Marketers complicit in big data mischief

he snot really hit the fan last week when The Washington Post and The Guardian reported that the US had secret spying programs that are “tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies.”

It was inevitable that our industry’s obsession with Internet data collection would come smack up against questions of civil rights and individual liberties. But no one in the marketing or advertising industries seems to care about the consequences of our obsession with data, or the central role we are playing in this controversy.

It is an article of faith among the pundit digerati that the Internet has given us reg’lar folks more control over our lives. One of the mantras of marketing’s chattering class is that “the consumer is now in charge.” These people think that because we can tweet “the fries at Wendy’s really suck” we now have greater economic, social and political control. They are alarmingly insensitive to the trade-offs the web has presented us with.

On several occasions during the past few years I have taken the, ahem, contrarian position that not only are we not “in charge,” but the illusion that we are is masking the fact that the powerful are getting more powerful and that the individual citizen has less control than ever.

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