The Dark Side of Targeted Advertising

Is my phone listening to me? We’ve all been there: you have a conversation with a friend about a product or service, and within a day or two, you see an ad for that very thing on your favorite social media platform. It’s more than spooky; it feels intrusive, as if your phone has a direct connection to the thoughts in your head. No, it’s not technological espionage- it’s hyper-targeted advertising evolving to be surveillance-based advertising. Every time we go online or scroll through social media on our phones, we leave behind bits of data, like breadcrumbs, for Data Miners. Websites track our movements via cookies and tracking pixels. Companies pay big bucks for your personal profile that was structured from those breadcrumbs and then target you with specific advertising. In this episode, Manal al-Sharif and Reinhardt Sosin discuss the multi-billion dollar targeted advertising ecosystem, how it directly impacts your mental health and privacy, and how you can fight back against the digital dictatorship. Welcome to Episode One of the Tech4Evil Podcast where you find out what big tech doesn’t want you to know.

1:53 – Welcome

2:27 – What is surveillance-based advertising?

9:50 – How does surveillance-based advertising work?

20:57 – The Norwegian Consumer Council Report

30:13 – How big is the digital advertising industry?

33:21 – The history of digital advertising

36:12 – What are the impacts of the surveillance-based advertising model?

52:30 – What are the alternatives?

54:47 – How can we fight back?

55:57 – A call to action

57:57 – Your Crash Course in Digital Self Defence

01:02:19 – Spot the Evil (#evilspotter)


We want to hear from you. Tune in, and tell us what you think. Email us at contact@tech4evil.com. Follow us on Twitter: @tech4evil. And if you've spotted Big Tech going too far, use the hashtag #EvilSpotter and mention @Tech4Evil and share your story.

Music and media production by Reinhardt Sosin. Research and content by Manal al-Sharif.

Sources for this episode include “Don’t Be Evil” book by Rana Foroohar, “Surveillance Capitalism” by Prof Shoshana Zuboff, “Zucked” book by Roger McNamee, “Time to Ban Surveillance-Based Advertising” by the Norwegian Consumer Council, Newsweek article “Secretive World Selling Data About You” by Paul Boutin 2016,  The Atlantic article “Why Technology Favors Tyranny” by Yuval Noah Harari and many more sources mentioned in the blog post of this episode.

1 comment on “The Dark Side of Targeted Advertising

  1. Seb says:

    The scariest part of our consumer advertising, attention-based economy, is the psychological roots of marketing being cut from the same DNA as PR and political propaganda. These have historically been used to manipulate entire populations into unforgettable acts of brutality or unconscionable acts of environmental apathy or vandalism. Now those who profit from this type of manipulation have their “users” as you say, on this poker machine, social media drip. Fucken yikes, man.

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