Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Government

'Thousands of Companies Are Spying On You' (cnn.com) 170

Security guru Bruce Schneier warns that "thousands of companies" are spying on us and manipulating us for profit. An anonymous reader quotes his article on CNN: Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff calls it "surveillance capitalism." And as creepy as Facebook is turning out to be, the entire industry is far creepier. It has existed in secret far too long, and it's up to lawmakers to force these companies into the public spotlight, where we can all decide if this is how we want society to operate and -- if not -- what to do about it...

Surveillance capitalism drives much of the internet. It's behind most of the "free" services, and many of the paid ones as well. Its goal is psychological manipulation, in the form of personalized advertising to persuade you to buy something or do something, like vote for a candidate. And while the individualized profile-driven manipulation exposed by Cambridge Analytica feels abhorrent, it's really no different from what every company wants in the end... Surveillance capitalism is deeply embedded in our increasingly computerized society, and if the extent of it came to light there would be broad demands for limits and regulation. But because this industry can largely operate in secret, only occasionally exposed after a data breach or investigative report, we remain mostly ignorant of its reach...

Regulation is the only answer.The first step to any regulation is transparency. Who has our data? Is it accurate? What are they doing with it? Who are they selling it to? How are they securing it? Can we delete it...? The market can put pressure on these companies to reduce their spying on us, but it can only do that if we force the industry out of its secret shadows.

The article also insists that "None of this is new," pointing out that companies like Facebook and Google offer their free services in exchange for your data.

But he also notes that there are now already 2,500 to 4,000 data brokers just in the U.S., including Equifax.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'Thousands of Companies Are Spying On You'

Comments Filter:
  • Spying (Score:5, Funny)

    by tquasar ( 1405457 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @07:43PM (#56360899)
    Every breath you take, Every move you make, Every bond you break, Every step you take, I'll be watching you. Sting
    • I have never bought anything as a result of seeing an ad on a web page.
      • You have never bought a ticket to an event or movie you saw advertised online?
        Or an event that popped up on your facebook feed because a friend was going?

        You have never craved and eventually bought fast food after seeing an ad?
        Or bought something in a store that was only familiar to you through an ad? You didn't expect to buy that Cider or brand of Beer.....but you saw the ad and had awareness....and hey, why not?

        Many advertisers advertise to brand. Not expecting you will impulse buy.
        You have never seen a
        • Nope.

          I am quite poor. I buy few things beyond my rent and limited diet. And used books. And cell and internet service, of course.

          I recently bought a Green Cheeked Conure to replace an Amazon Parrot that passed away. And I bought a lot of new toys and such.

          Little of what I buy is advertised. Coffee maybe. Reading about coffee will sometime make me want a cup.

          • Being poor, I virtually never eat out. Being a loner (with a parrot so smart it's scary), I don't have a Facebook feed.

            While it is true that I may catch some "brand elements" in my peripheral vision, I am pretty good at just not seeing ads. (If they are animated at all, I have to cover that part of the page so that I can read the content.) But, as I said above, practically nothing I spend money on is advertised.

          • by jon3k ( 691256 )
            I always find it odd that you can be both competent enough to find Slashdot and still poor. What do you attribute it to? Lack of education? Lack of professional opportunities where you live? Medical problems? Just really curious.
        • You have never bought a ticket to an event or movie you saw advertised online?

          We need to distinguish between functiona ads and psychological ads. Funtional ads are like when I need a plumber I search for plumbers in my area and find their websites and pick one. So that is me responding to an advert, but functionally because I do not know any plumbers otherwise. And BTW, I don't pick the one with the website with most bling. Similarly if I want to buy eg a camera I look at camera makers websites to see what they have on offer, factually, the specifications, combined with studying

      • Re: Spying (Score:5, Insightful)

        by javaman235 ( 461502 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @10:49PM (#56361485) Homepage

        No, you bought the things you wanted, but what you wanted was guided by the advertising. Everyone thinks ads don't effect them, but industry pours billions in. Why? Because sales numbers show it does effect them.

