Cullen Hoback’s interview to The Daily Beast on the AT&T/Time Warner merger
Meanwhile, filmmaker Cullen Hoback—whose 2013 documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply revealed how corporate monoliths like AT&T are collecting so much personal data on Americans that they’re essentially destroying any concept of privacy—predicted that CNN won’t escape the merger’s inevitable fallout.
“It’s mostly bullshit,” Hoback said about AT&T’s and Time Warner’s promise of CNN’s immunity from the impact of the merger. Instead, he argued, the journalistic outlet will likely become just another marketing tool to micro-target individual viewers with personally tailored advertising.
“They have every incentive in the world to increase how much they’re collecting data on their customers and all their online activities, and now they can target them better with the content they’re creating, and the movies that they’re making,” Hoback said. “Think about CNN. They could be tracking online response to the news feed that CNN is generating, and concluding, ‘It’s not hitting. Let’s fine-tune what we’re sending to the public on CNN.’”
Noting the behavior of Facebook and Google, which have publicly claimed to safeguard personal privacy while vacuuming up every molecule of potentially marketable data, including from private emails and messages, and selling it to advertisers, Hoback warned: “So you can’t trust these companies for what they say for squat. They’ll say something, and then they wait a couple of years, and then they completely pivot.”
Hoback added: “CNN will have their own sort of independent ability to do journalism. But if you’re a producer, maybe you’ll think it’s good to have real-time analytics tracking of AT&T customers online” to see what stories viewers like and rapidly react to that information. “That might not negatively influence their ability to do independent journalism, but it will change customers’ ability to have a private experience online.”