By extension, advertising is a form of psychology. Think about it. The goal of psychologists and advertisers alike is to study the way the human mind works and develop an understanding of human behavior. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the way marketers analyze vast amounts of complex information while introducing some troubling ethical concerns.
"Advertisers may soon know us better than we know ourselves. They'll understand more than just our demographics. They'll understand our most personal motivations and vulnerabilities. Worrisomely, the may elevate the art of persuasion to the science of behavior control." - Jason Jercinovic.
Trust is the key to successfully integrating AI into the field of advertising. As AI allows marketers to delve deeper into the psyche of their consumers than ever before. The above article also cites an excellent example of consumer targeting as a result of AI and moral obligations that go along with it. The example notes that most would agree that leveraging information acquired from AI to target a consumer interested in sports cars, but the ethical implications come in when additional information regarding the consumer is brought forth, such as, debt and a lack of impulse control.
Jercinovic states transparency "in which the consumer is more of a partner in his or her marketing rather than an unwitting target of it," is the ethical solution to this issue.
Daniel Newman, a contributor to The Huffington Post, also lists transparency as the key to ethically and efficiently integrating the usage of AI in the workplace.
In addition, Newman names "One Hundred Years of Artificial Intelligence" from Stanford as a framework for forming the basis of an ethical code regarding AI and highlights the need of two factors: oversight safeguards and standards for risk assessment.
However, AI does not come without risks. Facebook and Google are examples of AI can go wrong. The companies have recently been in the news for AI failures, such as racist ad message targeting and failure to pull down extremist content.
Another risk of the use of AI is that the information presented to a consumer could be too targeted, thus running the risk of creeping people out and therefore could lead to increased ad blocking and consumers increasing their computer privacy settings.
Returning to Jercinovic's take on the usage of AI, the entire article is incredibly fascinating and details what he feels are the appropriate steps that need to be taken as AI becomes more and more integrated into the field of advertising and he ends the article with a note for advertisers to understand and recognize the difference between what they can know, should know, and shouldn't know.
As of mid-2017, the first steps to creating a widespread, best practices guide have begun, with a committee of tech leaders gathering in August to discuss the ethics of AI usage. Hopefully the discussions will lead companies to make ethical decisions benefiting society as a whole.