prying eyes code

Image credit: Markus Spiske

Ad-targeting: This is when, say, Facebook uses a combination of human discretion and automated processes to create an ad category corresponding to a particular subject (a process Facebook declines to describe). From there:

Facebook users then effectively sort themselves into the targeting category by liking and visiting certain pages on the social network and through other activities they engage in on the service. Facebook has said that liking a page is one signal among many that helps it place users into the categories that advertisers can target.

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Anonymising data: The process of making your location history anonymous by removing your name from the data record. Of course, “that is totally inadequate because you’re probably the only person who lives in your house and who works in your office, and it’s easy for any researcher or data scientist to look at a location trace and figure out who it belonged to”.

Automotive telematics: Allegedly benign beacon systems of tracking and monitoring vehicles that have been found to have astonishingly intrusive surveillance and commercial capabilities, i.e. data about where you are, where you’re going, how you’re feeling, what you’re saying, the details of your driving, and the conditions of your vehicle.

Beacons: These little devices are placed at various points around a store to track you. If you have an app on your phone that accepts that particular beacon, the beacon will send out a signal. Your phone will accept the beacon and send a message to a company to tell it who you are, exactly where you are within the range of the beacon, and perhaps send you a discount coupon based upon how valuable the company has determined you are.

Behavioural biometrics: Data relating to uniquely identifiable and measurable patterns in human behaviours, which can be used for security verification or tracking methods such as keystroke dynamics, gait analysis, voice ID, mouse use characteristics, signature analysis and cognitive biometrics.

Contact chaining: A technique used by Facebook. If two different people have your email address or phone number in their phones’ contact information, that indicates to Facebook that they could possibly know each other, too. It doesn’t even have to be an address or phone number that you personally told Facebook about.

Cookies: A small text file that a site saves to your web browser. Cookies make the personalisation of your web experiences possible as they help sites remember items in your shopping cart, your log-in name and your preferences. Other cookies may be placed in your browser by third-party advertising companies to help deliver the ads you see online. These “third-party cookies” may be used to “remember” parts of your online activities to deliver ads tailored to your interests. 

Dark patterns: Tricks used by websites and apps to make you buy or sign up for things you hadn’t meant to. Examples in the “Dark Patterns Hall of Shame” include Tumblr forcing users to untick 350+ boxes in order to prevent each individual ad company from using their data, Facebook using coercive boxes to get users into accepting facial recognition software, and American Express making it look like an email is essential for free wi-fi when it is not.

Face recognition: Biometric identity system where your face is identified and archived for surveillance, security and advertising purposes. The Australian government is going ham on this right now.

Geo-fencing: Location targeting software that allows organisations to trigger an action, from coupons, notifications, engagement features, security alerts, when a device enters a set location.

Grey market operator: Refers to goods that, while manufactured by or with the consent of the original brand owner, are sold outside of a brand owner’s approved distribution channels — which may or may not be perfectly legal.

Harvesting: Almost interchangeable with “scraping,” but generally relates to the superset of all data collection methods, whereas scraping is a specific method of harvesting.

I agree”: We hand over the right to track us, to profile us, to scan our email and chat content; to remove, edit, or share and sell our content without giving us a cut of the revenues. Facebook “likes” alone can reveal an individual’s gender, age, race, sexuality, political, and religious views.

IP address: An IP address (Internet Protocol address) is a unique identifier assigned to each connected device on a network. Allows marketers to build larger audiences from smaller audience segments by finding other people who also show similar behaviours as their core target customers. In theory, they will reflect similar characteristics to a benchmark set of characteristics from the original audience segment. 

Location History: Allows Google to track every move you make with an Android phone.

The “long click”: “Click an online ad to shop for a pair of shoes. Close the browser and like magic, the ad appears on your Facebook page when you open it, and follows you across the internet as you surf several days later.”

Networked privacy: “All the people who know you and who choose to share their contacts with Facebook are making it easier for Facebook to make connections you may not want it to make — say if you’re in a profession like law, medicine, social work, or even journalism, where you might not want to be connected to people you encounter at work, because of what it could reveal about them or you, or because you may not have had a friendly encounter with them.”

Probabilistic matching: “The study of millions of web users to determine who is likely to be the same person across devices. For example, Drawbridge, which specialises in matching users across devices, says it has linked 1.2 billion users across 3.6 billion devices — up from 1.5 billion devices just a year ago.”

Scraping: A technique in which computer programs extract data from other digital programs, such as social media websites or behavioural data.

Shadow profile: Non-user data collection systems by which companies such as Facebook target people who are not actually subscribed to that program, without their knowledge or permission.

Third-party data: “Consumer information collected and packaged by a vast ecosystem of companies. This information powers the advertising-driven model of the modern internet.”

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Peter Fray
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