Should We Ban Targeted Advertising?

· Andrew Orr · Link

Gilad Edelman asks an important question at Wired: Why don’t we just ban targeted advertising?

The solution to our privacy problems, suggested Hansson, was actually quite simple. If companies couldn’t use our data to target ads, they would have no reason to gobble it up in the first place, and no opportunity to do mischief with it later. From that fact flowed a straightforward fix: “Ban the right of companies to use personal data for advertising targeting.”

Instead of, or in addition to, banning or restricting targeted advertising, I think we should go a step further and restrict data collection, which is what these companies use for these ads in the first place. When any startup without a track record can enter the business of collecting and selling our personal information, that’s a problem.

Google: “We Don’t Sell Your Data, We Just Monetize It”

· Andrew Orr · Link

One way to avoid the California Consumer Privacy Act is to claim that you don’t sell data. This is what Google has seemingly done.

Google monetizes what it observes about people in two major ways: It uses data to build individual profiles with demographics and interests, then lets advertisers target groups of people based on those traits. It shares data with advertisers directly and asks them to bid on individual ads.

As I tweeted yesterday, there is no difference between selling “access” to data and selling data “directly.” In both scenarios, people are products for advertisers. Although I’m sure lawsuits have been won and lost on lesser technicalities.

Apple Shares Anime ‘Behind The Mac’ Video on YouTube

· Andrew Orr · Cool Stuff Found

Apple’s Japan channel on YouTube recently shared a “Behind The Mac” video in anime style artwork. It features music by Yoshiho Nakamura “I am the main character” as well as characters from various anime shows. Each character is shown in different situations and they all use MacBooks.

When You Download Facebook Data, it Doesn’t Show Everything

· Andrew Orr · Link

Facebook isn’t being completely truthful about the data available in its “Download Your Information” feature. Some information is left out.

Privacy International recently tested the feature to download all ‘Ads and Business’ related information (You can accessed it by Clicking on Settings > Your Facebook Information > Download Your Information). This is meant to tell users which advertisers have been targeting them with ads and under which circumstances. We found that information provided is less than accurate. To put it simply, this tool is not what Facebook claims. The list of advertisers is incomplete and changes over time.

As Privacy International points out, this is in violation of GDPR because Facebook doesn’t let you see all of the advertisers that have your data.

Apple Leverages iOS for Advertising You Can’t Block

· Andrew Orr · Link

Tumblr software engineer Steve Streza makes the case that iOS is adware for all of Apple’s services.

iOS 13 has an abundance of ads from Apple marketing Apple services, from the moment you set it up and all throughout the experience. These ads cannot be hidden through the iOS content blocker extension system. Some can be dismissed or hidden, but most cannot, and are purposefully designed into core apps like Music and the App Store. There’s a term to describe software that has lots of unremovable ads: adware, which what iOS has sadly become.

This particularly annoys me with Apple News, where roughly half the space is dedicated to showing me News+ content, even though I don’t subscribe. On iOS you can swipe to “See Less Often” but you can’t do this on iPad.

Location is One of The Big Factors in Advertising

· Andrew Orr · Link

Jennifer Jolly wrote an article wondering if Siri was spying on her because she began to see ads in Spanish after her husband began speaking Spanish at home, within “earshot” of her iPad. The answer is, of course, no. In her buried lede she tells us that she had just moved to a predominantly Spanish-speaking part of Oakland California. It seems reasonable to me that you would see Spanish ads in a Spanish area. Although I’m sure the device’s language is a factor. We did have news last year that contractors listened to some snippets of Siri recordings, but that was to improve the service and not sell ads. Meanwhile, if you turn on Limit Ad Tracking in Settings, your advertising identifier is zeroed. After that, location becomes one of the big factors in advertising.

And Apple says it engineers its devices to protect user privacy. When it comes to Siri, which is integrated in nearly every Apple device, the assistant is designed to activate only after the wake word (“Hey, Siri”) or a waking action is completed, Apple says.

New Apple Arcade Ad ‘A New World to Play In’

· Andrew Orr · Cool Stuff Found

Apple uploaded a new video ad for Apple Arcade on YouTube. Set to “Welcome to My World” by Dean Martin, it’s a fun video that highlights the universal nature of the gaming service: Play on any (Apple) device, at any time, in any place, and at your own pace. Here are the games shown in the video:

[0:05] Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm, by Cornfox and Bros. [0:13] Skate City, by Snowman [0:20] Little Orpheus, by Sumo Digital [0:29] WHAT THE GOLF, by Fun Plus | Triband [0:35] LEGO Brawls, by LEGO | Red Games Co. [0:45] Shinsekai: Into the Depths, by Capcom [0:50] Ultimate Rivals™: The Rink, by Bit Fry Game Studios, Inc.

Facebook Deeply Committed to Keep Lying Political Ads

· Andrew Orr · Link

Facebook remains committed to keep lying political ads on its platform, saying that private companies shouldn’t make decisions about them.

Instead of banning such ads across the platform, Facebook has opted to introduce new tools for users to limit the way they interact with political ads. The company has expanded its Ad Library tool, an archive which shows all the political ads running on Facebook or Instagram, by adding information on approximately how many people ads reach.

Why would Facebook ban its source of income?

Safari Users are Less Valuable to Advertisers

· Andrew Orr · News

A report suggests that Safari users are less valuable to advertisers due to the browser’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention technology.

