#14 The World Is a Vampire

Our data is everywhere. It's time to clean up the mess.

Welcome back to another edition of Ad Hominem, a newsletter about the Advertising Data Economy and Surveillance Capitalism. This newsletter is one response among many to the data crisis we face as a society.


🌏 News From Around the World 🌍

🇺🇸 A marketing company was fined $150M by the US DoJ for selling personal data to scammers (DoJ). Meanwhile Andrew Yang is still trying to get Americans paid a dividend for their data (The Verge). I feel like neither of these solutions addresses the core of the problem, which is the data proliferation itself. Even for the most serious privacy-minded individual, it’s pretty hard to get your data taken off the web, and a lot of data is generated and shared about us no matter what we do.

🇰🇷 Hyundai has bought controlling interest in Boston Dynamics (PR Newswire).

🇩🇪 German regulators are investigating Facebook over their policy of tying Oculus VR headsets to Facebook accounts (Bundeskartellamt).

🇮🇳 India’s dark data economy (Restofworld.org).


🧠 A Thought 💭

One piece of the personal data crisis that still looms large is the fight over Net Neutrality. I’m encouraged to see California leading the nation on this issue, but we need the support of many more states if we want to see national legislation on this issue (WaPo).


🔊 A Podcast 📻

I enjoyed this episode of the Let’s Know Things podcast, which covers App Tracking Transparency (iTunes). This is a great concept to understand if you want to know more about Apple’s position in the upcoming data privacy wars.


🗞 Articles and Ephermera 📰

I enjoyed reading I Want a Computer That I Own (TerraAeon), and dwelled on the thought of how little about the world is truly open. That said, it’s probably more open today than ever before, and in new ways. Some of those ways are good, and some dangerous.

It's a complete anomaly -- a solidly performing, decently priced device that just isn't suited for anyone because of the privacy concerns and increasingly alarming issues plaguing the social networking site.

In case we needed a reminder, the above is a quote from a classic hit-piece from a few years ago on c|net, covering why no one should buy the Facebook Portal (c|net). The tone of the piece, which was written in late 2019 reflects the heightened attention the company was getting around that time. Nothing about Facebook’s core business model has changed since then.

Charlotte Lehman could hear the man reading his credit card number out loud from across the Starbucks.

He was speaking to a companion, but his voice carried over the music to where Lehman sat. Surrounded by a dozen or so people, the speaker also divulged his phone number a­­nd home address.

The above quote is from Googling Strangers: One Professor's Lesson On Privacy In Public Spaces (NPR), which describes an assignment given out by Kate Klonick, assistant professor of law at St. John's University. Students were asked to de-anonymize a stranger, based only on what they said or did in public. Turns out, it’s pretty easy to find out who any body is, and the illusion of anonymity in public spaces is mostly just that.


Ad Hominem is a blog and newsletter about the Advertising Data Economy and Surveillance Capitalism, and how those forces relate to Humanity. I write this as a catalogue of my thoughts and feelings, on behalf of anyone else who senses that we are facing a global data security crisis. Ad Hominem currently has no paid subscription. If you want to support this project, the best way is just to spread the word via Twitter or by forwarding this email to a friend. You can also send tips via my BuyMeACoffee page. ☕️

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- S