Home/Tag: privacy


The thinking goes like this. Google and Facebook, including their subsidiaries like Instagram and YouTube, make about 83 percent and 99 percent of their respective revenue from one thing: selling ads. It’s the same story with Twitter and other free sites and apps. More to the point, these companies are in the business of what’s called behavioral advertising, which allows companies to aim their marketing based on everything from users’ sexual orientations to their moods and menstrual cycles, as revealed by everything they do on their devices and every place they take them. It follows that most of the unsavory things the platforms do—boost inflammatory content, track our whereabouts, enable election manipulation, crush the news industry—stem from the goal of boosting ad revenues. Instead of trying to clean up all these messes one by one, the logic goes, why not just remove the underlying financial incentive? Targeting ads based on individual user data didn’t even really exist until the past decade. (Indeed, Google still makes many billions of dollars from ads tied to search terms, which aren’t user-specific.) What if companies simply weren’t allowed to do it anymore?

Gilad Edelman on much-needed reform.

2020-07-08T09:20:57+10:0010th August, 2020|Tags: advertising, privacy, tech|

Sell all the clicks.

The documents, from a subsidiary of the antivirus giant Avast called Jumpshot, shine new light on the secretive sale and supply chain of peoples’ internet browsing histories. They show that the Avast antivirus program installed on a person’s computer collects data, and that Jumpshot repackages it into various different products that are then sold to many of the largest companies in the world. Some past, present, and potential clients include Google, Yelp, Microsoft, McKinsey, Pepsi, Home Depot, Condé Nast, Intuit, and many others. Some clients paid millions of dollars for products that include a so-called “All Clicks Feed,” which can track user behavior, clicks, and movement across websites in highly precise detail.

Avast claims to have more than 435 million active users per month, and Jumpshot says it has data from 100 million devices. Avast collects data from users that opt-in and then provides that to Jumpshot, but multiple Avast users told Motherboard they were not aware Avast sold browsing data, raising questions about how informed that consent is.

Joseph Cox on shadow markets.

Remember: if you’re not paying, you’re (still) the product…

2020-10-21T10:44:08+11:0030th June, 2020|Tags: privacy, tech|


Regulating this system means addressing all three steps of the process. A ban on facial recognition won’t make any difference if, in response, surveillance systems switch to identifying people by smartphone MAC addresses. The problem is that we are being identified without our knowledge or consent, and society needs rules about when that is permissible.

Similarly, we need rules about how our data can be combined with other data, and then bought and sold without our knowledge or consent. The data broker industry is almost entirely unregulated; there’s only one law ­– passed in Vermont in 2018 ­– that requires data brokers to register and explain in broad terms what kind of data they collect. The large Internet surveillance companies like Facebook and Google collect dossiers on us are more detailed than those of any police state of the previous century. Reasonable laws would prevent the worst of their abuses.

Finally, we need better rules about when and how it is permissible for companies to discriminate. Discrimination based on protected characteristics like race and gender is already illegal, but those rules are ineffectual against the current technologies of surveillance and control. When people can be identified and their data correlated at a speed and scale previously unseen, we need new rules.

Bruce Schneier on ruling it out.

2020-03-03T08:18:15+11:0026th June, 2020|Tags: privacy|


Of course Giphy is going to retain its own brand. If they renamed it to “Facebook Tracking Pixels”, usage might drop off. Think about all the messaging apps that don’t offer Facebook integration for security/privacy reasons […] where Giphy images appear. You know, like Apple’s Messages. Well, now Facebook has tracking pixels in them.

John Gruber on acquisitions.

I know it’s kind of conceptually funny to think of Facebook getting smacked with antitrust lawsuits over, like, buying a website of dank memes… but this is the reason that it’s Big Srs, Actually.

2020-05-18T12:12:09+10:0018th May, 2020|Tags: privacy, social media, tech|

Our identifiers, ourselves.

Long look into surveillance capitalism.

The EFF calls this “corporate surveillance” but honestly I’d consider that to be something different (i.e. the surveilling of employees by their employers)…

2020-01-15T09:02:16+11:006th May, 2020|Tags: privacy, tech|


Larry Page’s efforts have made it trivial to find virtually anyone’s contact information, date of birth, siblings, and address, but effectively impossible to find his children’s names. Mark Zuckerberg wants to make everyone in the world closer, except his neighbours.

They’re fully aware of the problems they have played a part in creating, but the business models of the companies they started are dependent on everyone else not figuring that out.

Nick Heer on exit hatches.

The comment about Zuckerberg is, for those of you who missed it, because the dude bought out all his neighbors’ houses and demolished them to give his own residence more “privacy”…

(See also: Most tech company execs severely restrict their children’s access to laptops, phones, and so on, and definitely don’t allow them to do schooling like that. Often while simultaneously pushing massive one-laptop-per-child-style initiatives on everyone else’s children…)

2020-01-13T13:16:52+11:002nd May, 2020|Tags: privacy, tech|

Fliers in the foyer.

What if the entire internet was built on a multi-billion dollar commercial surveillance apparatus designed to deliver targeted advertising that had been repeatedly proven ineffective?

2020-01-07T11:01:13+11:0012th April, 2020|Tags: advertising, privacy, tech|

New normal.

Today in Obligatory COVID-19 Posting: What if things never go back to “normal”?

That article touches on it a little, but the number of people I’ve seen who suddenly seem okay with going Full Fashy over transmission prevention measures is just… maybe we can dial that back a little, hey. Like, we have to be really, really careful that we’re not implementing things that will hang around beyond the length of the epidemic. Social distancing and diligent hand-washing are not (for better or for worse) going to stick around as soon as people feel they can get away with not doing them. But setting up (or further enriching) a massive surveillance apparatus for the state and normalising it in the name of “public safety”? Yeah. Nah. Don’t even go there.

2020-05-12T08:39:14+10:0020th March, 2020|Tags: covid-19, privacy|
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