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I Love You, Let's Meet » hello, fellow lab mice!

hello, fellow lab mice!

It’s obvious that online dating is a dream opportunity for market researchers — all that personal information to add to what the commercial/governmental They already have on us from tracking our movements around the Web. But this story from the Wall Street Journal about Yahoo hiring especially schmancy economists to sift our info even finer freaks me a bit further out.

[R]esearchers are looking at the information Yahoo collects about its users’ activities. That starts with nearly every click and includes what services consumers use in what sequence and which color of buttons they click on most. The company records over 12 terabytes of data daily — the equivalent of about half the information contained in all of the books in the Library of Congress, according to some estimates.

Yahoo and other Internet companies already use some of what they know about consumers’ online habits to target Internet advertising: A user who searches for “Ford Explorer” might see an ad for a sports-utility vehicle when he looks at a news Web site….. a challenge [for the sites] is not to creep out users with blatant matches that serve as a reminder they’re being tracked, such as switching all the ads to those for credit cards if a user clicks on a card offer.

I just know if I hit the blue button enough, an SUV will appear in my food dish, but damn, my paw is getting sore.

And I also know those studying our terabytes say to the Luddite objecters, ‘Lighten up. Super-targeted advertising is simply news you can use, nothing sinister in trying to position your product as close as possible to consumer desire.’ The story even reassures us paranoid hippies that this type of research will benefit mankind:

[Yahoo Poo-bah] Mr. Fayyad recruited Prabhakar Raghavan, a former IBM Research veteran who was also wooed by Google and Microsoft, to head the push. Mr. Fayyad told Mr. Raghavan he would be disappointed if Yahoo’s effort didn’t produce a Nobel Prize.

Which Nobel prize would that be? I’m guessing not peace, or medicine, or literature. The claims to mankind-betterment seem especially silly given the example of getting people to buy SUVs or this: “Researchers also believe collating Web activity can be used to predict future events, such as box-office openings and home sales.” Only in the Wall St. Journal Church of Capitalism do manipulatable sales of movie tickets and houses count as “future events,” like an earthquake or a flood.

I also love how these Nobel scientists are using their powers to keep The Wrong Sort of Man from bothering pretty women on online dating sites.

If I get sent an ad for Das Kapital after I post this, we’ll know the terabyte-sifting is working.

1 Comment so far

  1. kmcleod on September 4th, 2006

    Am I gonna be getting spam pushing bonobo porn on me from now on?
    Decades after Fred and Wilma Flintstone smoked Marlboros on TV, companies have been getting access to us by sponsoring media that we in turn are able to access for free. Now, in a TiVo (sp?)/VHS time when only Super Bowl commercials aren’t avoided, sponsors have become desperate to compensate. We’ve always been stalked by advertisers, but now it’s going to be harder to get restraining orders against corporations, or soon, pop-up political parties.