Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "For years, privacy advocates have raised concerns about the use of commercial tracking tools to identify and target consumers with advertisements. The online ad industry has said its practices are innocuous and benefit consumers by serving them ads that are more likely to be of interest to them. Now the Washington Post reports that the NSA secretly piggybacks on the tools that enable Internet advertisers to track consumers, using 'cookies' and location data to pinpoint targets for government hacking and to bolster surveillance. The agency uses a part of a Google-specific tracking mechanism known as the 'PREF' cookie to single out an individual's communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person's computer. 'On a macro level, "we need to track everyone everywhere for advertising" translates into "the government being able to track everyone everywhere,"' says Chris Hoofnagle. 'It's hard to avoid.' Documents reviewed by the Post indicate cookie information is among the data NSA can obtain with a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order. Google declined to comment for the article, but chief executive Larry Page joined the leaders of other technology companies earlier this week in calling for an end to bulk collection of user data and for new limits on court-approved surveillance requests."
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New submitter fierman writes "In a work to be presented at the Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (ISOC NDSS'14), INRIA researchers show the privacy risks of Real-Time Bidding (PDF) and High-Frequency Trading for selling advertisement spaces. Combining Real-Time Bidding and Cookie Matching, advertisers can significantly improve their tracking and profiling capabilities. Both technologies are already prevalent on the Web. The research discusses the value of users' private data (browsing history) retrieved directly from the advertisers, leveraging an exposed information leak in RTB systems. Advertisers will pay about $0.0005 to display a targeted ad to a single user, while at the same time acquiring information about them. The research also shows evidence of price variation with users' profiles, physical location, time of day and content of visited sites."
jfruh writes "Remember how social networks were going to transform the advertising industry because they'd tailor ads not to context or to your web browsing history, but to the innate preferences you express through interactions and relationships with friends? Well, that didn't work with Facebook, and it turns out it's not working with Twitter either. The microblogging site has announced that it's getting into the ad retargeting game: you'll soon start seeing promoted tweets that are chosen based on websites you've visited in the past. The innovation, if you can call it that, is that the retargeting will work across devices, so you can be looking at a website on your phone and see promoted tweets on your laptop's browser, or vice versa."
chicksdaddy writes "The Federal Trade Commission announced on Thursday that it settled with the maker of 'Brightest Flashlight Free,' a popular Android mobile application, over charges that the company used deceptive advertising to collect location and device information from Android owners. The FTC says the company failed to disclose wanton harvesting and sharing of customers' locations and mobile device identities with third parties. Brightest Flashlight Free, which allows Android owners to use their phone as a flashlight, is a top download from Google Play, the main Android marketplace. Statistics from the site indicate that it has been downloaded more than one million times with an overall rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. The application, which is available for free, displays mobile advertisements on the devices it is installed on. However, the device also harvested a wide range of data from Android phones which was shared with advertisers, including what the FTC describes as 'precise geolocation along with persistent device identifiers.' As part of the settlement with the FTC, Goldenshores is ordered to change its advertisements and in-app disclosures to make explicit any collection of geolocation information, how it is or may be used, the reason for collecting location information and which third parties that data is shared with."
Rambo Tribble writes "Reuters is reporting that the trend toward online shopping is reducing the sales of impulse-purchase items, most notably candy and snacks often displayed at the checkout counter. As even grocery shopping shifts online, junk food producers are feeling the squeeze. From the article: 'Anthony Hopper, chief executive of advertising agency Lowe Open, said brands need to change how people buy chocolate, but acknowledges that it won't be easy. "If you're somebody who on average buys one bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk on impulse once a week, can I encourage you that it's actually better value to buy a pack of four when you're doing your next online shop? It's a long-term strategy," he said.'"
mattydread23 writes "You may not think your business has much in common with the New York Times, but the newspaper is a perfect example of how to maintain investment in a large but declining legacy business while simultaneously investing in new areas that will drive future growth. Surprisingly, 10% of the paper's revenue now comes from digital subscriptions and other all-digital products (not including advertising)."
