Thanks to the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, et al, humanity has come to realize that advertising is manipulative. In fact, pretty much everything you buy or use has some kind of business model designed to separate you from your money, and that means someone out there is trying to manipulate your actions.
Abbey Stemler came up with five rules to stop manipulative design.
Uber’s business model is incredibly simple: It’s a platform that facilitates exchanges between people. And Uber’s been incredibly successful at it, almost eliminating the transaction costs of doing business in everything from shuttling people around town to delivering food.
Except Uber hasn’t figured out how to make any money with that business model, but that’s a different issue for another time.
So, what’s the problem?
Businesses gather information about users and customers (they are not the same; to Google and Facebook, you’re a user, but to Apple you’re a customer) and then use that information to help control our actions.
Call it what you will. Manipulation. Persuasion. Whatever. Learning about customers and using that knowledge against them is a time honored method of commerce, politics, and religion.
If you use Uber–or perhaps even if you don’t–it knows a treasure trove of data about you, including your location, gender, spending history, contacts, phone battery level and even whether you’re on the way home from a one-night stand. It may soon know whether you’re drunk or not.
Yes, they do. So what?
As much as I’m a privacy hack I’ve also come to realize that these online behemoths are not as good as using data about users and customers as they think they are.
How else do you explain that when I buy an iPhone charger from Amazon then send me email every day with additional chargers on sale, as if I’m now collecting chargers.
One is enough, Amazon. Why don’t you know that?
Uber’s hardly alone. Our research shows the biggest digital platforms–Airbnb, Facebook, eBay and others–are collecting so much data on how we live, that they already have the capability to manipulate their users on a grand scale. They can predict behavior and influence our decisions on where to click, share and spend.
Yet Amazon couldn’t figure out I was not starting a charger collection. Hmmm.
I get the point, though. We are being manipulated by techo-gadget makers and search engine advertisers and social media platforms because we give them free reign over our once almost private information.
There is nothing new here.
While most platforms aren’t using all these capabilities yet, manipulation through behavioral psychology techniques can occur quietly and leave little trace.
Apple does this, too.
Have you opened an Apple package– anything; iPhone, Mac, iPad, AirPods, Apple TV, Apple Watch– the packaging just smacks of quality and luxury and that makes packages you get from Amazon feel positively third world (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Apple engages in manipulation, albeit it somewhat differently than Google and Facebook. The entire Apple ecosystem is designed to give you pleasure and stimulate a little dopamine release to make you feel good about using something you bought from Apple.
Is Apple’s approach to designing a product that we want to use a manipulative action against customers? If so, and if such actions are no different than Google or Facebook or Amazon’s actions and intentions, then we are doomed as a species because all of us gather information about each other and use it to persuade one another to do our bidding.