“Do Not Track” Update

foxRemember the squabble over Microsoft’s “do not track” setting in Internet Explorer 10?

Here’s the unsurprising outcome, as reported by Advertising Age:

A coalition of advertising trade associations gave publishers and advertisers license to ignore the “do not track” signal from Microsoft’s coming web browser and any other that ships with the option checked by default.

The statement from the Digital Advertising Alliance marks the latest example of the online ad industry’s insistence that it will only get behind “do not track” settings that web users have turned on themselves. Microsoft has said that it’s new Internet Explorer 10 browser would set a “do not track” setting as a default setting.

“The DAA does not require companies to honor DNT signals fixed by the browser manufacturers and set by them in browsers,” the statement said. “Specifically, it is not a DAA Principle or in any way a requirement under the DAA Program to honor a DNT signal that is automatically set in IE10 or any other browser. The Council of Better Business Bureaus and the Direct Marketing Association will not sanction or penalize companies or otherwise enforce with respect to DNT signals set on IE10 or other browsers.”

The DAA has dubbed such default settings as “machine-driven.”

But one of the main problems with the DAA’s stance is that some people may choose to use IE 10 precisely because the “do not track” function is set by default and they do not want to be tracked. In those instances, advertisers may put themselves in the unenviable position of indirectly ignoring a person’s wish not to be targeted with ads.

Enviability, of course, is nothing compared to profits. To paraphrase old Corny Vanderbilt, “Who cares about wishes? Hain’t I go the power?”

Hence, Captain Renault is simply shocked to hear Ad Age report that, by now, “few websites or third party ad firms are honoring Microsoft’s DNT beacon.”

Beyond Big Brother

cell_addicts Microsoft is about to launch the Nokia Lumia 900 “smart phone.” Here at TCT, we know exactly what “smart” media devices are smart about: marketing. Not only do “smart” devices increase the already astounding amount of off-the-job time people in the United States spend staring at sponsored content and ads, but they rake in huge amounts of Orwellian-quality data about their users’ habits and preferences.

Ponder, then, the sheer cajones of how Microsoft is promoting this new Nokia phone: As a “Free-Time Machine”!  (Note, too, the inclusion of one of the Kardashians, the veritable poster children for time squandered on sponsored media.)

The thing, of course, is a patent stab at expanding the already near-complete corporate colonization of free time, an attempt to reduce even further the degree of independence in what its purchasers do when not asleep or at their jobs (if they have one).

It is more evidence of the old TCT claim that the things our overclass gets away with would make Hitler and Stalin purple with envy.

Digital Wallpaper

Thesis: “Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society. To outcries about physical and mental degradation, premature death, the torture of overwork, it answers: “Ought these to trouble us, since they increase our profits?”

Context: Peak energy.

Test: Microsoft’s plans.



Kinect: Trojan Horse for Marketing

xbox spy The Wall Street Journal has revealed that Microsoft’s new Kinect video game extender is a means for increasing the spying capacities of corporate marketers:

Dennis Durkin, who serves as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for Microsoft’s Xbox video game business, told investors Thursday that Kinect – which allows users to play video games without so much as a joystick – presents business opportunities for targeted game marketing and advertising.

Kinect is a camera peripheral that plugs into the Xbox 360 console and allows players to control games with only body movements. The system uses facial recognition technology to sign in players and match them with their avatars and profiles.

But the technology can also be put to use beyond those purposes, Durkin said in a presentation at an investors conference sponsored by BMO Capital Markets.
“We can cater which content we present to you based on who you are,” Durkin said. “How many people are in the room when an ad is shown? How many people are in the room when a game is being played? When you add this sort of device to a living room, there’s a bunch of business opportunities that come with that.”

Such a system also could raise questions about privacy. In the past few months, targeted online advertising has been facing increasing scrutiny, and the use of cameras and facial recognition would push such technology into a new realm.

And dig this attempt at spin Microsoft sent to the WSJ after it broke this important story:

UPDATE: Microsoft emailed the following statement about its current policies regarding privacy and Xbox: “Xbox 360 and Xbox LIVE do not use any information captured by Kinect for advertising targeting purposes. Microsoft has a strong track record of implementing some of the best privacy protection measures in the industry. We place great importance on the privacy of our customers’ information and the safety of their experiences.”

Does Microsoft say it is not and will never be selling such invaluable, long-dreamed-of marketing data to any parties? No. In fact, it doesn’t even say Microsoft isn’t now collecting and using them. It merely says “Xbox 360” (whatever that is beyond a name for a machine) and “Xbox Live” “do not.”

The rest, of course, is the usual laughfest of jive-talk and improper comparison: “some of the best privacy protection measures in the industry.” ROFLMFAO.

