Advertising

10 Apr 2020
In a sharp drop from the beginning of Canada's lockdown, after two months only one in six Canadians left their home on weekends compared to one in three at the beginning. The marketing company Environics Analytics compiled the report by analysing a database of anonymised location data from 2.3
A new investigative report from Sharona Coutts at Rewire exposed how anti-choice groups, including at least one adoption agency, were resorting to using a technology called "geofencing" to find and then target individuals they believe are considering abortion, with targeted ads. Two groups, a
16 Sep 2019
Ahead of the Irish referendum to amend the Constitutions of Ireland to allow the parliament to legislative for abortion which took place in May 2018, Google decided to stop all advertising relating to the referendum on all of its advertising platforms, including AdWords and YouTube. This followed
16 Sep 2019
Bethany Christian Services, an international pregnancy support and adoption agency, is launching a programme with Copley Advertising to send targeted ads to individuals visiting Planned Parenthood clinics, abortion clinics, methadone clinics and high-risk areas (AHPA). The targeting will be done
18 Jan 2018
In January 2018, internet users began complaining about a new wave of pop-up ads across the web: hard-to-close, misleading, and malicious, some of them making it impossible for people to read news. While many blamed reputable publishers like the New York Times and the Atlantic for being willing to
01 Nov 2018
A November 2018 report from Data & Society discusses "data craft", the methods manipulators use to create disinformation with falsified metadata, specifically platform activity signals, which can be read by machine learning algorithms, platforms, and humans. Manipulators use platform features in
11 Feb 2019
A couple who tried, in February 2018, to keep their unborn child a secret from the internet, in part so the child could create its own internet identity when it was ready. They had some success in avoiding being pursued by baby-related ads, but found themselves unable to exercise the control they
16 Feb 2019
In October 2018, Google developers announced Manifest V3, a new standard for developing extensions for its Chrome web browser. One of the modifications included replacing the API used by extensions that need to intercept and work with network requests. The new API, DeclarativeNetRequest, limits the
In a December 2018 update, Facebook so effectively disguised sponsored posts that it took AdBlocker Plus a month, instead of the more usual few days, to find a way to counter it. Facebook has responded to the threat posed to its business model by adblockers by both providing users with advertising
21 Nov 2018
In November 2018 the campaign group Freedom from Facebook used the social network's own advertising tools to promote a "safe space" website where they can submit whistleblower tips anonymously. Facebook declined to comment but did not appear to be blocking the ads nor keeping a log of who viewed
In November 2018, a UK Gambling Commission audit found that the number of problem gamblers aged 11 to 16 had quadrupled to 55,000 over two years, 70,000 children were at risk, and 450,000, or one in seven, children aged 11 to 16 bet regularly, spending, on average, £16 a week on fruit machines
02 Dec 2018
Days after the 2018 shooting that killed 11 Jewish congregants in a Pittsburgh synagogue, The Intercept found that Facebook still allowed advertisers to choose "white genocide conspiracy theory" as a targeting criterion, capturing 168,000 members of the social network. The technique used was the
21 Dec 2018
In November 2018, the criminal hacker group 3ve found a new way of exploiting security weaknesses in the Border Gateway Protocol that allowed them to take control of IP addresses belonging to the US Air Force and other reputable organisations; the result was to net them $29 million in fraudulent
04 Feb 2019
In February 2019, the cybersecurity company Trend Micro found that at least 29 beauty and photo editing apps that had been downloaded more than 4 million times from Google's Play Store included code that pushed full-screen ads for fraudulent or pornography content or that directed users to phishing
26 Dec 2018
Shortly after the 2016 US presidential election, LinkedIn founder and billionaire Reid Hoffman made a series of multi-million-dollar donations to dozens of left-leaning groups. Among them was American Engagement Technologies, in which Hoffman invested $750,000. In 2018, Hoffman wound up apologising
26 Dec 2018
A startling amount of the internet is fake in one way or another, studies found in 2018. Less than 60% of web traffic is human; a 2013 study found that at least half of YouTube traffic was bots masquerading as people; in November 2018 the US Justice Department revealed that eight people were accused
09 Dec 2018
A December 2018 analysis found that Facebook's measures for improving election security and discouraging anonymous political messages were poorly executed and inconsistently applied, and placed an unfair burden on charitable organisations and small businesses while simultaneously being easy for
22 Nov 2018
In November 2018, the Spanish senate approved 220-21 an online data protection law intended to ensure compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation with an added amendment that allowed political parties to use personal data obtained from web pages and other publicly accessible sources for
22 Nov 2018
In the run-up to the May 2019 European Parliament elections, Google announced it would launch a new set of transparency tools to combat voter manipulation. Before being allowed to buy advertising on Google platforms, campaigns will be required to verify their identity, and approved ads will be
21 Nov 2018
