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    I’ve been reading The Age of Surveillance Capitalism lately and would recommend it to anyone interested in this topic. So far, my main takeaway is that privacy is not a good framing of the problem: technologies like differential privacy and federated learning [0] neutralize any practical privacy-related objection. The author argues that the core issue is non-consensual behavior modification by organizations whose motives are inscrutable to us. This framing also has the benefit of preserving space for some positive applications which require giving up privacy (example: access to population medical data) for some benefit.

    Cynical readers might think - well, behavior modification doesn’t really apply to me. I’m an independent thinker! Here we must each of us be humble and admit we are not immune to propaganda. Behavior modification (most commonly encountered in advertising) works on all of us. It is a travesty that these companies put us under total surveillance then see fit to play with our thoughts. A stronger society would crush this business model, and my respect for those who lend it their labor shrinks every day.

    [0] https://federated.withgoogle.com/

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      That’s the thing: I don’t really want to go back to the era of untargeted ads. It wasn’t fundamentally better for consumers. It ads unecessary costs to the products and services I do want to buy.

      And I don’t have a fundamental problem with behavior modification, either. I just want the modifications to improve my life, rather than degrade it.

      And from this perspective, it’s unclear to me how legislation/regulation can really improve the situation.

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        That’s the thing: I don’t really want to go back to the era of untargeted ads. It wasn’t fundamentally better for consumers. It ads unecessary costs to the products and services I do want to buy.

        What is bad about untargeted ads? Do you have any sources to back up the claim that untargeted ads are costlier overall? Some of the best ads I’ve seen were untargeted. For example advertisements for electrical engineering jobs and electronic components in a booklet about the latest developments in electronics. This actually makes sense because it’s contextually targeted - but no individual person was tracked - and if I’m in the mood to read about electronics, I’m much more open to advertisements on this subject. This is how you advertise properly. Whereas, with the modern web, they somehow know that you have a baby so now the tech news website is plastered with diaper ads. In whose world is that acceptable, let alone better? I think targeted ads are creepy and need to vanish from our lives.

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          Fair point. I would consider that targeted, but it shows you don’t need to collect user info in order to target.

          But then there’s services like Instagram, where I’ve seen multiple ads that I was interested in for art and clothes. Those were likely targeted, at minimum, on my being a male (at least some of them).

          I’m not fundamentally against regulation requiring transparancey and opt-in, but there’s a cost to those regulations: it makes it much harder for small business to get started and compete against the big guys. Regulation burdens are bad for entrepreneurship.

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            Is that because small businesses rely on targeted ads to reach a customer base, whereas the “big guys” already have name recognition?

            On the other hand, the really small guys may not have the resources to purchase targeted ads, and are at a disadvantage compared to big companies or well-funded startups who can afford targeted ads. Regulating targeted ads might make it easier for the small companies that aren’t buying ads anyway.

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          I just want the modifications to improve my life, rather than degrade it.

          The issue is that these firms aren’t testing whether modifications improve or degrade, only if they are profitable. Selling more sugar water and luxury cars isn’t meant to make me better or worse.

          I also don’t think “targeted” ads are any better for me than the old days of stuff blasted on tv and newspapers. I can’t think of how I’ve found an item faster or acquired a higher quality item.

          I do have countless examples of how some family member reshared some garbage post that was targeted to them.

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            The issue is that these firms aren’t testing whether modifications improve or degrade, only if they are profitable. Selling more sugar water and luxury cars isn’t meant to make me better or worse.

            I totally agree. My point was that I don’t see how regulation is going to help with that. What’s needed is a cultural shift.

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              A cultural shift will never happen when these companies are paying heaps of money to armies of smart people to get us more & more engaged (addicted) to their services. People even recognize it as a problem in their lives and still struggle to disengage! No, legislation needs to come in and destroy these companies.

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                No, legislation needs to come in and destroy these companies.

                Why? Wielding what hammer?

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            Nobody can argue with your personal opinion, but you’re in a unique position because you’re aware of what’s going on (to some extent) and approve of it.

            A lot of people don’t realize how much data Google captures about them, have no idea how that data’s used, and don’t know how Google makes money with it. They don’t even know Google’s invading their privacy, so how can they agree or disagree to it? Google certainly isn’t transparent about it, and there’s no oversight to make sure what little they say is actually true.

            Nobody is saying Google can’t offer free stuff in exchange for private information, just that they need to be up front about it so users can make informed decisions.

            Personally, I don’t approve of any advertising (targetted or not) or data collection, even if it means I can’t use things like YouTube, Facebook, etc. and that I pay for things like email.

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          Use blockers. I haven’t seen an ad from google in a long while.

          On mac I use: Firefox + uBlock Origin + Privacy Badger + Cookie AutoDelete + DOH that is pointing to a dns proxy pointing to nextdns.io wiht tracking/ads blocking lists

          On android I use: Firefox Focus (Klar) + personalDNSfilter (https://www.zenz-solutions.de/personaldnsfilter/) with DOH that is pointing to a dns proxy pointing to nextdns.io wiht tracking/ads blocking lists

          What is your configuration?