Last week, we mentioned that the GIMP project had elected to leave SourceForge as its host, citing SourceForge's advertising policies. SourceForge (which shares a parent company with Slashdot) has released a statement about those policies, addressing in particular both ads that are confusing in themselves and their revenue-sharing system called DevShare, based on the provision of third-party software along with users' downloads. Among other things, the SF team is appealing to users to help them find and block misleading ads, and has this to say about the additional downloads: "The DevShare program has been designed to be fully transparent. The installation flow has no deceptive steps, all offers are fully disclosed, and the clear option to completely decline the offer is always available. All uninstallation procedures are exhaustively documented, and all third party offers go through a comprehensive compliance process to make sure they are virus and malware free."
Frequent correspondent Bennett Haselton writes with a forward-looking response to a recent ruling that peer-to-peer network participants have little privacy interest in files stored on their computer and that they have made available via P2P. Writes Bennett: "A court rules that law enforcement did not improperly 'search' defendants' computers by downloading files that the computers were sharing via P2P software. This seems like a reasonable ruling, but such cases may become rare if P2P software evolves to the point where all downloads are routed anonymously through other users' computers." Read on for the rest.
recoiledsnake writes with news of Google tracking a bit more of your life. From the article: "Google is beta-testing a program that uses smartphone location data to determine when consumers visit stores, according to agency executives briefed on the program by Google employees. Google then connects these store visits to Google searches conducted on smartphones. If someone conducts a Google mobile search for 'screwdrivers,' for instance, a local hardware store could bid to have its store listing served to that user. By pairing that person's location data with its database of store listings, Google can see if the person who saw that ad subsequently visited the store.It is easiest for Google to conduct this passive location tracking on Android users, since Google has embedded location tracking into the software. Once Android users opt in to location services, Google starts collecting their location data as continuously as technologically possible."
itwbennett writes "Dan Tynan noticed something curious when he was reading a TechCrunch story (about Google's mystery barges, as it happens). There was a banner ad promoting careers at the NSA — and this was no ad-serving network fluke. Tynan visited the TechCrunch site on three different machines, and saw an NSA ad every time. In one version of the ad, a male voice says, 'There are activities that I've worked on that make, you know, front page headlines. And I can say, I know all about that, I had a hand in that. The things that happen here at NSA really have national and world ramifications.'"
TinTops writes "Tesco has sparked privacy concerns following its decision to install technology that scans shoppers' faces in order to display video advertising on screens at its petrol stations. The UK's privacy watchdog the ICO is looking into the technology. This is the first national rollout of the system, known as OptimEyes, which claims to recognize facial characteristics that determine a customer's gender and age in order to show more relevant video adverts on screens as they queue at the till. Simon Sugar, chief executive of Amscreen, the firm which sells the technology, has admitted it has connotations of science fiction, but is looking to increase its reach further. 'Yes, it's like something out of Minority Report, but this could change the face of British retail and our plans are to expand the screens into as many supermarkets as possible,' he said."
beerdragoon writes "One of Canada's biggest mobile and TV providers will soon begin collecting detailed information on usage patterns of its subscribers. Starting November 16th, Bell plans on using this information to provide targeted ads for subscribers. According to Bell this policy will allow customers 'to receive Internet advertising that's relevant to them rather than the random online advertising they're receiving now.' Customers have until the 16th to opt out of the targeted ads, but there doesn't appear to be a way to opt out of the data collection. Apparently this is not illegal, but it is certainly considered unethical by many."
cartechboy writes "Texas is known for having the nation's most draconian anti-Tesla rules, based on intense and cash-rich lobbying and political donations by Texas car dealers. What's amazing is what would-be Tesla owners still have to do to get their hands on--and maintain--a Tesla Model S. How do you buy a car the laws try to stop you from owning? By jumping through wacky hoops, it turns out. Tesla store staff, for example, can't tell visitors how much a Model S costs. They can't give test drives, and they can't discuss financing options. Tesla service centers are banned from showing the company logo — or advertising that they do Tesla warranty work or service at all. So how have 1,000 Model S cars been sold? That would be sheer persistence."
