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The Expo­sure Era of Big Tech — Sur­veil­lance, Com­plex­ity, Fraud, and Dis­as­trous Unin­tended Consequences
You could call it the “Expo­sure Era of the Big Tech mega-monop­o­lies” that siphoned off the power and influ­ence of mar­keters and con­sumers world­wide by rent­ing mar­keters “access” to their cus­tomers — and vir­tu­ally every mar­keter jumped on the “big data, big track­ing cook­ies, inter­rup­tion-based expo­sures” band­wagon. The thou­sands of mid­dle­men (graphic above) in the dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing food chain that all fed into the Big Tech mega-monop­o­lies, shows how mar­keters put their money in one end and what­ever results came out the other — after every­one got their “cut.” And the bal­ance of power in mar­ket­ing shifted…(AI answers & com­ments)

Sur­veil­lance-based Track­ing (SBT) — after 20+ years, online mar­ket­ing became a $500+ bil­lion indus­try of “sur­veil­lance cap­i­tal­ism,” — accused of mon­e­tiz­ing lying, cheat­ing, steal­ing, manip­u­la­tion, and fraud on a global scale. SBT is sur­veil­lance-based ad tech, behav­ioral manip­u­la­tion, and fil­ter bub­bles that were intended to improve online adver­tis­ing — not gen­er­ate bil­lions for orga­nized crime.

While pro­vid­ing the ben­e­fits of con­ve­nient (sup­pos­edly) “free” ser­vices (search, social, and sell­ing) SBT extracted sig­nif­i­cant indi­rect “costs” from con­sumers, mar­keters, and soci­ety at large in the form of:

Inva­sive Surveillance
Reduced Per­sonal Privacy
Exploita­tion w/o Permission
Destructive/Extractive/Fraudulent Ad Tech Sup­ply Chains
Exploitive Opaque Mega-Monopolies
Value of Per­sonal Data Goes to Third Parties
Increased Sup­ply-Side Manipulation
Increased Infor­ma­tion Asymmetry
Nar­row­ing Choices w/Algo­rith­mic “Echo Chambers”
Increased Cyber Inse­cu­rity (data breaches, hack­ing, ID theft, etc.)
Dis­as­trous Unin­tended Consequences
Pending/Increasing World­wide Regulation

All the com­pa­nies in the top image are mid­dle­men mem­bers of sup­ply chains that feed mainly into sev­eral mega-monop­o­lies that take the lion’s share of all global online ad rev­enues. And despite know­ing exactly how would be on con­sumers and soci­ety — noth­ing stood in the way of rev­enue or growth.

SBT is exactly what it says — “sur­veil­lance-based track­ing” where com­pa­nies spy on every­one, every­where, and every­thing, all the time — with­out per­mis­sion, dis­clo­sure, or recourse. Every­thing you do online, every­thing you buy, every­where you go, every­one you talk to or about, is col­lected with the goal of tar­get­ing mil­lions of mov­ing tar­gets and manip­u­lat­ing them into doing some­thing they oth­er­wise would not do. SBT’s stated goal is to elim­i­nate “uncer­tainty” (another word for “choice”).

It sounded log­i­cal enough, and mar­keters bought into the Big Tech mega-monop­o­lies that unleashed SBT on the world. 21st-cen­tury big tech + 21st-cen­tury big data = more “right per­son, right mes­sage, right time — at the cheap­est cost” — and every­one in the chart was get­ting their “cut” of the new “shiny objects.” (Prin­ci­ple-agent prob­lem.) How­ever, the process always remained opaque, its claimed effi­cacy in ques­tion, and it pro­duced some truly . Some believed SBT could cause the destruc­tion of con­sumer choice, pri­vacy, democ­racy, and free mar­kets.We’re build­ing a dystopia just to make peo­ple click on ads,with lev­els of com­plex­ity and fraud that mir­rored the 2008 sub­prime mort­gage bubble.

Mar­keters and con­sumers were never told specif­i­cally how the “big data algo­rithms” would be designed or used, nor could any­one have fore­seen the mag­ni­tude of the unin­tended con­se­quences of so much data in so few unac­count­able hands.Sur­veil­lance Cap­i­tal­ism” had become the default, alarm, the mar­keters (the old “Kings”), sur­ren­dered ever more con­sumer influ­ence to the mega-monop­o­lies (the new “Kings”) they funded.