A 2018 study found that Twitter bots played a disproportionate role in spreading the false claim, made by US President Donald Trump shortly after winning the election but losing the popular vote in November 2016, that 3 million illegal immigrants had voted for Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton
02 Nov 2018
Facebook's latest tool for inspecting political ads showed that in the run-up to the US mid-term elections in November 2018, many of the same politicians who had been questioning Facebook about privacy and leaked user data were spending campaign funds on advertisements on the service. Between 2014
03 Aug 2018
Cookies and other tracking mechanisms are enabling advertisers to manipulate consumers in new ways. For $29, The Spinner will provide a seemingly innocent link containing an embedded cookie that will allow the buyer to deliver targeted content to their chosen recipient. The service advertises
12 Sep 2018
In September 2018, the attorney general of the US state of New Mexico filed suit against Lithuania-based Tiny Lab Productions claiming that the maker of the children's app Fun Kid Racing had violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (1998) by collecting location and other data about the
27 Mar 2018
Affiliate marketers, who buy ad space in bulk, run campaigns, and earn commissions on the sales they generate, are behind some of the shady and misleading ads that pollute social media and the wider internet, despite also promoting some legitimate businesses such as Amazon and eBay. At one of
26 Sep 2018
In 2018, WhatsApp founder Brian Acton responded to the Cambridge Analytica scandal by tweeting "It is time. #deletefacebook." He also left the company, walking away from $850 million in unvested stock rather than accede to Facebook's plans to add advertising and commercial messaging, a purpose at
13 Jun 2018
In June 2018 Facebook announced it would install new controls to improve members' understanding of how companies targeted them with advertising, including letting them know if a data broker supplied the information. This was the second update to the company's policies in 2018; in March it attempted
27 Sep 2018
In 2018, experiments showed that despite the company's denials, ads could be targeted at specific Facebook users via information that the users had never given Facebook, such as phone numbers. The reason: Facebook allows advertisers to upload their own lists of phone numbers of email addresses, and
08 May 2018
In 2018, based on an analysis of 270,000 purchases between October 2015 and December 2016 on a German ecommerce site that sells furniture on credit, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research found that variables such as the type of device could be used to estimate the likelihood that a
05 Nov 2018
Shortly before the November 2018 US midterm elections, the Center for Media and Democracy uncovered documents showing that the multi-billionaire Koch brothers have developed detailed personality profiles on 89 percent of the US population with the goal of using them to launch a private propaganda
09 Aug 2018
In 2018, the UK Information Commissioner's Office fined Emma's Diary, a site offering pregnancy and childcare advice owned by Lifecycle Marketing (Mother and Baby) Ltd, £140,000 for collecting and selling personal information belonging to more than 1 million people without disclosing in the site's
25 Oct 2018
In the run-up to the November 2018 US midterm elections, Vice tested Facebook's new system of mandatory "Paid for" disclosure intended to bring greater transparency to the sources of ads relating to "issues of national importance". Placing political ads requires a valid ID and proof of residence
05 Jul 2018
In July 2018, researchers at the London-based security and mobile commerce firm Upstream Systems found that millions of cheap smartphones sold in developing countries lacking privacy protections come with pre-installed apps that harvest users' data for the purpose of targeting advertising and that
03 Jun 2018
In 2014, a team of four Swedish and Polish researchers began scraping every comment and interaction from 160 public Facebook pages. By two years later, they had collected one of the largest sets of user data ever assembled from the social network; it enabled them to track the behaviour of 368
21 Apr 2018
In December 2014 researchers at Malwarebytes discovered that for two months an Adobe Flash player zero-day exploit with a ransomware payload was embedded in online ads placed by a leading advertising network. The attack ended when Adobe patched Flash to close the vulnerability on February 2, 2015
04 Sep 2018
In 2018, a group of researchers from the Campaign for Accountability posed as Russian trolls and were able to purchase divisive online ads and target them at Americans using Google's advertising platform. The researchers constructed fake profiles using the name and identifying details of the
15 Oct 2018
In October 2018, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and questions over Facebook's influence on the UK's EU referendum, Facebook announced it would add Britain to the US and Brazil on the list of countries where the company will no longer allow political groups to publish "dark" ads on
15 Oct 2018
In the run-up to the US 2018 mid-term elections, Facebook announced it would broaden the company's policies against voter suppression by banning misrepresentations about how to vote and whether a vote will be counted. The company also introduced a reporting option to allow users to report incorrect
26 Sep 2018
In September 2018, researchers discovered that websites accessed via mobile phones could access an array of device sensors, unlike apps, which request permissions for such access. The researchers found that 3,695 of the top 100,000 websites incorporate scripts that tap into one or more sensors
09 Oct 2018
