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Behind the One-Way Mirror: EFF's "deep dive into corporate surveillance"

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EFF's Behind the One-Way Mirror: A Deep Dive Into the Technology of Corporate Surveillance is a long, comprehensive look at corporate tracking, particularly invisible, third-party tracking, as with ad-networks, license-plate readers and facial recognition. The paper covers different types of identifiers (cookies, fingerprinting, ad IDs on mobile devices), and how ad-tech companies link these; then it shows how these identifiers are used in real-time tracking (in websites, apps, the physical world), and how it's used to build and reinforce corporate power. The article then explores how data brokers and ad-targeting work together, who they sell to, and how their services work. Finally, the article delves into different forms of self-defense, from ad- and tracker-blockers to legislative efforts you can support. First, dominant companies like Google and Facebook can pressure publishers into installing their tracking code. Publishers rely on the world’s biggest social network and the world’s biggest search engine to drive traffic to their own sites. As a result, most publishers need to advertise on those platforms. And in order to track how effective their ads are, they have no choice but to install Google and Facebook’s conversion measurement code on their sites and apps. Google, Facebook, and Amazon also act as third-party ad networks, together controlling over two-thirds of the market. That means publishers who want to monetize their content have a hard time avoiding the big platforms’ ad tracking code. Second, vertically integrated tech companies can gain control of both sides of the tracking market. Google administers the largest behavioral advertising system in the world, which it powers by collecting data from its Android phones and Chrome browser—the most popular mobile operating system and most popular web browser in the world. Read the rest

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