        I remember noticing it was 5:00 on the fifth once, and pulling into a local subway, I noticed the song in the back of my head "five, five dollar footling" from the ads, the 5:00 made me think of them and decide I wanted a sub. I insure with Geico because the lizard ads. It's just laziness, when we want something, we query the info in our brains to think of where we can get it, and the ads are there.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          The ads mainly affect the people buying the ads, they are scammed. Ads on the internet, sell me stuff, like WTF? I am on the internet, the ads sell me nothing, I have access to the internet, anything I want to buy I look up, check, evaluate options, and then decide whether to meh, buy nothing or buy a particular something, that often decide by the closest purchase opportunity. So advertisings sells me nothing, that is just the way it is.

          Look straight up, the numbers mean it is all bullshit. You know gave t

          • by jon3k ( 691256 )

            anything I want to buy I look up, check, evaluate options, and then decide whether to meh

            I do the exact same thing, but I feel pretty confident that advertising is involved. From subtle advertising for brand awareness (e.g., that Nike ad you saw on the way to work on the side of a bus) to paid placement (e.g., those adword results in the google searches as you researched products). It's never going to outright cause you to pick a specific product, it influences your decision. It most of the time will ensure their product is at least part of the evaluation, which it might not have been otherw

      • I have never bought anything as a result of seeing an ad on a web page.

        It's a naive person that thinks they aren't effected by advertising. Everyone is.

        If you ask 100 people 99 of them will give an answer like yours: their buying habits aren't effected by advertising. But for some unknown reason, hundreds of billions of dollars are pumped into ads each year. Why do you think that is? Because companies haven't been able to figure out after 100 years and billions spent in market research that ads don't work?

    • This was settled when the public had no problem with allowing Gmail to mine their email headers if it meant more storage than Hotmail. The market gives people what the want, not what they should want.
    • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

      Every breath you take,
      Every move you make,
      Every bond you break,
      Every step you take,
      I'll be watching you.
      Sting

      Try The Hymn of Acxiom [bandcamp.com] for a more direct take by Vienna Teng. If you can someone singing into a fan, anyway:

      The Hymn of Acxiom

      somebody hears you. you know that. you know that.
      somebody hears you. you know that inside.
      someone is learning the colors of all your moods, to
      (say just the right thing and) show that you’re understood.
      here you’re known.

      leave your life open. you don’t have. you don’t have.
      leave your life open. you don’t have to hide.
      someone is gathering every crumb you drop, these
      (mindless decisions and) moments you long forgot.
      keep them all.

      let our formulas find your soul.
      we’ll divine your artesian source (in your mind),
      marshal feed and force (our machines will)
      to design you a perfect love—
      or (better still) a perfect lust.
      o how glorious, glorious: a brand new need is born.

      now we possess you. you’ll own that. you’ll own that.
      now we possess you. you’ll own that in time.
      now we will build you an endlessly upward world,
      (reach in your pocket) embrace you for all you’re worth.

      is that wrong?
      isn’t this what you want?
      amen.

  • Is this site spying to me?
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @08:15PM (#56361025)
      Lets see: Scripts I can see running:
      slashdot.org
      adnxs.com
      advertising.com
      contextweb.com
      crsspxl.com
      d3tglifpd8whs6.cloudfront.net
      districtm.ca
      fsdn.com
      google-analytics.com
      googletagservices.com
      janrain.com
      licdn.com
      lijit.com
      ml314.com
      pro-market.net
      rpxnow.com
      rubiconproject.com
      slashdotmedia.com
      stack-sonar.com
      taboola.com
      truste.com

      So, maybe just a little bit.
      • Funny thing, that Duckduckgo privacy essentials actually gives slashdot a B rating lol its a total joke and makes one wonder what the hell are they thinking..
      • by cats-paw ( 34890 )

        don't you mean those are the scripts that _want_ to run, but can't because you're running noscript and it's blocking them...

        • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

          by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Sunday April 01, 2018 @01:48AM (#56361863)
          You know you can still see them even if you allow them to run, right?
          But when I look at it, once you give temp permissions it reloads with even more scripts that I then had to allow.
          In addition to the above list, that added:
          a3cloud.net
          acuityplatform.com
          bidswitch.net
          d29usylhdk1xyu.cloudfront.net
          d6uon097akywu.cloudfront.net
          demdex.net
          districtm.io
          dotomi.com
          doubleclick.net
          google.com
          janrain.xyz
          linkedin.com
          scorecardresearch.com
          sitescout.com
          trustarc.com
          Now I have to kill all the temp permissions and just leave the ones I must allow in order to use /.
      • by Alumoi ( 1321661 )

        WTF? Running scripts other than slashdot? Man, your uBlock/uMatrix/NoScript must be off.

