Jun 19, 2015

Every step you take: how advertisers are monitoring your every move

Big tech companies know exactly where you are, what you buy, where you live, who your friends are and what you do. And they are going to try to exploit that information to sell you something.

Stilgherrian — Technology writer and broadcaster


Technology writer and broadcaster

In a week when we've learned that the Australian government is spending taxpayers' money on pseudo-science, based on little more than half a dozen feelpinions and talkback radio, it's worth remembering that some of the planet's best and brightest are focused not on a mission to Mars or a cure for cancer, but on targeting advertising at you. If you thought those ads that follow you around the web were creepy, well, you ain't seen nothing yet. Advertising platforms -- sorry, social networking and media platforms -- like Facebook and Twitter aren't just collecting the data you give them. They're also buying it in from data brokers such as Acxiom and Datalogix, which in turn have gathered it from banks and credit card companies, loyalty schemes, competition entry forms, surveys that are "just for research purposes" -- anywhere they can legally get hold of it.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

9 thoughts on “Every step you take: how advertisers are monitoring your every move

  1. Gary

    “..And thanks to your smartphone, they know where you are. Even if you don’t use the GPS , your wi-fi and Bluetooth transmitters have unique IDs, which can be cross-matched back to your phone number and email address…”

    Not so fast!
    iPhone (and iPad) in iOS8 have had randomised MAC addresses to prevent exactly this.
    over 80% of iOS devices have updated to the new operating system.

    Free wi-fi is dangerous not only to privacy, but any transaction is available unencrypted.
    Banking over wifi is not to be recommended.

    Bluetooth beacons will be next, some are trojans to ‘mine’ data from consumers..the simplest response is to switch to flight mode once in those ‘nag’ retailers..again iOS is limited to twenty approved UUID beacon is unlimited and can ‘see’ every beacon in range..perhaps 150 metres

    this will be both annoying and susceptible to even more privacy abuses.

  2. crikey david

    While I like the issues that the article highlights the conclusions are provably wrong.

    This relentless tracking is happening, Hypponen says, because today, more than 20 years after the creation of the web, there’s still no simple, integrated way for us to pay for content.

    There are numerous technical solutions to this problem however they all fail due to social factors. When prompted “Pay 3 cents to read this article” most people will say no. Not because the price is excessive, rather the cost of making the decision is too high and they decide it isn’t worth it.

    Targeted advertising similarly fails from the implementors not taking into account social factors. Once you target too well people find it creepy and it turns them off the product and brand.

    Even if a 10% of people in the bread isle receiving an sms reminding them to buy vegemite are slightly distressed by the message the damage to kraft will far outweigh the increased sales.

  3. Bill Parker

    Scary but maybe not so scary.

    No Coles or Woolies cards. Or any other electronic stuff in stores.

    Never use “free Wifi” anywhere.

    Do not do “surveys” and get freebies from stores(or any other incentives).

    Have the randomized MAC address in my phone.(Blue tooth off)

    Occasionally use Google Scholar, but have ad blocking set-up on my browser.

    Might just go back to Duck Duck to minimize the crap the comes with Bing (except the daily pics are good)

    And I certainly do not read what Rupert wants me to know. Especially if I have to pay for it.

    Oh, and never watch commercial TV.

    Isolated? Uninformed? No way.

  4. Norman Hanscombe

    So for Crikey it’s pseudo-science simply because you don’t want it investigated? Oops! Of course it is for the Crikey Collective.
    And tracking people’s spending to be able to encourage them to spend more is happening? Who’d have guessed.

  5. danger_monkey

    No Norman, it’s pseudo-science because a) there have been a number of peer-reviewed studies (and meta-studies) that have been unable to find any significant evidence of any health effect and b) the parties asking for more research have rejected NHMRC as not being ‘independent’ researchers, which looks more like shopping for a friendlier researcher than any interest in science.

    Somewhere in you there is a kernel of intelligence, but I’ll be damned if I can see it through all of the reflexive contrarian behavior.

  6. danger_monkey

    Not so fast! iPhone (and iPad) in iOS8 have had randomised MAC addresses to prevent exactly this. over 80% of iOS devices have updated to the new operating system.

    It appears that the performance of this feature isn’t as straightforward as might be hoped. I think a fair assessment would be to say ‘iOS devices may use locally significant MAC addresses while interacting with wi-fi networks’.

  7. Norman Hanscombe

    monkey, you help remind me of how fortunate I was that senior academics with whom I worked and studied held different opinions from yours.
    Many thanks.

  8. Venise Alstergren

    …In which case-and I’m not doubting it for a second-the big Ad companies would know how we vote. Think of savings for the taxpayer. No more polls, no more election run-ups, no more political parties trying to buy our vote, no more faux PR stories, no more expensive printed screeds stuffed into our mail boxes, etc., etc. No more bloody Rupert Murdoch telling people how to vote. Liberty!

  9. Norman Hanscombe

    Venise, you have a very fertile imagination, and a highly fertilised one at that.

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details