Should We Ban Targeted Advertising?

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”

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.

This Safari Extension Can Clean Links With Trackers

A Safari extension called Clean Links can automatically remove tracking parameters from URLs. Blocked trackers include UTM by Google Analytics, FBCLID by Facebook, and others. It is a random app from GitHub outside of the App Store. I uploaded it to VirusTotal and it didn’t show anything weird. But the creator also makes the source code available.

To install Clean Links you can either download the latest prebuild extension from the releases tab, or you can clone the repository and build it yourself.

I also use a shortcut that can accomplish the same thing on iOS and iPadOS.

Australia Takes Facebook to Court Over Privacy Violations

Australia’s privacy regulator is taking Facebook to court over Cambridge Analytica. It could impose a fine of AUD$1.7 million (US$1.1 million) for every privacy violation.

“Facebook failed to take reasonable steps to protect those individuals’ personal information from unauthorised disclosure,” the Australian commissioner’s office said.

Big companies like Facebook need fines in the billions of dollars for them to start paying attention.

Utah is Now a Surveillance State Thanks to This Company

A surveillance company called Banjo has partnered with Utah state authorities to enable a dystopian panopticon.

The lofty goal of Banjo’s system is to alert law enforcement of crimes as they happen. It claims it does this while somehow stripping all personal data from the system, allowing it to help cops without putting anyone’s privacy at risk. As with other algorithmic crime systems, there is little public oversight or information about how, exactly, the system determines what is worth alerting cops to.