Friday, 19 April 2013

Google the Evil Face of Facebook.

I find advertising to be the scourge of a modern life. I've never understood how companies, big and small, are allowed to blatantly lie in an effort to farm our dollars and not be held accountable. From the ordinary on TV, radio and in films, to the billboards, spam and fliers plastered across every opportunity to reach an individual.

When I lived in other countries I marveled at the blatant lies of advertising. The German doctors on Polish television promising cures for the incurable, the large multinational pharmaceutical companies in Indonesia pushing 'whitening' skin cream and the blaggards in Russia selling devices that make fat literally drop off while you sit watching television and nosh on a bucket of chips.

Thank goodness I live in an advanced society that doesn't allow advertising to be conducted with such amoral codes of conduct.

Then I began to take note of the actors in white lab coats pushing scientific breakthroughs in beauty products - has anyone yet defined 'Hypoallergenic'? There are spruikers on television pushing products under the guise of finding us, the viewer, the best product on grounds of health, price and convenience and all that information is presented in a thirty second breaking news bulletin under headings like consumer watch or brand facts.

In friends we saw Joey, the human dildo, hired as the 'average person' who simply could not work the spout mechanism on a standard milk carton. Luckily for him there was a five dollar product that would solve this annoying problem and allow him to get his daily milk. How we laughed at the stupidity of it. But we still allow hundreds of like products to advertise in just this way.

Why more of these 'idiot' neighbours haven't ended their lives by misadventure in some sort of Darwinian cull is beyond me. They seem unable to do anything - like the woman who seems to have a complete mental breakdown because she can't match the lids to her Tupperware! These people fall off ladders, strangle themselves with hoses and burn their hands with spilled cooking fat. They need George Forman's grill pronto or they'll be in emergency faster than you can say - 'but wait, there's more'.

I remember seeing Minority Report and thinking what a scary advertising-centric world we were heading for. The smartphone has made that a reality and will soon be talking to us with displays we pass and teeing up messages designed especially for us. It will read our calls and search our conversations for key words to make a profile that determines what gets advertised to us and when. We will become human spam magnets with every word we utter and thought we divulge a trigger for that next great offer.

But no-one saw Facebook or Google coming.
They have us lining up to do all the dirty work of recording our lives for them. We like, record, watch and declare our every interest. It is the data collectors wet dream of personal information. These online juggernauts have put an end to those pesky clipboard people who try to catch your eye as you rush from A to B. They have taken the place of the recorded personal information at the checkout where any snippet of information tying you to your purchase would be used to direct other products at you down the track. It is the beginning of the end of those little boxes on forms that ask if you want whatever company is behind whatever you are signing, to send you further offers and marketing opportunities in the future. Now they no longer need to ask because you will volunteer to look without being prompted.

Facebook and Google have become the ultimate personal profilers. They see our likes and dislikes, they records the pages that make us click and those we ignore, they sift through our contacts and the things that made us act or stay passive. George Orwell envisaged Big Brother as a central amoral government hell bent on control of individuals in order to maintain their control over the masses. Oh so close! It's not the government that cares about everything we do, at least not the old form of government. It is the new form of capitalist government that cares - the multinational branded government. It is the boards of the international companies, the conglomerates, the mighty One Percent. They want to know everything you do, not to benefit you, but to benefit them by enticing more dollars from your pocket for all manner of things.

“Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don’t have on something they don’t need.” (Will Rogers)

Recently I noticed a surprising number of my friends were liking large multinational corporations on Facebook: the huge supermarket and discount chain stores, financial giants, beauty and pharmaceutical companies. When I saw a particular friend or other had liked one of these corporate behemoths I would stare in wonder at how and why? Has my greener than green, tree loving Miranda really sold her soul to become a corporate spruiker? Suddenly my Facebook news feed is filled with such likes from friends. I would guesstimate a third of all posts are from friends, posting links designed to appeal directly to me with offers from some companies that eerily match exactly what I have been looking at recently online.

The tip off to this camouflaged advertising is, as a writer, I research many weird and wonderful things. To write this I have already searched at least three sites I have no personal desire to re-visit or act on by purchasing anything, but no doubt in the next few days my friends will 'like' a series of purchasing 'opportunities' on Facebook that relate directly to what I have looked up. And on Google the sidebar sponsored links will be full of all sorts of revealing and personal offers that relate to my age and things I have liked or sites I have visited in the last few days.

Do they really think I have a friend who would like a cordless impact drill so much they felt the need to shout about it to all and sundry?

I am being asked more and more to link or shout about my purchases when I make them. Pages want to know my views, my web explorations want to be linked and all of these, if I agree or press the wrong button, those actions will automatically list a product or site through my Facebook profile, creating an enticing portal for my friends to click and visit.

We have unwittingly become one of those annoying people with the clipboard trying to grab someone with offers they have no time to hear. I already receive too much spam from Youtube, Linkedin and Twitter about posts or updates that may interest me - they rarely do and the idea that my online activities are now generating more of the same for all I know is shocking.
Where will the restraint come from. What will be the comparative online 'do not call' register - a register that has tried to tackle that strange distant phone line that clicks at me around dinner time, where an oddly accented Filipino or Indian with access to a phone addresses me by name and follows an 'oh-so-polite' script, that promises me a very special offer that involves an upfront garuantee not to try and  sell me anything - and then they try and sell me everything.

Controls always follow well behind a developing technology or practice. It usually takes until the penis enlargement people get your direct mailing address before legislation is brought on, chiefly through annoyance of enough people to demand action.

I predict Facebook and Google will go the same way and we will have to endure endless postmortem committees set up to discuss, uncover and get to the bottom of why such an invasive personal affront was allowed unchecked for so long. Because who could ever have predicted that a young man given billions in his twenties, who modeled his fortune generating, fact finding beast on a design that rated hot chicks, could ever turn out to be amoral in his design of the ultimate capitalist money generating profiler. Winkle twins - want to weigh in here?

Facebook and Google now pervade and invade my everything, When I have that chilling health scare that makes me diagnose myself to a sure death online, I find my Google and Facebook ads only moments behind, offering therapies and counseling. It is the equivalent of the salesman turning up at the wake to sell a burial plot to the widow.

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