Is TARGETED MARKETING ethical? Are you creeped out by eerily accurate digital ads? We deep dive into Minority Report to find out!
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Tom Cruise AKA John Anderton heads Precrime, a specialized police agency that arrests the perpetrators of future murders with the help of precogs. Precogs are individuals who possess psychic abilities that allow them to predict crime.
Immersive contact lenses connect people to a vast network of ads.
Targeted advertising is commonplace on platforms Google & Facebook. It’s the serving of ads to users based on their prior internet behavior, interests, & demographic information. On Facebook, users can be targeted by age, gender, location, interests, pages liked & content watched.
FB makes advertising easy. Small businesses and corporations can target similar people and interests—the only difference is in how much they spend. Open access allows anyone to become famous or for any business to become successful IF they create a valuable product and market it correctly.
Over 5000 targeting options were removed in 2018 alone from FB. Among those removed were the “ethnic affinity” segments which allowed those with interests in Native American or African American culture to be excluded from ads for housing &employment. Facebook’s targeting options ran directly counter to the 1968 Civil Rights Act which banned discriminating against tenants based on race, religion or country of origin.
Tech companies need to be held to the same standard laws and regulations as physical good companies. Advertisers want to reach their goal numbers as efficiently and cost effective as possible. Should a small business be held to the same ethical quandary as a large company? Advertising to one’s target demographic has been a staple of marketing for ages.
In 2016, Facebook’s newsfeed was used to disseminate fake news and discredit political opponents. Russian trolls played on the fears and ignorance to drum up political discord. Controversial posts were boosted and targeted at people based on their political leanings and locations. Huge swaths of people were swayed. Facebook’s algorithm actively rewards sensational headlines and clickbait copy.
In Minority Report, Tom Cruise sees an ad promoting the expansion of the precog program to other cities. Only at the end was it disclosed that the broadcast he was listening to was paid for by advocates of the precrime program.
Targeted ads only reach those selected. When Tom Cruise receives another man’s eye, he is essentially using someone else’s browser and seeing their ads. Invasion of privacy?
Digital advertising is largely anonymous. Remarketing can be viewed as not invading your personal privacy but rather just surfacing ads to someone more likely to complete your goal. Unless you’re using an E-mail list for your marketing audience, people are merely cookies and numbers. It’s easy for people to willingly manipulate each other on the platform. The fact that there is no human interaction on the side of the ad buyer turns it into more of a video game rather than a vessel to communicate with millions. Users willingly sign their privacy away. It should be FB and the other tech giant’s obligations to make sure that what is being signed away is communicated. Any TOS that requires a law degree read won’t cut it.
Is Targeted Advertising Ethical? To limit targeted advertising would inhibit the power of individuals and small businesses to compete with large corporations. Digital ads are a low-cost and efficient way to enter the market and introduce your business to the general public. The power to target and market to billions of people needs major checks and balances. Companies like FB need to be held accountable for the ads that run on their platforms. Social media has given everyone the power to change the power balance of any community in an instant. Like Uncle Ben once said, great power requires great responsibility. Platforms shouldn’t be allowed to run targeted ads if they won’t accept responsibility.
Algorithms are not the answer to our ethical dilemmas, humans are. Tom Cruise proved this in Minority Report when he challenged the precog’s vision that he was a killer. If we rely on mutants and machines to control our advertisements and crime force then people are bound to take advantage & manipulate. Some decisions must be made holistically and can’t be divided into black or white options.
This video is not sponsored. We love sci-fi, comic books, movies & deep diving into the ethics behind franchises.
Space Taste aims to be the premier destination for intelligent and thoughtful discussion in the world of sci-fi. Subscribe to Space Taste to watch an ethical and philosophical breakdown of sci-fi films every week. We explore not only the ethics and repercussions of our favorite science fiction movies, but also how the concepts covered in the movie would impact society.