The “Social Network” Trap

Facebook (allied to Microsoft) and Myspace (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp) are fake-outs on unsuspecting users, mostly children, teens, and young adults.  The raison d’etre of these two “consumer” traps is to gather marketing data and shove advertising even farther into users’ lives.  This website has long reported on this fact, and will continue to do so, as these cynically planned, BBM-sponsored, wildly popular, narcissism-promoting social control operations expand.

Here was Bob Garfield, who, in the December 1, 2008 issue of Advertising Age, observed this little tidbit for his audience of corporate planners:

500 million social-network users, each generating 1,200 page views per month, represent 600 billion monthly opportunities for an ad impression. [emphasis added]

Funnel Spiders Trap
Funnel Spider's Trap

Once Again: Facebook is Evil

thumb_32friendsworthI mean this.  If you want to make free contributions to market totalitarianism’s Big Brother, keep your Facebook account.

Here’s the real purpose of that account, as reported by Business Week for June 1, 2009:

Advertisers are…interested in understanding individuals. Decoding friendship, many believe, could be the key to getting consumers’ attention. Historically, this wasn’t so hard. Information was in short supply, and by comparison, time was cheap. Not long ago millions waited through entire newscasts just to learn who won a game or what tomorrow’s weather would be. This was ideal for advertisers: They had a captive audience.

For all its popularity, Facebook has yet to prove itself as an advertising platform. Visitors, it seems, focus on their friends and pay scant attention to ads. Few click on them, and advertisers pay pennies for page views. Consequently, Facebook, with its estimated revenue of $300 million this year, brings in scarcely a dime a month per member.

Now we’re swimming in information. We can call up nearly every bit of news, music, and entertainment we want on demand. In fact, there’s so much of it that we need filters to block the boring or irrelevant stuff and help us find the bits we need or desire. This has created what many call the “Attention Economy.” Says Bernardo A. Huberman, director of the Information Dynamics Laboratory at Hewlett-Packard: “The value of most information has collapsed to zero. The only scarce resource is attention.” So how do we figure out where to direct it?

The easiest way is to get tips from friends. They’re our trusted sources. At least a few of them know us better than any algorithm ever could. Little surprise, then, that the companies most eager to command our attention are studying which friends we listen to. Online friendship is a hot focus for Facebook, Google, and Yahoo. They joust to hire leading sociologists, anthropologists, and microeconomists from MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley. Microsoft just established a research division focused on social sciences in Cambridge, Mass.

Statistically, friends tend to behave alike. A couple of years ago researchers at Yahoo found that if someone clicked on an online ad, the people on his or her instant chat buddy list, when served the same ad, were three to four times more likely than average to click on it. It makes sense. Friends share interests.

But it raised lots of questions. Which types of friends have the most meaningful correlations with each other? People have always confided in a small circle of intimates, often only two or three. They’ve also had wider circles of experts for specific advice, whether on cars or cooking. Then there’s a broader circle of acquaintances whose opinions count far less but who can still generate buzz about a new restaurant or senatorial candidate. By studying patterns of interactions on networks—often scrutinizing us only as anonymous bits of data—researchers are working to predict which friends we trust and which we pay attention to in each area of our lives.

In an office above Palo Alto’s University Avenue, a lean 32-year-old PhD from MIT’s Media Lab pores over the data connecting millions of dots. Cameron A. Marlow, a research scientist at Facebook, has perhaps the greatest lab in history for studying [how to exploit] friendship. He can study social media communications including wall posts, shared photos, pokes, and friend requests among 200 million people.

The hope is that if Marlow and his team manage to track the paths of influence among its communities, the company [Facebook] might be able to offer more effective and lucrative advertisements and promotions.

An early step is to separate each user’s friends into clusters. Marlow pulls out a chart illustrating the social network of one of his colleagues, Alex Smith. It shows different groups of dots and their connecting links. One big and busy group represents fellow workers at Facebook. Others are high school friends, family, in-laws, frat brothers. Understanding these types of relationships could provide valuable context.

Marlow’s team recently carried out a study to determine how close we are to our friends online. They looked at how often people clicked on their friends’ news or photos, how often they communicated, and if the communications traveled in both directions. Studying this data, they determined that an average Facebook user with 500 friends actively follows the news on only 40 of them, communicates with 20, and keeps in close touch with about 10. Those with smaller networks follow even fewer. What can this teach advertisers? People don’t pay much attention to most of their online friends. By focusing campaigns on people who interact with each other, they’ll likely get better results.

Remember when capitalism’s apologists used to dismiss the very idea of socialism because of its alleged inherent reliance on social engineering?