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Link: Surveillance advertising is[n’t] a myth

The notion of surveillance advertising being perpetrated by ad platforms via social interactions is a myth: there is no omniscient social media entity spying on its users and hoarding their interaction data to power ads targeting.

This piece argues that surveillance advertising is a myth because:

  1. Social media’s engagement algorithms (i.e. user likes a video) don’t interact with advertiser’s info (user buys product and that’s fed back to the social media platform)
  2. It’s advertisers that do the surveilling, not social media platforms

But sending data about a user’s interactions on third-party sites back to social media platforms for ads targeting is precisely the ‘surveillance’ part of ‘surveillance advertising’. Especially when you consider how that data is used for other advertisers – that a user hasn’t interacted with – through lookalike audiences etc.

The piece mention’s the W3C definition of tracking:

Tracking is the collection of data regarding a particular user’s activity across multiple distinct contexts and the retention, use, or sharing of data derived from that activity outside the context in which it occurred.

That definition of tracking sounds awfully like the data being sent to social media companies from third-parties. Tracking is another word for surveillance.

Surveillance. Advertising.

The piece also argues that the spheres of misinformation and on-platform engagement are unrelated to data fed back to social media platforms. But, as anyone who’s read Christopher Wylie’s Mindf*ck – a detailed account of Cambridge Analytica’s activities – this data has literally been used to anticipate behaviour at a population level and use that to manipulate elections and referendums.