Profiling

26 May 2020
China is adding new features to its coronavirus surveillance app, which has helped many workers and employers return to their former lives, and looks likely to become a permanent fixture. Zhou Jiangyong, the Communist Party secretary of the eastern city of Hangzhou, has said the city's app, which it
In September 2018, at least five local English councils had developed or implemented a predictive analytics system incorporating the data of at least 377,000 people with the intention of preventing child abuse. Advocates of these systems argue that they help councils struggling under budget cuts to
By 2018, the Danish municipality of Gladsaxe, in Copenhagen, began identifying children at risk of abuse so that flagged families could be targeted for early intervention by applying a set of specially designed algorithms to information already gathered by the centralised Udbetaling Danmark
In November 2018, worried American parents wishing to check out prospective babysitters and dissatisfied with criminal background checks began paying $24.99 for a scan from the online service Predictim, which claimed to use "advanced artificial intelligence" to offer an automated risk rating
16 Nov 2017
In 2017, US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that it would seek to use artificial intelligence to automatically evaluate the probability of a prospective immigrant “becoming a positively contributing member of society.” In a letter to acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary
30 Apr 2019
The New York Times picked 16 categories (like registered Democrats or people trying to lose weight) and targeted ads at people in them. They used the ads to reveal the invisible information itself, noting that it is a "story of how our information is used not just to target us but to manipulate
29 Sep 2017
In the lead up to the 2017 German federal election (Bundestagswahl), all political parties used social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and e-mails as platforms to reach voters. The far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD) reportedly hired a Texas-based company for their
19 Jun 2018
In an experiment conducted by Fabio Chiusi and Claudio Agosti during the 2018 election season and set out in detail in their report for Tactical Tech, the duo sought to investigate the Facebook algorithm that powers users’ news feed and the algorithm’s treatment of political content. One of the
05 Nov 2018
During the November 2018 US midterm elections, Moveon conducted an experiment to test whether it could cheaply and quickly maximise the effectiveness of digital persuasion. The project created a Facebook app called MO Research, and recruited people to answer survey questions about current issues via
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
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
01 Mar 2018
As part of efforts to tone down street fights at night Statumseind in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, the city has deployed technology: wifi trackers, cameras, and microphones attached to lamp posts detect aggressive behaviour and alert police. The data collected by these sensors is used to profile
13 Aug 2018
In August 2018, banks and merchants had begun tracking the physical movements users make with input devices - keyboard, mouse, finger swipes - to aid in blocking automated attacks and suspicious transactions. In some cases, however, sites are amassing tens of millions of identifying "behavioural
15 Aug 2018
In 2018, Wells Fargo disclosed that due to a computer bug that remained undiscovered for nearly five years 600 customers were granted more expensive mortgage loans than they could have qualified for. About 400 of them went on to lose their homes. The announcement reignited the public anger and
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
13 Dec 2017
In 2017, Britain's' two biggest supermarkets, Tesco and Sainsbury's, which jointly cover 45% of the UK's grocery market, announced they would offer discounts on car and home insurance based on customers' shopping habits. For example, based on data from its Nectar card loyalty scheme, Sainsbury's
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
21 Sep 2018
The internet provides employers with the opportunity to learn an unprecedented amount about prospective employees by searching social media feeds and other postings. By 2018, DeepSense was taking this a step further by analysing individual's Twitter feeds to predict their personality and employment
30 Apr 2018
In 2018 industry insiders revealed that the gambling industry was increasingly turning to data analytics and AI to personalise their services and predict and manipulate consumer response in order to keep gamblers hooked. Based on profiles assembled by examining every click, page view, and
07 Jul 2018
In a 2018 interview, the Stanford professor of organisational behaviour Michal Kosinski discussed his research, which included a controversial and widely debunked 2017 study claiming that his algorithms could distinguish gay and straight faces; a 2013 study of 58,000 people that explored the
21 Sep 2018
In 2017, the head of China’s security and intelligence systems, Meng Jianzhu, called on security forces to break down barriers to data sharing in order to use AI and cloud computing to find patterns that could predict and prevent terrorist attacks. Meng also called for increased integration of the
17 Sep 2018
In 2018, at least five British local authorities began developing systems intended to use predictive analytics to identify families needing attention from child services on the basis that algorithmic profiling could help them target their scarce resources more efficiently. Data about at least 377
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
Designed for use by border guards, Unisys' LineSight software uses advanced data analytics and machine learning to help border guards decide whether to inspect travellers more closely before admitting them into their country. Unisys says the software assesses each traveller's risk beginning with the
27 Feb 2018
Under a secret deal beginning in 2012, the data mining company Palantir provided software to a New Orleans Police Department programme that used a variety of data such as ties to gang members, criminal histories, and social media to predict the likelihood that individuals would commit acts of
In a draft January 2018 report obtained by Foreign Policy and produced at the request of US Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, the Department of Homeland Security called for continuous vetting of Sunni Muslim immigrants deemed to have "at-risk" profiles. Based on studying 25
In 2016, Facebook and its photo-sharing subsidiary Instagram rolled out a new reporting tool that lets users anonymously flag posts that suggest friends are threatening self-harm or suicide. The act of flagging the post triggers a message from Instagram to the user in question offering support
20 Feb 2018
In 2018, pending agreement from its Institutional Review Board, the University of St Thomas in Minnesota will trial sentiment analysis software in the classroom in order to test the software, which relies on analysing the expressions on students' faces captured by a high-resolution webcam