These Big Tech mega-monop­o­lies are now pro­duc­ing “smart con­nected devices” (that can­not be blocked) that observe and report on con­sumers 24/7/365. Con­sumers will be sur­rounded by these “smart-every­thing devices” (includ­ing VAPAsvoice-acti­vated per­sonal assis­tantsAlexa, Siri, Cor­tana, Google, etc.), home secu­rity sys­tems, chil­dren’s toys, smart watches, cell phones, and many more all designed to col­lect per­sonal infor­ma­tion, pack­age that per­sonal infor­ma­tion and rent it to any­one who wants it. All with­out con­sumer knowl­edge, per­mis­sion, con­trol, or recourse. For mar­keters, VAPAs are par­tic­u­larly wor­ri­some, poten­tially cut­ting brands out of the loop as the VAPAs select what to buy.

SBT is unsta­ble because it’s an inef­fi­cient extrac­tive model mon­e­tiz­ing lying, cheat­ing, steal­ing, and manip­u­la­tion of con­sumers — at the “point-of-inter­rup­tion” (POI). The suc­cess of this model depends on no one find­ing out the real costs, and there is mount­ing evi­dence that SBT never worked nearly as well as claimed.

SBT mar­ket­ing is not con­sumer, mar­keter, or free-mar­ket aligned. By design SBT is extrac­tive, manip­u­la­tive, and depen­dent upon con­sumers being unaware. Include the unin­tended con­se­quences and there is lit­tle upside. Many tech experts, schol­ars, con­sumers, gov­ern­ments, and econ­o­mists believe (The Social Dilemma) that SBT presents an exis­ten­tial threat to democ­racy, free mar­kets, and human rights. And gov­ern­ments are begin­ning to agree by seek­ing to reg­u­late SBT and the asso­ci­ated prac­tices. An arti­cle in the Wall Street Jour­nal about the state of online mar­ket­ing in the 21st cen­tury and one expert’s view of online mar­ket­ing.

As ever more gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion and actions against the “Big Tech mega-monop­o­lies” increase, mar­keters and con­sumers need some­thing bet­ter — before it’s too late. (So once again we see a his­toric oppor­tu­nity for an alliance of com­pa­nies to found an alter­na­tive ecosys­tem — one that returns us to the ear­lier promise of the dig­i­tal age as an era of empow­er­ment and the democ­ra­ti­za­tion of knowl­edge.”)

What’s About to Hap­pen — The “Per­fect Storm”
A “Per­fect Storm” is brew­ing of AI, the demise of third-party track­ing cook­ies, and increas­ing gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion of Big Tech world­wide — none of which is good for mar­keters. Tak­ing each point in order — mar­keters can­not afford a “seat at the AI table” — which will be occu­pied by many of the same Big Tech mega-monop­o­lies that mar­keters financed in the last go-round, the true impact of the “crum­bling” of third-party track­ing cook­ies is unknown at this time, but it cer­tainly won’t ben­e­fit mar­keters, and the increas­ing anti-trust and pri­vacy actions against Big Tech by gov­ern­ments world­wide will only add to the uncer­tainty. The Big Tech mega-monop­o­lies will always do what is in their best inter­est — because that’s what monop­o­lies do — but this time, with AI, mar­keters and con­sumers could both end up being elim­i­nated from the choos­ing and buy­ing process alto­gether because the Big Tech mega-monop­o­lies w/AI pow­ered-PAs (per­sonal assis­tants) could do all the choosing.

The Only Solu­tion — The Orig­i­nal Stake­hold­ers (Mar­keters and Con­sumers) Must Take Back Their Power
After all the years of “sur­veil­lance-based track­ing expo­sures by the ton” from the Big Tech mega-monop­o­lies, mar­keters and con­sumers can take back their power with the most pow­er­ful mar­ket­ing net­work plat­form in his­tory based on “credibility” instead of “expo­sures” and con­trolled by mar­keters and con­sumers together, for their mutual ben­e­fit instead of a Big Tech mega-monop­oly. A sim­ple “credibility algo­rithm” gives con­sumers and mar­keters what they both want. Con­sumers get the truth­ful mar­ket­ing infor­ma­tion they want, and mar­keters receive the direct, inten­tional con­sumer con­nec­tion with that truth­ful infor­ma­tion that mar­keters want. A “credibility algo­rithm” auto­mat­i­cally max­i­mizes mar­keters’ credibility and mul­ti­plies mar­ket­ing “voice and tone” to amplify all (past, present, and future) mar­ket­ing expo­sures, unlock­ing increased returns from all pre­vi­ous expo­sures and cre­at­ing a con­sumer “point-of-need” (PON) mar­ket­ing plat­form
— where mar­ket­ing is the mes­sage and the media, not the inter­rup­tion. A “mar­ket­ing Wikipedia.”