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @07:47PM (#56360923)

    We know you're trying to muddy the waters and use the "everybody does it" rationalization. "Thousands of companies" aren't using search and social networking and Android monopoly power to spy on us like you guys are. It's only you doing that.

    "Thousand of companies" also don't have PR problems due to arrogant, dismissive management. That's a Google and Facebook problem.

    "Thousands of companies" haven't lost the trust of their audience by trying to impose Silicon Valley "values" on them. That's a Google and Facebook problem.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      While it's true that

      "Thousands of companies" haven't lost the trust of their audience by trying to impose

      most companies with web presence try to use cookies to trace people. Often, admittedly, only to improve service, but you can't know what their purposes are, and so many lie that you can't trust their explanations.

      Do you actually think you can use a credit card anywhere without *some* company spying on you? You can argue justification, and that's not totally wrong, but it doesn't change the actuality. And any time "customer data" is lost in a security breach, you know that some amount

    • "Thousands of companies" aren't using search and social networking and Android monopoly power to spy on us like you guys are. It's only you doing that.

      You're right. Only a few companies are doing that, the others wanted to do that from the onset but didn't get the market capture to succeed. You may not remember registration cards, loyalty programs, surveys, but this concept long pre-dates the internet, hell it was a feature of electronic payment.

      "Thousand of companies" also don't have PR problems due to arrogant, dismissive management. That's a Google and Facebook problem.

      Actually they quite often do. The difference is if you don't have 2bn customers around the world your PR tends to be more localised. Think only a few years back when Target started sending a pregnant girl advertis

  • Just like casinos (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @07:55PM (#56360957)
    It's just like casinos. If everyone was winning money in them, they wouldn't be able to afford to keep the lights on. If you're using something a company provides to you without paying for it, then it's really you who's the product.
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @07:58PM (#56360971)
    in the nude. If they're gonna spy on me let them pay for it in the worst way possible.
  • by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @08:02PM (#56360987)
    a good primer on manipulation is The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing [amazon.com] by Swedish Psychologist Joost Meerloo
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @08:09PM (#56361009)

    When I bring this up with many (perhaps most) of my friends and co-workers, the prevalent attitude seems to be "we've already lost, there's no reason to resist".

    Another thing is when I mention it at work - what I hear back from certain faculty is how Google and Amazon are giving us a lot of money, so we're going to pretend none of this is a concern.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Simple minds usually need to reduce their world to "us-them" terms. Similarly, if less obviously, is the need to reduce scenarios to binary conditions. Won/lost.

      There are thousands of vectors using thousands of approaches seeking thousands of data points, relying on thousands of dependencies. Almost of them are invisible.

      That last part only furthers the argument to spray-and-pray. Don't bother figuring out which are fallible. And certainly don't be so naive as to think you'll find them.

      You don't seal your w

    • Do you also hear about why people happily hand over data? Google knows my location as I travel down the highway. That's scary. A company like that could provide real time traffic information that makes my trip to work better. Just one example, but the bottom line is people don't use Google and Facebook for the exercise of handing over their data if they didn't get something in return.

      The same applies to membership programs. I'm not a Marriott member because I want them spying on me, and knowing which airlin

  • HAHA! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Advertising? You really think this is about selling you trash?

    This is the New World Order's wet dream.

    Having any and all information to hang over any challengers stupid enough to think Justice and Liberty for all.

    It's over folks. And you can thank the dumb bastards who cry "tin foil hat conspiracy theory" at any and all suggestions that "our" leaders aren't serving their constituents and their nation.

    Good bye... it hasn't been fun and it will get much much worse before things improve. 1984 was written in 19

    • and mock your paranoid concept of a new world order.

      Isn't that just code for some ethnocultural group that you particularly despise?

      Get a grip and worry about your own shit. You just wish that whatever you're doing was important enough that some mysterious figment of your fevered brain cabal would actually care to include a moment's thought about you in their grand plan. Get a feckin' grip.

    • by HiThere ( 15173 )

      Actually, what I read was that 1984 was a fictionalized presentation of what Orwell saw in Spain in 1948. He was describing a present, not warning of a future. If you want warning, you can make a better case for Animal Farm. Not that people paid attention to either.

