Interview with a bastard

January 31, 2009 / Sherri Davidoff talks to a spammer about life on the job and the desire to view advertising as “information.”

Sherri Davidoff recently published an enthralling conversation with adware developer Matt Knox, who worked for Direct Revenue. His job was to disable viruses that were bringing down machines their software was installed on, as well as to remove competing products. If I understand this right, an average machine running Knox’s software would end up with fewer viruses and adware.

It’s a great interview, mixing technical details with broader sociological questions, but one thing strikes me as odd: for someone so intimate with the technology of manipulation, Knox’s take on what constitutes advertising is surprisingly unreflexive:

To the extent that advertising is beautifully targeted, it ceases to become advertising is now more informational. The most encouraging example of this is Gmail. I see nothing but Ruby on Rails developer jobs and Scheme developer jobs on Gmail.

It ceases to appear as advertising. It’s still advertising. It’s goal is to shape behaviour by converting an impression into a sale. Whether a person is interested in the product or service doesn’t change that fundamental relation. That so many people tend to think of well-targeted advertising as “just” information is a source of endless fascination to me.

† Via Bruce Schneier.

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