Entertainment

Documentary shows you can run but you can’t hide from internet advertisers: Schneller

The new breed of advertisers collect Facebook likes, songs you listen to and the time you go to bed so they know what to pitch you at precisely what moment.

Gabriel Cubbage, middle, the former CEO of Adblock, shows a couple how to install free ad-blocking software on their phones in You’re Soaking in It.

Contributed

Gabriel Cubbage, middle, the former CEO of Adblock, shows a couple how to install free ad-blocking software on their phones in You’re Soaking in It.

The Show: You’re Soaking In It

The Moment: Emotional profiling

Not long into this documentary about the pervasiveness — and invasiveness — of internet advertising, Berkeley’s Chris Jay Hoofnagle demonstrates how deeply online advertisers track our every click. He opens Google, then clicks on a Washington Post article. Within seconds, 72 ad sites have attached themselves to this one-step procedure. After a few more seconds, 250 sites have found him; soon, thousands will have.

Stanford’s Michal Kosinski elaborates: Mad Men were old-school advertisers who pitched us ideas. The new breed are Math (Wo)Men, who collect “behavioral residue” (Facebook likes, songs you listen to, what time you go to bed), and then use computational methods to understand your personality, sexuality, motives and emotional state, to create a minute-by-minute psychological profile, so they know which product or service to pitch you at precisely what moment.

Writer/director Scott Harper should have released this on Halloween, because it’s flatly terrifying. Expert face-coders watch our faces through our laptop cameras to record our micro-expressions! Gmail reads every one of our emails! Developers are creating emotion-sensing devices which will be embedded in our TVs, cars, fridges and watches! “Prime time is now all the time,” a Facebook exec says.

Even worse, this bottomless sea of data that’s collected about us is stored rather casually, and can be effortlessly sold or traded to nefarious governments and real-life Dr. Evils.

This year the U.S. online ad budget will surpass the TV ad budget. I’m not surprised. But this doc did chill me enough that, halfway through watching it, I taped over my laptop camera.

You’re Soaking In It airs Friday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m. on CBC’s Documentary Channel.

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