      But he wasn't late to the game. Centralized control by non-human actors wasn't possible even in 1948, though it had started by then. Prior attempts depended on compliance of local political leaders, and fell apart when, e.g., Henry VIII want

    • I couldn't help hearing a Russian accent when reading.

      It's over folks.

      What is over is the Russian propaganda machine. In 2 years your tactics will be so out in the open they'll be useless, and you'll be sent back to the potato farm away from your cushy job trolling the filthy westerners.

  • by bobstreo ( 1320787 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @08:15PM (#56361033)

    Now if someone would compile a list of companies who aren't watching every click and hover, that would be helpful.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @08:32PM (#56361089) Homepage

    the idea originally was that capitalism was driven by endless consumerism and that companies would compete using the quality and features of their product. then a few things happened that Milton Friedman probably did not see coming. automation made the quality of competing products indistinguishable, and products with complete feature sets inevitably damaged repeat sales. Automation also drove the price of manufacturing so low that companies could not possibly continue on the demanded path of 15% growth per quarter in earnings.

    somewhere around the late seventies America shifted from a product sold based on merit of quality, to a product sold based on a brand that identified with the consumers desire. Since human emotion drives desire, its theoretically endless. Soon products exploited sexual impotency, race, gender, and status to sell themselves. The end result was that companies could grow ad-infinitum so long as consumers never stopped to question conspicuous consumption, and remained divorced from the means of production which into the 21st century grew increasingly indistinguishable from slavery. Finally we have companies that literally spy on the hopes, dreams, and fears of an entire generation of adults in order for the mere potential to make a sale.

    You might not be able to avoid the spycraft, but you can certainly derail its end goal. Reduce, reuse, and recycle goods you buy. Avoid major brands, and branded consumer holidays like Christmas. Repair instead of replacing old coats, gloves, and household small appliances. Look up a cobbler in your city, as there certainly exists one or more, and resole your shoes and boots instead of buying new ones.

    • You might not be able to avoid the spycraft, but you can certainly derail its end goal. Reduce, reuse, and recycle goods you buy. Avoid major brands, and branded consumer holidays like Christmas. Repair instead of replacing old coats, gloves, and household small appliances. Look up a cobbler in your city, as there certainly exists one or more, and resole your shoes and boots instead of buying new ones.

      While the goal is noble you've just described being poor and that carries a stigma of its own. Your 5 times repaired coat is not likely to get you a pat on the back for sticking it to the man as much as confused looks from the people around you saying you should be buying a new one.

      Society has helped kill the repair scene.

  • Is always the answer. (sigh)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    First order of business should be a stalking charge.

  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @09:48PM (#56361311)

    ... people's ability to influence company policies, nowhere is this seen more clearly then videogames and the tech community more generally. Basically companies have literally taken software hostage, literally theft. The new model is to undermine ownership of peoples software and machines and turn them into dumb walled garden terminals.

    The reason is technology has undermined the very basis of western civ by companies NOT having to physically give you a product they can cut the software into pieces and keep part of it on their server which forces radical transparency and complete lack of privacy. The only way out would be to have some kind of say in how these companies are run and most people are too stupid and ideologically kept to capitalism. A rational society would see private ownership model is impossible post interneet because you'd need geographic proximity to force companies to stop producing software and other tech in a fraudulent and hostile manner. Most people are too ignorant, unconcerned and illiterate to request the policies that would force companies to stop basically comiting fraud on a massive scale. But either way the internet finally breaks any kind of consumer or power the general public might have had to influence companies.

    And don't give me any "consumer has a choice" bs, the only way you'd have a choice is if you had money and power co equal to the bottomless well of cash on hand at the behest of mega corporations this is not an individual problem. It's the natural result of technology undermining the basis of the relationship where companies can simply now force policies they could never get away with pre internet because they wouldn't get paid pre internet they had to give you control over the thing you were buying.

  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock.poetic@com> on Saturday March 31, 2018 @10:29PM (#56361425)

    In my case it's the city, county, state and federal government. They require me to interact via MailChimp and similar services. They process financial transactions and set appointments via outside services. Presumably the bureaucrats are saving money by giving up citizens' privacy. Possibly some particular bureaucrat is getting a kickback from these companies.

