Verizon’s ‘Perma-Cookie’ Is a Privacy-Killing Machine

Injecting a unique identifier on to your websites:

The company—one the country’s largest wireless carriers, providing cell phone service for about 123 million subscribers—calls this a Unique Identifier Header, or UIDH. It’s a kind of short-term serial number that advertisers can use to identify you on the web, and it’s the lynchpin of the company’s internet advertising program. But critics say that it’s also a reckless misuse of Verizon’s power as an internet service provider—something that could be used as a trump card to obviate established privacy tools such as private browsing sessions or “do not track” features.

via Verizon’s ‘Perma-Cookie’ Is a Privacy-Killing Machine | WIRED.

Why Data Trackers Couldn’t Trap This City Dweller

An Ad Age reporter let five consumer data firms track her and she wasn’t all that impressed with the results:

I asked companies that handle offline and online data to assist in a three-week tracking experiment. During that period, the data collectors had no clue I bought a whole sea bass at the farmer’s market a couple days after the grocery store visit I paid cash and some even struggled to pin down something as seemingly basic as my home address. This admittedly unscientific study showed that, even though I agreed to let the trackers watch me all they wanted, gaps in what they could have learned about me abound.

via Why Data Trackers Couldn’t Trap This City Dweller | DataWorks – Advertising Age.

This was the most likely (highest probability) outcome. Foursquare’s controversial relaunch, by the numbers

This was the most likely (highest probability) outcome.  The risk management took was the idea that one of the lower probability outcomes panned out.  It wasn’t a terrible risk because there just aren’t that many levers here when it comes to trying to increase usage metrics:

It’s been two months since Foursquare relaunched, and things aren’t looking good. App usage and downloads are down. Way down. But Web traffic is up. Maybe. We’re not sold on that, but it’s what Foursquare tells us.

via Will the check-in survive? Foursquare’s controversial relaunch, by the numbers | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Harrison Weber.

The ‘Chinese Google’ Is Making Big Bucks Using AI to Target Ads

The Chinese web giant now uses deep learning to target ads on its online services, and according to Andrew Ng—who helped launch the deep learning operation at Google and now oversees research and development at Baidu—the company has seen a notable increase in revenue as a result. “It’s used very successfully in advertising,” he says, sitting inside the company’s U.S. R&D center in Sunnyvale, California. “We have not released revenue numbers on the specific impact, but it is significant.”

The salient question is just how much the technology is juicing ad revenues. Though Ng won’t say, a major boost would not be surprising, according to Adam Gibson, a software engineer who aims to bring deep learning algorithms to the wider tech world through a startup called Skymind. Deep learning, he explains, better analyzes data describing how people have responded to digital ads in the past and adjust new ad campaigns accordingly. “Deep learning [is] able to handle more signal for better detection of trends in user behavior,” he says. “Serving ads is basically running a recommendation engine, which deep learning does well.”

via The ‘Chinese Google’ Is Making Big Bucks Using AI to Target Ads | WIRED.

Hidden “Beacons” Were Also Installed In L.A. And Chicago

A BuzzFeed News investigation reveals the quiet spread of Gimbal Inc.’s[bluetooth]  phone-tracking technology in some of America’s largest cities.

The beacons are manufactured by Gimbal Inc., the San Diego company that made the 500 beacons that were removed from New York City phone booths earlier this month

Taken together, the programs reveal a broad initiative by Gimbal to quietly partner with outdoor advertising companies in major American cities.

Although beacons do not collect any information themselves, they play a central role in Gimbal’s phone-tracking technology. Gimbal requires smartphone apps that use its software to get users’ “opt-in” permission before collecting data and sending beacon-triggered notifications. When a Gimbal-enabled, customer-approved app “sees” a Gimbal beacon, the phone sends information about the encounter — including the phone’s “unique identifier”, its location, and the time of day — to Gimbal’s servers.

Gimbal’s apparent strategy — getting hundreds of its beacons placed in high-trafficked public spaces — contrasts markedly with the indoor, retail-focused applications that have dominated beacon-based marketing so far, such as telling a customer in aisle 12 that polo shirts are on sale.

Titan Outdoor Advertising initially said that the beacons it installed in NYC phone booths were only being used for testing and maintenance purposes. In several instances, however, the Gimbal beacons installed in Titan’s phone booths were used for explicitly commercial purposes.

Indeed, a large beacon network seems to be essential to the services the company has marketed to its clients. Gimbal’s “Profile” service, for example, “passively develops a profile of mobile usage and other behaviors” that allow the company to make educated guesses about a user’s demographics (“age, gender, income, ethnicity, education, presence of children”), interests (“sports, cooking, politics, technology, news, investing, etc”), and the “top 20 locations where [the] user spends time (home, work, gym, beach, etc.).” According to Gimbal, the Profile service only operates for users who explicitly “opt in” to it.

via Hidden “Beacons” Were Also Installed In L.A. And Chicago.

They’re Tracking When You Turn Off the Lights

Municipal Sensor Networks Measure Everything From Air Pollution to Pedestrian Traffic; Building ‘a Fitbit for the City’

Hidden on a Brooklyn rooftop, his wide-angle infrared camera peers at windows of thousands of buildings across the East River. The camera detects 800 gradations of light, a sensitivity that lets his software determine what time households turn in, what kind of light bulbs they use, and even what pollutants their buildings emit.
In the coming weeks, the University of Chicago will install dozens of sensor packs on street lamps in the city’s central business district and elsewhere. Each pack, roughly the size of a thick laptop, contains 65 sensors intended to capture data on environmental conditions including sound volume, wind and carbon-dioxide levels, as well as behavioral data such as pedestrian traffic flow as revealed by Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones.

via They’re Tracking When You Turn Off the Lights – WSJ – WSJ.