The New York Times published an article recently outlining how Google ads can be used to influence and “socially engineer” users.
In an article titled “I Used Google Ads for Social Engineering. It Worked,” Patrick Berlinquette the founder of the search engine marketing consulting firm Berlin SEM outlines how online advertising can be used to influence users citing a tactic known as the “redirect method.”
Three out of four smartphone owners turn to Google first to address their immediate needs. As a result, Google marketers like me survive by exploiting impatience and impulsiveness. We must be there to serve you an ad in your “micromoment” — the second you use your phone to alleviate the discomfort of not having something now.
You have micromoments about 150 times per day. Mobile device users will see ads during most of them. A helpful ad on Google will match your keywords with a relevant landing page. But some ads provide countermessaging or alternative destinations that go against your search words. These are called “redirect ads.”
Berlinquette notes that although his ad campaign had good intentions, it demonstrated to him that Google really isn’t paying attention to what advertisers are doing.
Google let me run the ads with no issue. It didn’t seem to care what the language on my website was, or what phone number I directed people to. There was no vetting process to become a redirector. I didn’t need qualifications to be a conduit of peoples’ fates. I expected the ads to get rejected, but they were not.
For every search conducted by an American who wanted to kill, I saw the exact words he or she typed into Google before clicking my ad. And anyone who runs campaigns using the blueprint will have access to the same. It is a one-way mirror into the American psyche.
Berlinquette claims that using the method specifically outlined by Google, anyone could create an ad campaign which could influence peoples beliefs on a particular subject.
Patrick Berlinquette writes about the dark side of marketing on Medium.
Read the full article in the New York Times here.