It was during one of my internships a few summers ago I learned the dark side of tech. My company recruited one valuable early employee by directly targeting them with ads. They used every trick they were aware of to target this person: a well defined profile which included the general location of their house, their age, gender, and interests, as well as an impactful ad message that read “X, come join us!”.

The story on the victim’s side is as expected: they were constantly bombarded by these ads at each online step. They finally decided to join after considering the risk of leaving their then-job and after appreciating the amount of ingenuity that went into their recruitment. Did the gimmick take a lot of effort to set up? Not at all! It was so trivial that the company had a bank of similar, mesmerising stories.

The other one I can remember involved targeting the parents of a group of children whose school needed some donations. This campaign, too, proved highly effective. My manager at the time accused me of killing the internet by disallowing tracking cookies and using ad blockers. I might have believed them had they not killed ethics just before.