Research Log #2


  • Sara M. Watson, who is the author, and her friend, Jean, both received an ad on an anorexia research study on Facebook but at first it was only Jean and she thought it was because of the stuff she has been posting. Once Watson got the ad she questioned it and found out it was for women between the ages of 18-45 in the Boston area.
  • Watson mentions that she is supposed to see ads online that are based off of her data that the ads gather.
  • She mentions that her data is made up of “browsing history, my status updates, my GPS locations, my responses to marketing mail, my credit card transactions, and my public records.” She likes when the ads don’t really know her but she said “yet it is unnerving when something is misdirected at me.”
  • She talks about how we don’t know how these ads know who we are due to their complex algorithms.
  • Watson talks about how she likes the personalized ads because of a “belief in individualism.”
  • Sometimes these ads can mess with one’s sense of who they are. She goes on to say “it’s hard to tell whether the algorithm doesn’t know us at all, or if it actually knows us better than we know ourselves.”
  • Watson brings up a Japanese roboticist named Masahiro Mori who says we are able to tolerate robots “when [the] robot looks human but still clearly isn’t.”
  • Our view on that statement is changing because of the increasing realism and advancements in technology.
  • The problem with advertisements tailored to our personal data is we don’t know what standard to hold it at.
  • “Data likeness can’t be seen or touched, but neither can our sense of ourselves.”
  • Ads that are chosen based on our data can provide a sense of familiarity like a home but the home is a place you seek for privacy.
  • Personalized ads create an anxiety that the user is being surveyed.
  • Facebook doesn’t help because it is always asking for more information from you.
  • Data is even kept on when people die like the father who got a letter addressed to “Mike Seay, Daughter Killed in Car Crash, Or Current Business.”
  • Facebook has taken the step to show users why they are seeing the ads however they only give you one reason.
  • “New technologies provoke moral panic and anxiety” but we make these new technologies become part of our daily lives. The more we use the internet the more the internet knows about us. This makes it important to hold these data collectors accountable while we are able to get it changed.

Personalized ads can create a sense of familiarity like your home but the problem is they are taking your data and you don’t have privacy like a house. Personalized ads create an anxiety because of how much they can relate to you.

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