The Journey Begins

This week we explore ad tech, privacy, and user agency.

A Quick Plug

In case you missed it, Episode 43: Ad Tracking Runs Deep is now available. Doc and Katherine talked to Dr. Augustine Fou about his privacy analysis app, Page X-Ray, ad tracking, and data privacy.

For more background and a brief guide to Page X-Ray, see our short blog post:

Page X-Ray Data Privacy Analysis Featured in Episode 43

Page X-Ray differs from typical consumer-oriented privacy apps, like The Markup’s recently published Blacklight in that it not only detects trackers that are loaded by the page, but also the trackers that are called by other trackers, giving a more extensive view of tracking activity and data collection.

This depth of analysis provides the striking visual below, taken from a report gathered via smithsonianmag.com.

Tree graph of trackers found on smithsonianmag.com

Figure 1. A complete tree graph of smithsonianmag.com


More on Ad Tech

Episode 43 was all about ad tech, so we’d like to share a few of the privacy tools we use to take back some control over our online lives.

The following are well worth a look if you aren’t already a user:

In ad fraud news, file the following article under, “Yes, ad tech can be harmful.”

From Forbes.com: Android Users Beware: Delete These 240 Malicious Apps Now

The RAINBOWMIX apps appear at first to be legit, as they work as they are supposed to, although their quality is poor. Many of them are Nintendo (NES) emulators ripped from legitimate sources or low quality games, the researchers said. The ads themselves also appear to be legit—they seem to come from trusted apps and services such as Chrome or YouTube.

This enabled the fraudsters to bypass certain security protocols and fly under the radar, leading to millions of downloads and ad impressionsper day at the peak of the campaign. 

Doc Searls on Ad Tech

Doc has written extensively on the subject of ad tech, its impact on journalism and the publishing industry, and its threat to digital privacy and user agency. You’ll find many of his articles under the People vs. Adtech link on his Harvard blog. It’s worth bookmarking for easy reference.

Thank You!

We look forward to sharing our weekly recaps, reading lists and inspiration with you as we navigate our collective digital reality. We hope you enjoy taking this virtual journey with us, and we’ll do our best to be pleasant travel companions. Cheers until next time!

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