The readings for today address the way that the algorithms used by many of the free websites and services used can victimize individuals by forcing traumatic memories and experiences back on them. While the depth of how much the experiences mentioned in the articles hurts is not something most of us as readers can sympathize with it is easy to understand why people like that need a way to opt out. As a male I cannot even come close to how a stillborn child would feel. The closest I have come to experiencing part of that is that I am friends with two unmemorialized accounts of dead loved ones on Facebook. One belongs to a dear childhood friend that I see on certain anniversaries and the other is a friends deceased grandmother who’s living daughter uses her account to make posts and messages as if she were still alive. Seeing both of these things aren’t the result of ad algorithms but I will never want to willingly not see those posts despite the fact the former makes me tear up while the latter makes me incredibly frustrated as I want to remember them but can’t ever cut out anything of whatever’s left and unfollow them which is simple because I want to remember them.
In addition to the difference in level of the relationship shared by the mourning and lost individuals a key difference in why the algorithmic injustice is more frustrating is that I have only observed other people’s interactions and grieving process while the algorithm acts on the authors of today’s readings. My role is an observer looking back rather than a person who is literally having my personal life targeted for commercial gain.
I do recognize the injustice performed by the ad algorithms but I also understand that efficient tracking algorithms that predict wants and need are part of why we can use services for free so that the firm running it can operate. Both authors mentioned that there were ways to manually tell the algorithm you are not interested but is it possible that’s the best we can get? A pregnancy might have dozens of posts made about it over its duration but a serious complication would likely get one or none. If the program that tracks consumers is overly sensitive would it lose efficiency and therefore value?