Empirical analysis of behavioral advertising finds that surveillance makes ads only 4% more profitable for media companies

In Online Tracking and Publishers’ Revenues: An Empirical Analysis, a trio of researchers from U Minnesota, UC Irvine and CMU report out their findings from a wide-ranging (millions of data-points) study of the additional revenues generated by behaviorally targeted ads (of the sort sold by Facebook and Google) versus traditional, content-based advertising (that is, advertising a piano to you because I spied on you when you searched for pianos yesterday, versus showing you an ad about pianos next to an article about pianos). Read the rest

AT&T's dystopian advertising vision perfectly illustrates the relationship between surveillance and monopoly

AT&T has come a long way from the supernormative, feel-good messages of its You Will ads; now CEO Randall Stephenson predicts a future where his company will dynamically alter your TV ads based on what it thinks you will buy; and chase you with that ad from your TV to your computer to your phone, and then spy on your location to see whether you go to a retailer to buy the thing you've had advertised to you; and use that intelligence to command high advertising rates from advertisers. Read the rest

Exclusive: "More Data": Negativland's video short about data privacy and surveillance

[I've been in love with Negativland since their legendary copyright battle with U2 and they've been a part of Boing Boing since 2001; it's a pleasure beyond words to be able to debut More Data, their characteristically trenchant video about data privacy and surveillance; see below for notes from Negativland. -Cory] Read the rest

Stop & Shop strike convinces 75% of loyal customers to take business elsewhere

Northeastern grocery chain Stop & Shop has been goosing its profits at its workers' expense, increasing their healthcare costs, reducing company pension contributions, and reducing holiday and Sunday overtime pay; the United Food & Commercial Workers, who organize the Stop & Shop employees called for a strike nearly two weeks ago, and since then, 31,000 workers from 240 stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have been off the job. Read the rest

The Antitrust Case Against Facebook: a turning point in the debate over Big Tech and monopoly

In 2017, a 28-year-old law student named Lina Kahn turned the antitrust world on its ear with her Yale Law Review paper, Amazon's Antitrust Paradox, which showed how Ronald Reagan's antitrust policies, inspired by ideological extremists at the University of Chicago's economics department, had created a space for abusive monopolists who could crush innovation, workers' rights, and competition without ever falling afoul of orthodox antitrust law. Read the rest

Canadian Civil Liberties Association sues Toronto, Ontario, and Canada over the plan for a Google Sidewalk Labs "smart city" in Toronto

Sidewalk Labs is the division of Alphabet/Google that builds "smart city" technology; their most ambitious project to date is a massive privatised city-within-a-city planned for Toronto's lakeshore -- a project that received secretly approval to be much larger than was announced, a fact that Sidewalk lied about. Read the rest

Illinois almost passed a bill that banned devices that record you without your consent -- and then Big Tech stepped in

This week, Keep Internet Devices Safe Act was gutted by the Illinois senate: it would have allowed people sue manufacturers if they determined that a device had engaged in remote recording without notifying its owner. Read the rest

Amazon stores recordings of Alexa interactions and turns them over to internal staff and outside contractors for review

Bloomberg reporters learned that -- despite public pronouncements to the contrary -- Amazon has an "annotation team" of thousands of people all over the world, charged with reviewing recordings made by Alexa devices in the field, with both staffers and contractors listening to conversations that Alexa owners have had with and near their devices. Read the rest

Mobile apps built with Facebook's SDK secretly shovel mountains of personal information into the Zuckermouth

If you need to build an app quickly and easily, you might decide to use Facebook's SDK, which has lots of bells and whistles, including easy integration of Facebook ads in your app's UI. Read the rest

Amazon just bought mesh wifi company Eero. Oh, great.

We have an Eero system in our house; it does really good and reliable wifi distribution, including to my office in the garage. And it was nice to have a piece of home electronics that was neither from one of the great data-sucking companies like Google, nor from the control-freak companies like Apple -- and also not from a no-name white-label re-badger or a giant shitty telco switch company whose consumer products arm is an afterthought. Read the rest

New York City's new rideshare regs put Big Brother in backseat, give GPS tracking a whole new meaning

Whether you love them or hate them, rideshares like Uber and Lyft have become a daily part of life for millions of New Yorkers. These app-based services make it easy to pay for your ride, but while the privacy cost isn’t always as clear, it’s about to get a lot larger. These apps have tracked our movements since they launched, but as of this month, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) started tracking us too. Read the rest

Vast majority of Americans and Europeans believe ad-targeting and feed customization are immoral

An RSA survey of 6,000 US and EU adults found that only a minority (48%) believes there is any ethical way to use personal data (that figure rises to 60% when considering US respondents alone); 57% believe that data-breaches are the fault of companies for gathering and retaining data, not the hackers who release it; only 17% believe that ad customization is moral; and only 24% believe that newsfeed customization is moral. Read the rest

Amazon is using purchase data to sell targeted ads, which is creepy, but not because they've invented a mind-control ray

Amazon is building out its ad-targeting program to allow for ad-buys like "people near a physiotherapist's office who've bought a knee-brace," and reports that the ads are incredibly successful. Read the rest

American prisoners coerced or tricked into providing voice-prints for use in eternal, secret, unchecked surveillance

American prisoners are being forced -- on pain of losing access to the prison phone system -- to provide training data for a voice-print recognition algorithm that private contractors are building for biometric surveillance system that listens in on prisoners' calls. Read the rest

Facebook cancels its all-spying, secret "research" program, Apple cancels Facebook's developer account

Yesterday, Techcruch published a deeply reported account of Facebook's "Project Atlas,", a "research" app whose users were paid up to $20/month (plus affiliate fees) to install on Ios devices, which exploited third parties with access to Apple's developer program to install a man-in-the-middle certificate that allowed Facebook to harvest every conceivable kind of data from its users' Iphones and other Ios devices. Read the rest

Project Atlas: Facebook has been secretly paying Iphone users to install an all-surveilling "VPN" app

The "Facebook Research" VPN is an app that circumvents Apple's ban on certain kinds of surveillance by cloaking itself as a beta app and distributing through the Applause, Betabound and Utest services, rather than Apple's App Store: users get up to $20/month, plus referral fees, to run the app, which comes with a man-in-the-middle certificate that lets Facebook intercept "private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps – including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location tracking apps you may have installed." Read the rest

How Facebook tracks Android users, even those without Facebook accounts

Facebook provides a suite of turnkey app-building tools for Android that are widely used among the most popular Google Play apps, with billions of combined installs; naturally, these tools create incredibly data-hungry defaults in the apps that incorporate them, so that even before you do anything with an app, it has already snaffled up a titanic amount of data, tied it into your Google Ad ID (which is recycled by Facebook to join up data from different sources) and sent it to Facebook. Read the rest

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