Apple’s Newest Holiday Video Will Make You Cry

· Andrew Orr · Cool Stuff Found

Apple’s newest holiday video is a real tearjerker. A family goes to grandpa’s house for the holidays, and during the trip the parents give the kids an iPad as a way to keep them occupied. When they get to grandpa’s house, it’s a somber atmosphere. We learn that grandma is no longer with them, but the two girls make something special with the iPad as a present. The song is Married Life by Michael Giacchino, from the Up movie.

Facebook is Fine With Political Lies But Bans Pro-Vaccination Ads

· Andrew Orr · Link

Facebook is happy to let politicians lie in advertisements on the platform, but it bans pro-vaccination ads that are rooted in science.

The study, published today in the journal Vaccine…found that a small group of “well-connected, powerful people” promoting broad anti-vaccination messages had successfully leveraged the platform’s targeted advertising service to reach select audiences…Meanwhile, those behind pro-vaccine messages well far less well funded and centralised, with their advertising often focusing on inoculating against specific conditions.

Privacytools.io Delists Startpage Over System1

· Andrew Orr · Link

Privacytools.io delists Startpage from its list of privacy tools and services. Startpage had been taken over by Privacy One Group, which itself is owned by System1. System1 is a targeted advertising company with a business model that seemed—to many—to be in conflict with Startpage’s own privacy-centric model.

Because of the conflicting business model and the unusual way the company reacted, claiming to be fully transparent but being evasive at the same time, we have no choice but to de-list Startpage from our recommendations until it is fully transparent about its new ownership and data processing. Remaining questions include…

If Your YouTube Account Isn’t ‘Commercially Viable’ Google Will Delete It

· Andrew Orr · Link

According to YouTube’s new terms of service, your YouTube account can be terminated if it isn’t commercially viable enough. The phrasing is broad enough that some people think this means Google will take action against people using adblockers.

YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.

I’m personally not sure if that’s the case. You don’t need a Google account to watch YouTube, nor does Google need you to have an account for it to track you.

Facebook Profits on Manipulating Us, an Insider Reveals

· Andrew Orr · Link

Writing for The Washington Post, Yaël Eisenstat writes about paid political advertising at Facebook and how the company profits off of manipulation.

The “culture of fear,” nasty political campaigns and amplified extreme voices are not new in American society. But the scale to which these platforms have fueled and exacerbated this by using our emotional biases to keep our eyeballs on their screens, to vacuum up our data and sell their targeting tools to advertisers, has tilted the playing field toward the most salacious and fanatical voices.

Twitter Leapfrogs Over Facebook and Bans Political Ads

· Andrew Orr · Link

I’m actually impressed with Twitter’s move. A corporation is willingly giving up the money it would make from political ads (Although it’s easy for them since these ads were a “small fraction of Twitter’s revenue). Still, kudos.

[Twitter CEO Jack] Dorsey touched on the conflict between hosting paid political ads and trying to fight the spread of misinformation.

“For instance, it‘s not credible for us to say: ‘We’re working hard to stop people from gaming our systems to spread misleading info, buuut if someone pays us to target and force people to see their political ad…well…they can say whatever they want!'” Dorsey tweeted.

Arguing That Platforms Can't Moderate Content is a Cop Out

· Andrew Orr · Link

Mike Masnick writes about Elizabeth Warren’s Facebook feud over its advertising policy that leaves room for fake information. He also says it’s “impossible” to moderate content at scale. I disagree. Facebook and the rest of Big Tech have billions of dollars. They absolutely can moderate content. They either choose not to, or put in place petty measures that don’t do anything. Perhaps the new motto for corporations should be, “If you can’t do it ethically, don’t do it at all.” Online platforms should follow the same/similar rules that broadcasters do.

And this is the point that lots of us have been trying to make regarding Facebook and content moderation. If you’re screaming about all the wrong choices you think it makes to leave stuff up, recognize that you’re also going to pretty pissed off when the company also decides to take stuff down that you think should be left up.

Facebook Claims it can Protect Elections But Lets Politicians Lie

· Andrew Orr · Link

Facebook announced new features today that it claims can stop 2020 election interference. However, its advertising policy lets politicians lie and gladly pockets the money it gets from allowing it.

One new feature is called Facebook Protect. By hijacking accounts of political candidates or their campaign staff, bad actors can steal sensitive information, expose secrets, and spread disinformation. So to safeguard these vulnerable users, Facebook is launching a new program with extra security they can opt into.

Mark Zuckerberg on letting politicians lie in Facebook ads: “I don’t think people want to live in a world where you can only say things that tech companies decide are 100 percent true. And I think that those tensions are something we have to live with.”

Oops! Twitter Accidentally Used Your Phone Number for Ads

· Andrew Orr · Link

Twitter admitted yesterday that it “unintentionally” used some email addresses and phone numbers for advertising purposes. These phone numbers were specifically used to keep your account safe with two-factor authentication.

We recently discovered that when you provided an email address or phone number for safety or security purposes (for example, two-factor authentication) this data may have inadvertently been used for advertising purposes, specifically in our Tailored Audiences and Partner Audiences advertising system.

This is exactly why SMS-based two-factor authentication needs to go away. SMS is inherently insecure, as the FBI recently noted. Funnily enough, I recently removed my phone number from Twitter, although it’s probably too late.