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
In 2014, the UK suicide prevention group The Samaritans launched Radar, a Twitter-based service intended to leverage the social graph to identify people showing signs of suicidal intent on social media and alert their friends to reach out to offer them help. The app was quickly taken offline after
Mothers of black, male teenagers in Chicago, fear their children will be added to the Chicago Police Department's gang database. As of the end of 2017, the database contains the names of 130,000 people, 90% of them black or Latino, who are suspected of being gang members. Most have never been
11 Jan 2018
In 2017, a study claimed to have shown that artificial intelligence can infer sexual orientation from facial images, reviving the kinds of claims made in the 19th century about inferring character from outer appearance. Despite widespread complaints and criticisms, the study, by Michal Kosinski and
20 Apr 2017
Using anonymised data GPS data from mobile devices, primarily smart phones, SafeGraph concluded that the crowds attending the US presidential inauguration in January 2016 make significantly less money than attendees of the Women's March two months later. The income level estimates were made possible
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
Among the friends Facebook recommended to Kashmir Hill as people she might know was Rebecca Porter, to the best of her knowledge a total stranger. Because Hill was studying how the "black box" of Facebook recommendations worked, she contacted Porter to ask what the connection might be. To her
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
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
The light surrounding you this very second may be used to expose how much money you make, where you live, when you're home, and much more. That's the big takeaway from A 2016 analysis of ambient light sensors by London-based security and privacy consultant and University College London researcher
03 Sep 2016
In May 2014 the Polish Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP) introduced a scoring system to distribute unemployment assistance. Citizens are divided into three categories by their “readiness” to work, the place they live, disabilities and other data. Assignment to a given category determines
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
12 Feb 2016
Caucuses, which are used in some US states as a method of voting in presidential primaries, rely on voters indicating their support for a particulate candidate by travelling to the caucus location. In a 2016 Marketplace radio interview, Tom Phillips, the CEO of Dstillery, a big data intelligence
11 Dec 2015
In what proved to be the first of several years of scandals over the use of personal data in illegal, anti-democratic campaigning, in 2015 the Guardian discovered that Ted Cruz's campaign for the US presidency paid at least $750,000 that year to use tens of millions of profiles of Facebook users
20 May 2015
In 2015, a newly launched image recognition function built into Yahoo's Flickr image hosting site automatically tagged images of black people with tags such as "ape" and "animal", and also tagged images of concentration camps with "sport" or "jungle gym". The company responded to user complaints by
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
10 Jan 2016
A new generation of technology has given local law enforcement officers in some parts of the US unprecedented power to peer into the lives of citizens. In Fresno, California, the police department's $600,000 Real Time Crime Center is providing a model for other such centres that have opened in New
01 Sep 2016
Automated systems such as the personality test developed by Massachusetts-based workforce management company Kronos are increasingly used by large companies to screen job applicants. To avoid falling foul of regulations prohibiting discrimination against those with mental illness, often 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
09 Oct 2015
In 2015, Ant Financial, a Chinese company affiliated with Alibaba, began deploying "Sesame Credit scores". Ant, which also runs the popular payment app Alipay, claims that it uses both online and offline purchasing and spending habits to calculate a credit worthiness score for each of its more than
24 Nov 2016
In 2016 researchers in China claimed an experimental algorithm could correctly identify criminals based on images of their faces 89% of the time. The research involved training an algorithm on 90% of a dataset of 1,856 photos of Chinese males between 18 and 55 with no facial hair or markings. Among
28 Jun 2016
In 2016, Facebook gave conflicting accounts of whether the service uses location data in order to recommend prospective Friends in its "People You May Know" feature. When the company first admitted - for publication - that location data was indeed one of the signals it used, many users felt this
08 Apr 2016
In September 2016, the US Federal Trade Commission hosted a workshop to study the impact of big data analysis on poor people, whose efforts to escape poverty may be hindered by the extensive amounts of data being gathered about them. Among those who intensively surveil low-income communities are
07 Jul 2016
In 2016, supporters of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul for president were surprised to begin getting emails from the Trump campaign soon after their candidates dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination. In an investigation, CNNMoney found that nearly every failed 2016 presidential candidate sold
03 Mar 2016
In 2016, researchers affiliated with Verto Analytics and the Qatar Computing Research Institute published work in which they analysed the app usage and demographics of more than 3,700 people in order to find correlations. Based on the models they developed, they found they could predict a user's
10 May 2016
In 2016, VICE News discovered that the confidential and "shadowy" World-Check database, which has wrongly linked individuals to terrorist activity, was being widely used by British police and intelligence. Also a customer is the Charity Commission, which uses it to screen charities and aid
11 Mar 2016
In 2016 Jonathan Evans, the former head of Britain's MI5 warned that private firms are analysing "open source" - that is, publicly posted - information to create profiles that are just as intrusive as anything Britain's intelligence agencies deploy and that the gap is closing between open
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
In 2015, The Intercept obtained documents showing that the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota used a fake Facebook account to friend and monitor local Black Lives Matter activists, and collect their personal information and photographs without their knowledge. The account was discovered in a
19 Jun 2015
In 2015, a series of interviews with Moshe Greenshpan, the founder and CEO of the Israeli company Skakash, revealed the existence of the company's facial recognition software Churchix. The software is intended to help churches keep track of who attends services and other events by matching reference