In October 2018 Amazon patented a new version of its Alexa virtual assistant that would analyse speech to identify signs of illness or emotion and offer to sell remedies. The patent also envisions using the technology to target ads. Although the company may never exploit the patent, the NHS had
08 Jun 2018
In 2018, the British army used paid Facebook messages to target 16-year-olds around the day GCSE results were announced to suggest that an army career might still be open to them if their grades were sub-par. The move was criticised for targeting teenagers at their most vulnerable and stressed
04 Apr 2017
In 2017, the Massachusetts attorney general's office reached an agreement under which Boston-based Copley Advertising agreed to eschew sending mobile ads to patients visiting Planned Parenthood and other health clinics. In 2015, Copley's geofencing technique used location information from
25 May 2018
In 2018, the digital marketing company Tell All Digital began marketing technology to personal injury law firms to enable them to send mobile ads to patients they know are waiting for treatment in an emergency room and for up to a month afterwards. The technology relies on geofencing, a technique
08 Oct 2018
In 2018, the French company Criteo formed a partnership with AgilOne to identify and link customer behaviour across multiple online and offline channels. The service is intended to make the ads consumers see more relevant, but also stop showing them ads for products they've already bought in offline
01 Apr 2007
DoubleClick was one of the first companies set up to sell display advertising on the web. Set up in 1996, it went public in 1998, and in 1999 merged with the data collection company Abacus Direct. In response to a 2001 US Federal Trade Commission investigation of the proposed merger, DoubleClick
31 Jul 2017
In 2017 the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission asking the agency to block Google's Store Sales Measurement service, which the company introduced in May at the 2017 Google Marketing Next event. Google's stated goal was to link offline sales to
26 Jun 2017
When Google launched Gmail in 2004, the new service rapidly gained acceptance because it offered far more storage space than any other comparable service. From the beginning, however, Gmail scanned the contents of emails to help the company generate contextual ads. Scanning has never applied to the
The accuracy of Facebook's ad targeting sometimes leads users to believe that Facebook is spying on them by tapping the microphones in their phones. Facebook has denied the practice - and is likely telling the truth because uploading and scanning the amount of audio data such a system would involve
Car companies have long collected data about the consumers who buy their cars. Now, they hope to aggregate and sell customer preferences to outside vendors for marketing purposes much as online tech giants like Google and Facebook already do. The companies say that exploiting this data will help
LinkNYC, a system of 1,000 public wifi kiosks across all five boroughs of New City administered by the private consortium CityBridge, offers free high-speed wifi, phone calls, a charging station for mobile devices, and a built-in tablet to access a variety of city services. Announced by the mayor's
23 Feb 2018
A former Facebook insider explains to Wired Magazine why it's almost certain that the Trump campaign's skill using the site's internal advertising infrastructure was more important in the 2016 US presidential election than Russia's troll farm was. The first was the ads auction; the second a little
Security researcher Scott Helme found more than 4,000 websites, including many belonging to the UK government, were infected with Coinhive, code that mines the cryptocurrency Monero. Among the sites affected were those belonging to the Information Commissioner's Office, the Student Loans Company
Princeton University's WebTap - Web Transparency and Accountability - project conducts a monthly automated census of 1 million websites to measure tracking and privacy. The census detects and measures many or most of the known privacy violations researchers have found in the past: circumvention of
21 Feb 2018
In 2017, Facebook introduced two mechanisms intended to give users greater transparency about its data practices: the "why am I seeing this?" button users can click to get an explanation of why they're being shown a particular ad, and an Ad Preferences page that shows users a list of attributes the
19 Dec 2014
In 2014, researchers at Princeton University outlined an attack that uses multiple third-party cookies to link traffic so that individual users can be identified and tracked from anywhere in the world. A nation-state wishing to surveil particular users outside its jurisdiction, for example, may have
28 Dec 2017
In 2016, the US Federal Trade Coimmission issued a warning to app developers that had installed Silverpush, software that uses device microphones to listen for audio signals inaudible to the human ear that identify the television programmes they are watching. Nonetheless, similar technology
20 Dec 2017
Research from ProPublica in December 2017 found that dozens of companies, including Verizon, Amazon, and Target are using Facebook to target job ads to exclude older workers. Excluding older workers is illegal under US law, but Facebook's system allows advertisers to specify precisely who should see
17 Dec 2017
"To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?" Netflix tweeted in December 2017. While the tweet did not contain any information that could have identified any of the 53 people, it still made many of those who saw it uncomfortable. A Christmas
Researchers at Princeton University have shown that a vulnerability identified 11 years ago in the password managers built into web browsers can be exploited to allow third parties to track users across more than a thousand websites. The attack depends on the managers' autofill capability, and works
