Digital devices, advancements in software programs, systems, and services, all this technology is created out of perceived human needs and to provide simplicity and ease to our lives. However, when money is involved, the line between providing for society and profiting from it isn’t blurred but wholly erased.

For example, the leaked Facebook memo that shared its practice of collecting and selling data for advertisers to target “teens’ feelings of “worthlessness” and “insecurity,” among other emotions.” This practice is particularly troublesome since Facebook and Instagram are blamed by many for causing these feelings.

Amazon’s privacy policy states that they are not in the business of selling customers’ information to others. Ultimately, it has gotten around this by creating new companies in almost every commercial industry. Additionally, suppose you read closely, which nearly no one does. In that case, the privacy policy goes on to state; “we provide ad companies with information that allows them to serve you with more useful and relevant Amazon ads and to measure their effectiveness and, some ad companies also use this information to serve you relevant ads from other advertisers.”

This information contradicts its original claim. We know from Amazon Knows What You Buy. And It’s Building a Big Ad Business From It (Weise, 2019) that Amazon’s initial claim is false. While many expect this type of behavior from Amazon, other corporations may harm its reputation by behaving in ways that contrast brand image. For example, Target’s mission statement would not be as appealing to shoppers if it also included “tirelessly working to trick new parents when they are at their most vulnerable into addictive shopping behaviors.”

As engineers develop research tools with increased capabilities to track and collect data, brands will benefit from the certainty of data reliability, and traditional methods of research that depend on participants providing honest responses will become obsolete. Organizations like Amazon, Facebook, and Target continue to profit off our busy lifestyles and society’s self-constructed need to ‘do it all’.

Situations comparable to creating and then targeting depressed teens and blatantly deceiving customers through false claims made in privacy policies will continue to increase indefinitely because society has decided that the tradeoff is worth it. Parents of depressed teens ball up their fists and shake them in rage at the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. Then they make an order of Kleenex and red wine using Prime two-day delivery.

Addicted by ill intent or complacent, most of us are adults. Logically we know the cycle is destructive. We also resigned in the knowledge that we would do nothing to stop it. To poignantly sum up this issue, developing intelligent, emotional AI is not possible without emotionally intelligent people doing the development. Let that sink in.