A sim­ple “credibility algo­rithm” that auto­mat­i­cally and con­tin­u­ously max­i­mizes a mar­keter’s credibility and cre­ates a “mar­ket­ing Wikipedia,” is the only thing that makes every­thing a mar­keters has done or will do — work bet­ter. Mar­keters gain back the power and con­trol that they have sur­ren­dered to the mega-monop­o­lies over the past two decades and estab­lish a pow­er­ful and per­ma­nent defense against all future “net­work effects” and any AI-dri­ven processes that attempt to reduce mar­keter power and influ­ence. And the only risk is doing nothing.

It’s time for com­pa­nies to accept that con­sumers have become very savvy and very demanding.
Today’s con­sumer (B2B or B2C) does their home­work, is well informed, and buys…they are not sold
,”

Mike Myatt, Forbes Mag­a­zine, May 1, 2012.

  • Online mar­ket­ing today bears a strik­ing resem­blance to the sub-prime mort­gage mar­ket prior to 2008. A quote from Dr. Michael Burry from the book and movie, The Big Short, Inside the Dooms­day Machine, by Michael Lewis — about the sub-prime mort­gage and hous­ing col­lapse of 2008:

    “It is ludi­crous to believe that asset bub­bles can only be rec­og­nized in hind­sight,” he wrote. “There are spe­cific iden­ti­fiers that are entirely rec­og­niz­able dur­ing the bubble’s infla­tion. One hall­mark of mania is the rapid rise in the inci­dence and com­plex­ity of fraud.… The FBI reports mort­gage-related fraud is up five­fold since 2000.” Bad behav­ior was no longer on the fringes of an oth­er­wise sound econ­omy; it was its cen­tral fea­ture. “The salient point about the mod­ern vin­tage of hous­ing-related fraud is its inte­gral place within our nation’s insti­tu­tions,” he added.

    Here are the 5 stages of a Bub­ble from Investo­pe­dia, March 11, 2021 — Dis­place­ment, Boom, Eupho­ria, Profit Tak­ing, Panic.

    Other experts con­firm the same “iden­ti­fiers” in online adver­tis­ing — Adver­tis­ing Age, April 5, 2016; CNBC, June 17, 2016; Medi­a­Post, April 17, 2016; Ad Exchanger, July 15, 2014; The Sub­prime Atten­tion Cri­sis: Adver­tis­ing and the Time Bomb at the Heart of the Inter­net, by Tim Whang, pub­lished Novem­ber 1, 2020.

  • The Wall Street Jour­nal reported that dur­ing a 2018 pre­sen­ta­tion -

    A Face­book team had a blunt mes­sage for senior exec­u­tives. The company’s algo­rithms weren’t bring­ing peo­ple together. They were dri­ving peo­ple apart.

    Our algo­rithms exploit the human brain’s attrac­tion to divi­sive­ness,’ read a slide from a 2018 pre­sen­ta­tion. ‘If left unchecked,’ it warned, Face­book would feed users ‘more and more divi­sive con­tent in an effort to gain user atten­tion & increase time on the platform’ […] 

    The high num­ber of extrem­ist groups was con­cern­ing, [an ear­lier] pre­sen­ta­tion says. Worse was Facebook’s real­iza­tion that its algo­rithms were respon­si­ble for their growth, [find­ing] that ‘64% of all extrem­ist group joins are due to our rec­om­men­da­tion tools’ and that most of the activ­ity came from the platform’s ‘Groups You Should Join’ and ‘Dis­cover’ algo­rithms: ‘Our rec­om­men­da­tion sys­tems grow the problem’ […] 

    Face­book had kicked off an inter­nal effort to under­stand how its plat­form shaped user behav­ior and how the com­pany might address poten­tial harms. Chief Exec­u­tive Mark Zucker­berg had in pub­lic and pri­vate expressed con­cern about ‘sen­sa­tion­al­ism and polarization.’

    But in the end, Facebook’s inter­est was fleet­ing. Mr. Zucker­berg and other senior exec­u­tives largely shelved the basic research, accord­ing to pre­vi­ously unre­ported inter­nal doc­u­ments and peo­ple famil­iar with the effort, and weak­ened or blocked efforts to apply its con­clu­sions to Face­book products