07 Aug 2017
A federal class-action lawsuit filed in California in July 2017 alleges that in violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and without parental permission, the Walt Disney Company secretly collects personal information about some of its youngest customers and shares it
28 Nov 2017
Facebook and Twitter have advised Damian Collins, the chair of the UK Parliament's digital, culture, media, and sport committee, that the companies will hand over some information relating to the rearch of Russia-backed posts during the EU referendum. Facebook has already given the US Senate similar
25 Nov 2017
A recent study from the Yale Privacy lab and Exodus Privacy founds dozens of invasive trackers hidden in common Android apps. However, the method the researchers used, which involved writing code to expose the internal workings of the devices they tested, is legally barred under the US Digital
18 Oct 2017
Our usual image of online advertising is that we are one of millions whose data is being examined by a large, remote organisation - a government or major company. Research from the University of Washington has found that anyone equipped with time, determination, and a relatively small budget of $1
Websites have long used third-party analytics scripts to collect information about how visitors use their sites. In November 2017, researchers at Princeton found that an increasing number of sites use "session replay" scripts that collect every action the user performs while on the site, including
30 Oct 2017
Cracked Labs examines the impact on individuals, groups, and wider society of the corporate use of personal information as it feeds into automated decision-making, personalisation, and data-driven manipulation. On the web, companies track us via hidden software that collects information about the
The Dutch data protection authority has found that Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system breaches Dutch law by processing personal data of the system's users without informing them clearly about what type of data the company uses and for what purpose. In addition, users cannot give valid consent
04 Sep 2016
A pregnancy-tracking app collected basic information such as name, address, age, and date of last period from its users. A woman who miscarried found that although she had entered the miscarriage into the app to terminate its tracking, the information was not passed along to the marketers to which
12 Jan 2016
In 2016 reports surfaced that bricks-and-mortar retailers were beginning to adopt physical-world analogues to the tracking techniques long used by their online counterparts. In a report, Computer Sciences Corporation claimed that about 30% of retailers were tracking customers in-store via facial
22 May 2015
In 2015, the Carrefour supermarket in Lille installed a system of LED lights designed by Philips that send special offers and location data to customers' smartphones. Using the system, customers who install an app can use their smartphone camera to detect all the promotions around them or search for
04 Feb 2013
In 2013, Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney found that racial discrimination pervades online advertising delivery. In a study, she found that searches on black-identifying names such as Revon, Lakisha, and Darnell are 25% more likely to be served with an ad from Instant Checkmate offering a
03 May 2016
By 2020, digital ad spending on political campaigns, which was about $22 million in 2008, is projected to reach $3.3 billion. Broadcast audiences in 2016 were about a quarter the size they were in the 1980s, and they are continuing to shrink, while half of US broadcast radio stations are expected to
23 Feb 2016
A 2016 study from the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation found that in 95% of cases it takes as few as four of the apps users have installed on their smartphones to reidentify them within a dataset. Based on a study of 54,893 Android users over seven months, the
31 May 2016
As speech recognition and language-processing software continue to improve, the potential exists for digital personal assistants - Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google Assistant - to amass deeper profiles of customers than has ever been possible before. A new level of competition arrived in 2016
14 Jun 2016
In 2016, Facebook and Google began introducing ways to measure the effectiveness of online ads by linking them to offline sales and in-store visits. Facebook's measurement tools are intended to allow stores to see how many people visit in person after seeing a Facebook campaign, and the company
28 Oct 2016
In a presentation at London's 2016 Black Hat cybersecurity conference, researchers from UCL showed that it was possible to use ultrasound to track consumers across multiple devices. Marketers were already using beacons inaudible to the human ear to activate functions on devices via their microphones
25 May 2016
In 2015, Boston advertising executive John Flynn, CEO of Copley Advertising, began developing a system that uses standard online advertising and tracking techniques, coupled with geofencing, to send advertisements to women's smartphones when they are sitting inside Planned Parenthood clinics and
01 May 2017
Facebook has come under fire after leaked documents revealed the social media site has been targeting potentially vulnerable children. The allegations suggest the company is gathering information on young people who “need a confidence boost” to facilitate predatory advertising practices
A 2017 lawsuit filed by Chicagoan Kyle Zak against Bose Corp alleges that the company uses the Bose Connect app associated with its high-end Q35 wireless headphones to spy on its customers, tracking the music, podcasts, and other audio they listen to and then violates their privacy rights by selling