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Cellphones Government Handhelds Privacy Stats Politics

Tracking Caucusgoers By Their Cell Phones (schneier.com) 43

Okian Warrior writes: Dstillery gets information from people's phones via ad networks. When you open an app or look at a browser page, there's a very fast auction that happens where different advertisers bid to get to show you an ad. Your phone sends them information about you, including, in many cases, an identifying code (that they've built a profile around) and your location information, down to your latitude and longitude. On the night of the Iowa caucus, Dstillery flagged auctions on phones in latitudes and longitudes near caucus locations, some 16,000 devices. It then looked up the characteristics associated with those IDs to make observations about the kind of people that went to Republican caucus locations versus Democrat caucus locations. It drilled down farther by looking at which candidate won at a particular caucus location.
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Tracking Caucusgoers By Their Cell Phones

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  • by sunami88 ( 1074925 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @01:24PM (#51637535)
    Anybody else read that as "Tracking Caucasians By Their Cell Phones"?

    I must say I was rather interested in the technology involved.
  • by CCarrot ( 1562079 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @01:43PM (#51637713)

    While disturbing, this news is by no means surprising.

    Advertastards can wave their hands and shout "we're just trying to see what you like so we can send you info on stuff you might find interesting!" until they're blue in the face, but simply having the vast reams data considered 'necessary' to 'get to know' the vict^H^H^H^Hcustomer is too much temptation for some to resist.

    Of course, political advertising is still, well, advertising, and they're still trying to sell something to you, even if it's only a predefined set of prejudices or empty promises. So I suppose in the broadest sense this is a legit business purpose for Dstillery...but the ramifications are just a wee bit chilling. The stakes on this sort of ad campaign are a bit higher than whether people buy a Ford or a Toyota, and the one that they don't 'buy' doesn't have access to a list of people who ultimately didn't buy what they were selling...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In every state I've ever lived in, when you went to cast your vote in the primary elections, you had to ask for the ballot of a specific political party, because that is what a primary is. You narrow down the candidates from a political party into a single candidate for that political party for each specific public office.

    The ballot you ask for is public record, which is how you always seem to get advertisements in the mail for one party but not the other, robo calls that attack one party but not the other

  • The only questions this should raise is how much jail time these data grabbers should get and why there's no one campaigning on privacy rights.
    • by plover ( 150551 )

      When you vote in a primary election, you sign a piece of paper attesting to your party affiliation as a matter of public record. That means the parties and the state already have your name and address with your political affiliation. It is not a secret, it's long been harvested.

      This is slightly different. This is correlating political candidates with advertising demographic data. They already know when a phone is used to check NASCAR results or is used to shop for lawn-mowers. What they did is identify

  • When you open an app or look at a browser page, there's a very fast auction ... where different advertisers bid to .. show you an ad

    Very fast? Not in my experience - it's fucking slow, so much so that it turns me off many websites. Now, if a website spends more than about ten seconds doing these shinanegins (as can be seen in the staus bar) I go elsewhere.

    It suprises me that most people (even a website developer I was talking to recently) are unaware that this bidding goes on. They just think that their connection is slow.

  • Another good reason to use an ad-blocker.
  • Android question. I already have Firefox with addblock on my phone, but how do I make sure the browser and/or the adds (in case they are handled externally from the browser ) NEVER has access to the GPS ? Note that I don't want to turn GPS off since I often use it for navigation...
    • by Falos ( 2905315 )
      Shit, even turning Location off might not actually be working.

      Some Android builds (mine came with Oxygen) natively give you some amount of permissions control, denying apps granular access, like access to camera or location. I'm guessing 5.0+ can do it, if OEM enables. I don't really know this stuff.