Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do

Chapter 9: The Ethics of Persuasive Technology


An advertising agency creates a Web site that lets children play games online with virtual characters. To progress, kids must answer questions [1]

such as, What is your favorite TV show? and How many bathrooms are in your house? [2] Kids provide these answers quickly in their quest to continue playing. [3]

Kim s portable device helps her choose affordable products made by companies with good environmental records. In advising Kimon buying a new printer, the system suggests a more expensive product than she wanted. It shows how the company has a much better environmental record. Kim buys the recommended printer. The system fails to point out that the printer she bought will probably break down more often.

Julie has been growing her retirement fund for almost 20 years. To optimize her investment strategy, she signs up for a Web-based service that reportedly can give her individualized expert advice. Using dramatic visual simulations and citing expert opinion, the system persuades Julie to invest more in the stock market and strongly recommends a particular stock. Two months later, the stock drops dramatically and Julie loses much of her hard-earned retirement money. Although the system has information about risk, the information isn t prominently displayed. Nor is the fact that the site is operated by a company with a major financial investment in the company issuing the stock.

Mark is finally getting back into shape. At the gym he s using a computerized fitness system that outlines his training routines, monitors...


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