jfruh writes "Privacy blogger Dan Tynan couldn't help but notice the ads targeting his web browsing for a plus-sized women's clothing store, not least because he's neither a woman nor plus-sized. But trying to figure out why those ads kept popping up in his browser led to some disturbing discoveries. He had opted out of targeted Google ads, and at first glance the ads seemed to come from Google — but digging deeper, he found that Google's DoubleClick was only the intermediary, which meant his opt-out didn't apply. And his opt-outs from other ad services seemed to have vanished."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Google's core search-advertising business is slowing down (despite an uptick in revenue and earnings for the most recent quarter) and a new report suggests that advertising ROI is much higher on iOS than Android. In light of that, it's worth asking whether Google, having dominated much of the mobile-device market with Android, will ever get around to more aggressively monetizing its mobile operating system, and what that could mean to the manufacturers that have been loading the software for free onto their hardware. If Google started charging licensing fees to manufacturers, and attempted to clamp down so that Google Play served as the only hub for Android apps (something that would definitely put it on a collision course with Amazon, which boasts its own Android app store), would it be shooting itself in the foot? Or would the rest of the ecosystem respond in a muted way, considering the sheer size of Google's power and presence?"
cagraham writes "Snack company Mondelez International (maker of Oreos, Trident, Cadbury eggs) will introduce so-called 'smart shelves' into store checkout aisles beginning 2015. The shelves will use Microsoft's Kinect software, in addition to other tech, to identify shoppers age and sex, and will then use that info to deliver demographically tailored advertisements. The shelves will be able to track engagement, monitor how long customer's watch each ad, and offer discounts if a customer is considering a purchase (weight sensors will tell the machine if you pick up a product). Mondelez says the software will only use and collect aggregate data, and will not record any video or photos."
An anonymous reader writes "Google [on Friday] announced an upcoming change to its terms of service that will let the company add users' names and photos to certain parts of its advertising as of November 11. Make no mistake: this is a direct attack against Facebook. One of the few advantages of Google+ is that it features no ads. To be perfectly clear, Google isn't changing that. Google+ will still have a clean interface, at least for the foreseeable future. Instead, Google is tying Google+ into yet another one of its properties, and arguably its most important one: Google Ads."
The intro for yesterday's video interview with Don Marti started out by saying, "Don Marti," says Wikipedia, "is a writer and advocate for free and open source software, writing for LinuxWorld and Linux Today." As we noted, Don has moved on since that description was written. In today's interview he starts by talking about some things venture capitalist Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins has said, notably that people only spend 6% of their media-intake time with print, but advertisers spend 23% of their budgets on print ads. To find out why this is, you might want to read a piece Don wrote titled Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful. Or you can just watch today's video -- and if you didn't catch Part One of our video conversation yesterday, you might want to check it out before watching Part 2.
"Don Marti, says Wikipedia, "is a writer and advocate for free and open source software, writing for LinuxWorld and Linux Today." This is an obsolete description. Don has moved on and broadened his scope. He still thinks, he still writes, and what he writes is still worth reading even if it's not necessarily about Linux or Free Software. For instance, he wrote a piece titled Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful, and has written lots more at zgp.org that might interest you. But even just sticking to the ad biz, Don has had enough to say recently that we ended up breaking this video conversation into two parts, with one running today and the other one running tomorrow.
Zott writes "The Boston Globe has a front-page story about Verizon's FiOS that recounts what many of us here in Boston and some surrounding urban areas know already: Verizon won't invest in the physical plant and actually offer the fiber optic Internet and TV service here in the 'hub of the universe.' This hasn't stopped Verizon from launching a new advertising campaign with Donnie Wahlberg (member of New Kids on the Block, actor, and well-known Boston native) standing in Copley Square and the Charlestown neighborhood touting the product. It goes even further, though — according to the Globe's article, '"This is New England, where people tell it straight," says Wahlberg... "No phonies, no fakers, no shortcuts."' Except for the shortcut in the fine print that's presumably in the ad somewhere: 'FiOS not available in all areas.'"