From my WIRED photoshoot (Photo: Bryan Derballa)

I had quite a year. In 2017, I decided to do something bureaucratic but consequential. In 2018, it mattered. In 2019, my story was told to millions.

Legally, the year began with Cambridge Analytica pleading guilty to the criminal offense of ignoring an official order to give me back all my data. This year ended with electoral scandal culminating with the gavel of presidential impeachment.

Theatrically, the year began with seeing myself for the first time onscreen at the Sundance Film Festival for The Great Hack premiere. The year ended with the film shortlisted for the best documentary Oscar award.

Why a British company has America’s voter data and how British law can help us get it back

How did Cambridge Analytica get our data? Who did they get it from? How did they process it? Who were the recipients of our data? Can we opt-out? Can they justify lawful compliance under UK Data Protection law?

🏛 Donate to the CrowdJustice campaign right now and help fund the effort to get our data back.

Hackers at DEFCON demonstrated that all of the voting machines in the USA can be easily hacked. It gets worse. Voters can be hacked as well. In 2016, American’s voter data was compromised and abused in ways that we are just beginning to understand…

Personal Data, Personalized Media and Weaponized Propaganda

by Justin Hendrix and David Carroll

SCL Group Ltd., 55 New Oxford Street, London, WC1A 1BS

In the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum and US presidential election, much has been written about how personal data was used to target voters with advertisements and other messages over social media. We’ve since learned that actors both foreign and domestic employed information operations, computational propaganda, and cyberattacks weaponizing our commercial media infrastructure. The question at hand is whether our democratic process can endure a hyper-personalized data-driven media and propaganda environment that our founders could never have imagined.

Financed by the elusive hedge funder, mega-donor, and computer scientist Robert Mercer, Cambridge Analytica (part…

A New Consumer Sentiment Index for Bottom-feeders?

An industry insider, who would prefer to remain anonymous, ran a paid Google Survey and donated it to me for open research. It tested responses to so-called chumbox ads, those grids of sponsored links that bait what industry often calls sourced traffic. This pilot survey tested how people feel about ads from bottom-feeders RevContent and; these are pervasively embedded on hoax-fraud hyperpartisan propaganda “fake news” sites. They supply guaranteed revenue streams for websites, which helps explain their ubiquity across both legit and illegit sites.

Not a real chumbox. But you wouldn’t click on any of those, would you? Via Awl

What’s a chumbox?

Presented to consumers as Sponsored Links or From Around the Web this sub-species of adtech…

Automated Arbitrage Algorithms Conditioned You to This Sensational Clickbait Headline

Anyone familiar with my research and commentary knows I’m no fan of adtech, the hidden layer of behavioral ad targeting arbitrage that monetizes attention by the proxy of impression-based economies of scale. The perverse incentives that ensue from this hidden code incentivizes unregulated marketing surveillance over the populace to glut their feeds with more worldview reinforcing hyperpartisan propaganda and disinformation than high-quality investigative journalism. Here are ten deeply concerning things about the world of adtech as I’ve been observing recently, especially thinking about election fallout.

  1. It’s terrible for buying attention. $1 ad dollar yields 3¢ of advertiser value.
  2. It’s terrible…

A look back and a look ahead

The adblocking story broke in September of 2015, with the release of iOS 9. It prompted intense introspection within the overlapping industries of publishing, adtech, and agencies.

Initially, blocker adoption was explained by “slow” and “annoying” ads. Many asked why not just make better ads. The underlying “cookie-sync” technology tended to escape critical interrogation as cause, involving stacks of scripts and nested tags calling up to hundreds of adtech servers from our browser cookie jars.

To purge this bloat, Facebook and Google’s duopoly leveraged its dominance toward a decrufting into more proprietary formats. …

Newly Discovered Exploit Should Trigger a Moratorium on Blocking Adblockers and a Retooling of AdChoices

At this year’s BLACK HAT conference in Las Vegas, Belgian researchers Mathy Vanhoef and Tom Van Goethem demonstrated a newly discovered technique where JavaScript loaded by a third-party is able to circumvent the encryption of HTTPS and capture data from the page its loaded on. We’re now living in a world where visiting sites that programmatically serve ads could put your data at risk. If you are not using tracking protection or allowing third-party cookies by default, you could unknowingly load a page compromised by malware designed with this attack.

Many sites like the load your email address as…

A massive role reversal is in progress.

In case you haven’t noticed, Google and Facebook substantially altered and greatly expanded their grip on our web browsing data to supply their behavioral advertising machines already built upon our personal communications. These recent changes are reflected in this duopoly’s surging control of the ad spend market (90% of growth in Q1 2016), updates to their user settings interfaces, and a deceptively clever split between what types of ad privacy disclosures occur upfront versus deep in the fine print. Meanwhile, members of the media and tech press have struggled to keep up with these changes or even make sense of…

The thing is…I’m still not wrong.

It started here.

The thing is, I’m the only voice in this conversation who doesn’t have an incentive to slant it. Even journalists with tremendous integrity — they’ll say that I’m at least somewhat wrong on this. They have to sow some doubt. That’s their move here. That’s all it takes.

All I’m doing is making sure there is at least one person talking to this industry and taking it to task, because otherwise there won’t be any voices completely independent from the issues being heard. In this very special instance, the journalist confronts the conflict of interest that they…

What Happened When I Caught Them Defaulting Us Back Into Behavorial Ad Tracking and Targeting

I discovered that Facebook had opted me back into behavioral (interest-based) advertising despite the fact that I had already taken the time and care to opt-out of as many ad settings as offered by the company. I checked because I research this industry as part of my academic practice and found write-ups on their new off-site ad network on the Verge and Mediapost.

I tweeted an annotated screenshot based on my understanding of this opt-out and it went viral after more than 100,000 impressions and thousands of engagements with other users who implicitly and explicitly shared my understanding that they’ve…

David Carroll

Associate Professor of Media Design at Parsons School of Design @THENEWSCHOOL

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store