Friday, October 28, 2016

what we've got here is... failure to communicate

The announcement that Google has made small but significant adjustments the way it handles the personal data collected from Google product users and the 'behavioural' data via its ad network, DoubleClick came and went with surprisingly little commentary.

In case you missed it, he previous policy had been: “We will not combine DoubleClick cookie information with personally identifiable information unless we have your opt-in consent”.

Now you have to opt-out.

The updated policy now states: “Depending on your account settings, your activity on other sites and ads may be associated with your personal information in order to improve Google’s services and the ads delivers by Google”.

That this change happens at around about the same time as the release of Google’s new total surveillance machine (ooops... phone) 'Pixel' may be purely coincidence, although - to be fair - I expect many of us assumed that total surveillance had had been the case on all along.

Either way, the battle continues between - on the one side - the Googles, Facebooks and assorted nefarious 3rd party adtech doing all in their power to harvest and process all available data.

And us - the hapless users - on the other side, either lethargically capitulating or offering token resistance through the application of ad-blockers and anti-tracking.

(Indeed, as something of a public service, this blog had a piece of code added that would inform you if your browser is vulnerable to 3rd party tracking, the makers seem to have disabled it now, though)

This creates something of a dilemma if one appreciates the 'social contract' between advertising and the content we want to read or see.

But what if there were a way of neither breaking the rules nor playing by them?

Whilst reading The Age of Absurdity by Michael Foley we were struck by the following idea.

Foley advocates for ‘detachment’ from the various absurdities of contemporary life.

Though not explicitly noted, the self-commoditisation practiced by individuals in the digital age would be included.

Detachment means ‘if you can't change the world, at least don't let it change you’.

And a paradoxical form of detachment is, what Foley calls, manic engagement'

To illustrate this Foley points to a scene in the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman in the lead role as charismatic petty criminal - now prison inmate - Luke.

Luke and his fellow chain-gang convicts are spreading gravel on a dirt road and, as usual, working as slowly as possible.

Suddenly, Luke strangely starts to go at the gravel spreading work with a manic over-enthusiasm.

The others in the gang look on with puzzled bemusement, but then - one by one - begin to copy and, likewise, start shovelling with disproportionate gusto.

This winds-up the guards no end. What are they playing at? Do we stop them?

The gang shift the entire mountain of gravel like men possessed, eventually running out of road to cover then collapse, laughing hysterically while the enraged and bewildered guards look on.

Perhaps one way to foil the aforementioned nefarious adtech 3rd party trackers is by practicing a form of manic engagement in our internet activities.

Achieving detachment by manic engagement.

Can detachment be achieved via Adblocking? After all, who really knows what the adblockers are doing with our data?.

Consider, however, a strategy of manic engagement.

A mass detachment by millions of internet users who disguise their regular behaviour by manically clicking on every link and ad served, performing multiple random searches for tractor parts, Mongolian compost toilets, Elton John memorabilia, indeed any other bizzare term that comes to mind (the more bizzare the better), then following up on every retargeting attempt with more clicks and searches.

Creating incommensurately more noise than signal.

Pumping the data hosepipe full of confusion, misinformation and obfuscation creating a ridiculously false 'profile' and disguising real intentions.

A bit labour intensive, agreed, but surely there's a personal ad-fraud bot-net out there somewhere...

blog comments powered by Disqus