The Internet Locks Us All in Boxes

Here, we step outside our typical automotive box to actually talk about web boxes. There’s nothing at all obvious within that title, so stay with it, or take this opportunity to tune out since we’re going to talk cars only as the subject pertains to us here at DashboardSymbols.com.

This is a two part story and we’ll start with something we’ve seen and you’ve likely seen as well for years. At DashboardSymbols.com, we post what we see as helpful automotive information, free to use. We live and die by ad revenue. Over the years we’ve done searches related to things we might actually be shopping for as well as cars, and the result is that what you searched for last shows up in ads on every page you visit, until we search for something else.

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Cars and partsWe do a lot of searches related to cars, so as you can imagine, so we see adverts for cars everywhere. And we’re not a buyer! Algorithms and cookies place us in a box, and that box says cars. Just how effective is the money spent on these ads? Middle men have jumped in and sold most major advertisers that their methods – read algorithms  will put their advertising in front of exactly the right people at exactly the right time, and save them money.

And there’s no explaining to anyone that they’re wrong, despite the undeniable fact that even they see the evidence we just described. We have a punch line to this to deliver later.

Google headlineOn to part two, that features recent news that is really what prompted this commentary. And we can title it Mr. Google goes to Washington. Google and Facebook actually. But this part of the story starts with the 2016 election.

Like many or even all of you, it was an all consuming event and I personally spent a lot of and maybe too much time following political stories on line. Now, I love science and technology and try to stay up to date on advances in medicine, space science, rocket science, not to mention automotive technology. But somewhere along the line, I realized my news feeds no longer featured even a single tech story.

Initially, I thought that just maybe there happened to be a lull in the tech world. But then I thought about the experience with advertising. So I deliberately went looking for science and technology items, clicked on every one that I found, and sure enough, back came tech to my newsfeeds.

As much as anything, I had placed myself unwittingly into a political box, and fortunately had found a way out. But this is a truly insidious issue, so much so that Google and Facebook are being called out for bias and there’s little indication that anyone truly understands what’s happening.

The president himself complained about Google results. I heard him say that searches turn up anti administration news, not exactly what’s reflected in the item shown here. But whether its the president himself or outsiders doing the searches, the fact is if they are clicking on the anti-administration items to check out the opposition, they will continue to see those types of stories, period.

Consider now the general population and maybe as an example someone prone to conspiracies. I was fooled one day by a clever headline and found myself reading an item that was clearly leading down a conspiracy rabbit hole. And of course I immediately started seeing more headlines from the same and similar sources. I noted the actual sources and learned to stay away from them, regardless of headline.

They eventually went away, but to a believer, his or her news results will feature nothing but conspiracies, and they will be left to wonder why no one else around them sees the world the same way! One click leads to another and another and into a very, very dark box.

Maybe the end result of meetings with lawmakers will be algorithm changes that will open the boxes or at least make sure they don’t close up around people, but I doubt anyone in Washington will know enough to move the needle in this way at all.

Now for the advertising punch line. I recently met a young man who worked for the advertising division of a major tech company, and I thought at last, I can talk directly to an advertiser. Unfortunately that was not the case, because his group’s only job was not to find places to advertise, but in fact to monitor their ads to ensure that they didn’t end up on sites they don’t want – porn site, extremist sites, etc.

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Now think about that for a minute. A group working for a major tech company dedicated not to finding good places to advertise – that’s taken care of by middle men – but in fact to monitor where their ads end up!

I won’t name the company but their initials are IBM!

OK, I named them, but does that whole thing seem just a little counterproductive? How about supporting publishers out there who are working their butts off in related fields and buying ad space directly. And save some real dough.

And for the record, DashboardSymbols.com is not a good fit for IBM, so we get away with being direct with them.

But if any transportation related companies are out there, please get in touch.

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