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Joseph Turow gives a lecture on the negative side of customized advertising Credit: Aaron Campbell , Aaron Campbell

Joseph Turow thinks consumer power is dead.

The associate dean for undergraduate studies at the Annenberg School for Communication startled his audience at the Penn Bookstore last night, revealing the vulnerability of web surfing as he presented his new book, The Daily You.

Explaining how media tracks, organizes and exploits everyday activity on the internet and television, Turow said to the group, “We have a reintegration of marketing power.”

Advertising, publishing and media companies categorize and profile their users by documenting every website and television channel users visit and the time they spend on them.

Once their reputations are defined, media companies match specific advertisements most likely to appeal to each individual.

Turow said companies might use the information to assign airplane seats. Depending on the profile and what airlines think a user would prefer, reservation websites will present either an aisle or window seat to the user.

ELP student Allison Jia, who attended the talk for a class assignment, was completely shocked by Turow’s research. “I really got some interesting points, some new opinions that I never had,” she said.

This new media style is also reshaping the 2012 presidential campaign. Candidates are taking full advantage of profiling by micro-targeting, Turow said.

Depending on what a user’s profile is like, certain companies will label some users as “target waste.” For example, a Republican media company would not send any advertisements to a staunchly Democrat profile.

Turow shared that television and advertising companies are currently working on how to apply the media transformation to television. They are learning how to cheaply reroute commercials and even television characters based on viewers’ profiles.

In Europe, this media shift is being called a human rights violation, Turow said. While America is not quite there yet, he said the things happening now are “baby steps compared to what we will see in fifteen years.”

“We need to rethink privacy as discrimination.” Turow said, callomg for ground-level regulations education.

“As people who live in a society, we have to understand what is going on under the hood of some of the fundamental activities that are taking place,” he said.“Learn something about the business of the internet [so] you can decide how far you want to go in giving yourself over.”

“[The event made] me want to do more research, spread the word [and] get more active,” Temple student Bryan Yanez said.

But that wasn’t enough for Yanez to consider changing his current internet habits.

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