Behavioral Targeting…Yuck!

Topic(s): Uncategorized

Topic: Organizational Justice
Publication: Business Week
Article: Interactional justice: Communication criteria of fairness.
Blogger: James Grand

Business Week (September 8, 2008) reported that campaign managers from the McCain and Obama camps used a new advertising technique conspicuously termed “behavioral targeting” (how did that make it through PR?) in order to reach specific demographic sectors of the voting populace. With help from tech giants Yahoo! and Microsoft, behavioral targeting uncovers your interests and concerns by quietly tracking Web searches and pairing this data with  demographic information to build custom voter profiles.  From there, it gets pumped back to the  political camps and suddenly your favorite websites become playgrounds for presidential banner ads and campaign slogan pop-ups—with you none the wiser.

When dealing with any organization, individuals expect to be treated with a reasonable degree of trust and fairness. I/O psychologists refer to these as the rules of interpersonal justice (Bies & Moag, 1986): individuals expect organizations to be open about their actions, justified in their decisions, respectful towards their members, and free from prejudice in their relations.

When organizations break or significantly bend these rules for personal gain (like, say, covertly monitoring your personal life without your consent), attempts must be made to restore that sense of justice.

Without question, McCain and Obama will try to make their peace with the American people should behavioral targeting become a headline issue—but they should think long and hard regarding how to do so if they are to gain back the good graces of the American people.

Green, H. (2008, September 8). Turning clicks into votes. Business Week. pp. 22.