing experiments are focused on emotional engineering — which has been Facebook’s business model from the very start. (Singh, 20134)

In a way, Facebook proved that “by taking a group of close to 700,000 – proved that if push comes to shove, sway the opinion of the 1.3+ billion people that use the service.” So what happens if a “political candidate that’s backed by a network like Facebook essentially be able to get more votes?” (Singh, 2014)

Scary, isn’t it?

But are you really surprised?

 

 

References

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now. (n.d.). Free Press. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from http://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-what-you-need-know-now

Singh, A. R. (2014, July 1). Facebook’s Been Running Psychological Experiments On You. RSS. Retrieved July 1, 2014, from http://socialmediatoday.com/avtar-ram-singh/2564701/facebooks-been-running-psychological-experiments-you

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Pros and Cons of Big Data

As big data becomes a bigger and bigger part of the internet, we cannot help but wonder the impact that it will have on advertising, from both a consumer and agency standpoint. The issue of privacy and net neutrality also have become a heated topic that even has Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg talking. Today he released a statement expressing his frustration with the government’s lack of urgency when it comes to surveillance reform. He stated that he and his colleagues at Facebook work hard to keep their users’ information private and believes that the government should be just as concerned with protecting its citizens against the dangers of the open web. I found it to be interesting that Zuckerberg is so against big data when Facebook is filled with targeted ads that can only be made possible by big data. Another interesting article that I read explored the other side of big data and spoke about the advertising industry’s feelings towards it. Most of these agencies are for the use of big data because they all them to target ads to the right people, at the right time and to the right devices. In this article by Katy Bachman, it is explained that big data is being collected in a non-obtrusive way. Yes, the data is being collected but it is nothing that you couldn’t learn about a person yourself if you looked through their browser history. People are afraid that big data will “spy” on them and find out extremely personal information, which will then be used to hurt them. Obviously, no one wants to be taken advantage of, and that is not the advertisers’ intentions. The article explains that big data and surveillance does not seek out individuals, but demographics. It wants to know search patterns and what kind of audiences are responding to and purchasing goods and services. A clip with Jeff Kelly, Principle Research Contributor at Wikibon, explains the pros and cons of big data and its role in the advertising world very well in his interview for SiliconANGLE. He starts by talking about the Publicis/ Omnicom merger and why it happened. Advertising companies have to grow in size and power to compete with digital based advertising, such as  Google and Facebook. They need to deliver advertising with new methods because the traditional form of advertising is changing rapidly with the increased use of digital media. Big data allows advertising groups to figure out the best way, place, time and demographic to place ads and helps them to understand their consumers.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThH2dkoXM1U

 

References

 

Bachman, K. (2014, March 13). Advertising community head to the white house to talk big data and    privacy. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/advertising-community-heads-white-house-talk-big-data-and-privacy-156273

Bachman, K. (2014, March 13). Zuckerberg says u.s. government is a threat to the internet. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/news/technology/zuckerberg-says-us-government-threat-internet-156288

How big datas will ad us the future of targeted advertising. (2013, july 30). SiliconABGLE. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThH2dkoXM1U

 

Netflix “casts” themselves into larger waters

 

(Image courtesy of http://www.digitallanding.com)

Being a college student these days, we’re all connected all the time. Many of us in class take notes on our laptops instead of pen and paper. We’re always on our phones getting texts, checking Twitter, and replying to various other social media platforms. As a college student, our connection also leads to entertainment. After a hard day of classes, before we hit the books or even after, many of us will queue up streaming video via Hulu or Netflix.

Netflix has recently announced a deal with Comcast which will provide a high quality Netflix experience for years to come (Macke, 2014). Wait a second though! We are already paying Internet Service Providers (ISPs) mega bucks for our internet, so why is Netflix entering this agreement with them when we already pay for these services? Well, that’s part of the outcry! Many have fears over the whole net neutrality argument that has been going on for about a year or so now and whether this is violating it. For those that have no idea what net neutrality is, in short all ISPs and governments should treat the internet equally and not discriminating by charging differently for other services.

The reason this agreement may violate the net neutrality is that Comcast is charging Netflix to guarantee that their services stream high quality. According to Macke of Yahoo, Netflix “opted to release the entire second season of the program at once, causing download delays and triggering widespread accusations of so-called “throttling,” or slowing of data feeds, by ISPs” (Macke, 2014). The fact that Comcast was already throttling meant that they most likely forced Netflix’s hand to have to pay a “fee” in order to make sure their service works the way it should for Comcast’s subscribers.

Based on this information, many subscribes are wondering if Netflix may change their rates. Macke says that Netflix is already paying third parties and intermediaries for much of their throughput from their source to your house and that the Comcast deal supposedly gets rid of the intermediaries (Macke, 2014).

What does this mean in the long run though and why should we all care? One of the arguments for net neutrality is that it keeps the internet open and accessible for all people. The worry now is that Comcast will have better streaming for Netflix which will drive customers to abandon their current ISPs in favor of Comcast. In addition to Comcast’s recent acquisition of Time Warner, this accounts for 1/3 of the US internet usage coming out of a single company. All of this together is worrisome because it could lead to a monopoly.

As a user of Netflix and a proponent of net neutrality, I am worried where this will lead us. What does everyone else think?

References:

Macke, J. (2014, February 24). Chill-out: Netflix paying comcast for streaming is a win for consumers. Retrieved from http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/breakout/chill-out–netflix-paying-comcast-for-streaming-is-a-win-for-consumers-145347877.html