As an industry, advertising has long been obsessed with understanding human behavior. The ability of artificial intelligence (AI) systems to transform vast amounts of complex, ambiguous information into insight is driving personal analysis into market behavior. There are nearly 2 billion Facebook users globally. About 200 billion tweets are shared on Twitter every year. Google processes 40,000+ searches every second. We can now assess the entirety of an individual's social activity: every word, every picture, every emoji.
Add to that location-based data from mobile phones, transactional data from credit cards and adjacent data sets like news and weather. When machine learning and advanced algorithms are applied to these oceans of digital information, we can intimately understand the motivations of almost every consumer.
These are undeniably powerful tools, and no one can blame the advertising industry for rapidly adopting them.
But AI also introduces troubling ethical considerations. Advertisers may soon know us better than we know ourselves. They'll understand more than just our demographics. They'll understand our most personal motivations and vulnerabilities. Worrisomely, they may elevate the art of persuasion to the science of behavior control.
Aside from these fears, there are more practical considerations around the use of AI in advertising: inherently biased data, algorithms that make flawed decisions and violations of personal privacy.