Love this as a pragmatic overview - thanks!

Am I naïve in thinking that this could be helped with transparency legislation. Proper transparency legislation?

Here in Europe we are prompted to say 'I'm fine with this' when informed that a site is going to involve me in this ecosystem. Or not visit *the content I want to see, already 10 seconds ago* 🙄

But I would like to see a report from an app/site that told me a month later (if I wanted to know) exactly what data was captured & everyone it was pushed out to.

I feel stupid even thinking this could be a thing. Yet, apart from scale, what's the blocker?

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5 steps to fix social media and online advertising through legislation

1. Companies must a publish a technical specification of all information they collect and store about people that use their service, from the perspective of an individual person using their service. This specification must include which of that data is shared with 3rd parties and on what terms that sharing happens. Think about this specification as a 'data contract' and an addendum to the privacy policy of the service

2: Companies must make APIs available to allow people to download their information at any point of time and this information will comply with the technical specification of #1

3: Companies must support storing and retrieving this information for a person at any and all times in a data storage platform specified by that person. This data must always match the information stored in the internal systems of the company

4: Companies must allow persons to demand that all data about them is only stored in their data storage platform and that none of this data must be stored in the internal systems of the company

5: Companies must not store any data about any of the people that use their platform but must store and retrieve that data from the data storage platform specified by those people

The thinking is, once you have full control over your data and, through the specification, know what that data means, you have full control of managing your data and its usage.

For more info, https://stevenhessing.medium.com/ and https://github.com/StevenHessing/byoda

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Anything this complex points to a swift and sure solution: Ban all tracking and all advertising online. (The best stuff by far that I access online is stuff that I pay for that bears no advertising.)

Of course, an ad and tracking ban would be disruptive. But disruption is good, isn't it? At least that's what I was told when the world of internet advertising destroyed my career.

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I have a minor quibble about the commentary on small businesses.

I disagree that small business could not survive without Facebook advertising.

The entire point of a small business is that it is local and can connect directly with its customers. A business using Facebook to connect with its customers is not the same as advertising for new customers using a customer profile.

What the above assumption really refers to are those small businesses who used Facebook ads to attack entrenched existing small businesses and win.

The longer term impact was to create small businesses which depend on Facebook ads but it does not have to be this way; killing these abusive ads would correct itself in the market (i.e. the SMBs who can connect to customers will be fine, the clickbaiters will not) as well as level the playing field vs. the large companies - who are heavily dependent on generic advertising for brand building (in place of customer connection) and who also happen to pay a lot less per ad due to their scale.

I suspect the tradeoff of a magical Facebook ad ban would thus be very much positive for small businesses.

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Another great piece. I don't often post but I always come away thinking, although right now what I’m thinking is, "Am I batshit crazy?"

My wildest subversive thoughts would be at home in a BBC Adam Curtis documentary. Read enough accessible books by professors and similar questions arise. When I look back at all the avenues of thought I ever explored, even those that were dead ends or beyond the fringe, it was all an attempt to map the shape of what Curtis suggestively conveys in A/V format. (Don't like Adam Curtis docs? Fair. I would say turn the video off and try again. What do you hear?)

I suggest the issue is not so binary as "mind control" vs. “not” though. I agree with Ms. Wodinsky's analysis - if they can colonize your every living moment with ads, they will. If your attention was continuously hijacked by professionals, as your sense of self was developing in childhood, is that mind control? Or is it clearly NOT mind control? A single nudge is not mind control, but what if it was all nudging, all the time, cradle to grave? If we say that all human societies at all times include some form of mind control, does that make the more important question whether a particular form of it is beneficial or harmful?

Perhaps this is a more binary question: Is “buying shit we don’t need” a root cause of the heat domes and subsequent fires in the west this year? If yes, then what? Do we compartmentalize that thought because it’s a discomforting hyperobject? And if yes, then what?

It’s been said before in countless ways, the American Dream is a spammy sausage. We all have differing experiences and opinions, and bell curves and power functions have long tails. I also agree that capitalism is with us and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing in itself (it too is the worst system, except for all the others). But I can’t help thinking, once I get past “am I batshit crazy?” How far can we get fighting for control of the steering wheel, if we refuse to hear where the knocking in the engine is coming from?

Online ads are not mind control. But also, they are not NOT mind control. How do you reconcile the ad-o-sphere’s influence with any meaningful attempt to dial back wasteful, unsustainable consumption? If I could do it, I wouldn’t have taken the time to write this, but I can’t. Batshit crazy or no, convince me I’m wrong?

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It's not just Trump and his followers who want to dispense with 2,000 years of the rule of law. In the boardroom metaphor at least you're physically at the table. I'm seeing the erosion of one of our most important pieces of legal infrastructure: contract law. Shoshana Zuboff in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism refers to legal scholar Margaret Radin's work highlighting the "devolution" of contracts from "the sacred notions of 'agreement' and 'promise' so critical to the evolution of the institution of contract since Roman times. ... Radin calls this 'private eminent domain,' a unilateral seizure of rights without consent. She regards such 'contracts' as a moral and democratic 'degradation' of the rule of law and the institution of contract, a perversion that restructures the rights of users granted through democratic processes..."

I remember when it all started: you had a new package of software on hard media like a floppy disk. Tearing the seal on the wrapper meant that you agreed to the license agreement (i.e., you weren't going to pirate their software.) The idea doesn't really transfer sensibly over to the online world. Maybe someday the EU will invalidate all online privacy and terms-of-service "uncontracts" in one fell swoop.

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What on Earth is up with people casually describing science / tech stuff as "wildly boring". No one goes around calling knitting "wildly boring", or bird watching, or whatever, even though I'd say those are probably LESS information dense than adtech. Every time I see this in an article it turns me off. I work deep in adtech; It is fascinating. Hearing every aspect of my profession (Math! CS! Hardware) described disdainfully sucks.

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Okay, that's an objection to tone. The "I don’t think it would be as complex if it weren’t trying to hide a lot of that fraud." quote bothered me because I don't think adtech is atypically complicated for the sort of scale it operates at. If I tried to explain how Google Chrome works, or Search, it'd be just as dense.

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Bad ads explained well.

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