    These services typically don't identify themselves- at the top of every page is the logo of a government agency, even though the URL is for a dot com. They are fraudulently impersonating the government at our expense! And, of course you won't find any privacy policy on those pages except perhaps that of the government. If you do find the corporation and its privacy policy, it will say that they may share your data with 'affiliates', which means anyone they want to call an affiliate when the mood strikes them.

    If you have a driver license, social security account, military connection, utility bills, or any other business with any government--you may have no alternative. Oh, by the way, many non-profits are also selling you out this way.

  • What to do (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Saturday March 31, 2018 @11:38PM (#56361605) Journal
    Find an OS that does not have spying on users as part of every release.
    Get a good VPN and put that in a router. So every network connection is not from your IP and ISP.
    Support a good AV brand that finds a lot of malware and nation funded spyware.
    Put no script and use other methods to protect a browser.
    Look into who is creating and funding the browser. Are they pro privacy?
    Dont use social media.
    Dont let social media get your cell phone details.
    Don't connect a "smart" TV to the internet. Use a stand alone device just for streaming.
    Dont bring in a networked microphone and camera product from a company that sells ads.
    • by raind ( 174356 )
      Aren't you using social media now?
    • Firstly, I don't particularly care whether the whole of the internet knows my shopping / browsing history, likes and dislikes. I'll enable some basic privacy measures mostly to limit ads because I dislike those resource hogs, but by and large I don't consider myself to be interesting enough for others to give a damn. But from a rhetorical standpoint, how does one truly eliminate their exposure to this while still interacting with others who don't?

      Take email for example, I could set up my own email server an

  • No shit, Sherlock. Of course they are trying to find out everything possible about every potential consumer. They have always done that, from the invention of commerce in maybe 8000 BC. It's just that a lot more information that is easily available (for a pittance) than ever before.

         

    • You underestimate totally the power of gossipy women since roughly 8000 B.C. Profiling, demographics, data mining. 3rd party tracking....those "stitch and bitch" sewing circle sessions had it all

  • The article says "Regulation is the only answer.The first step to any regulation is transparency." That's defeatist, bordering on transparently inane. Since sufficient regulation is unlikely to happen in our lifetimes, because our government is both implicated and corrupt, waiting for "regulation" by a government body is kind of like saying "accept it". I don't accept much of anything and my standard of opting out keeps going higher. I block ALL ads in general website hopping and increasingly use Qubes
  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Sunday April 01, 2018 @05:58AM (#56362249)
    European law requires companies that hold personally identifiable data to ensure it is relevant to the service they provide, that the person has consented to its use, and restricts their ability to aggregate or sell that data to others. And if a company violates that law they can expect extremely harsh fines - something that may happen when the UK's ICO is done with Cambridge Analytica. In fact the EU has just updated the rules with a new general data protection regulation which clarifies the right to be forgotten, financial redress for breaches, automated credit scoring and other things.

    So if the US wants to see where it should be going, look to Europe. The problem of course is it will never happen. Legislators are afraid of the data collection industry and would be too chicken shit to do anything to meaningfully rein it in.

  • by Jezral ( 449476 ) <mail@tinodidriksen.com> on Sunday April 01, 2018 @06:04AM (#56362263) Homepage

    The first step to any regulation is transparency. Who has our data? Is it accurate? What are they doing with it? Who are they selling it to? How are they securing it? Can we delete it...?

    That and much more is what the EU General Data Protection Regulation [wikipedia.org] mandates. Now we just need to push it to the rest of the world via trade treaties.

  • Surveillance Capitalism isn't the real problem. What feeds it, is. Bruce ignorantly assumes that people still give a shit about privacy. Professional Narcissist and Attention Whore are now paid professions, and oversharing is considered a social mantra. The masses worry about privacy about as much as a porn star worries about having sex in front of a camera.

    In order to enact change, you have to get people to start giving a shit about privacy again, which would likely mean no more free internet services,

  • Seriously - anyone at all who can put two thoughs together knows that teh intertoobz has bee collecting our data for years now - I have no idea how this is supposed to be news. While the user can keep some of the tracking and dta grabbing from happening, overall, the Internet has zero privacy, and the more extreme attempts at cloaking just make a person interesting.
  • this is known for a long time already, why is everybody acting so surprised these days about all these privacy issues?

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

Working...