Life Without the Tech Giants

Life Without the Tech Giants

Maybe you’re in the camp of people who worry that these companies have too much access to our purchases, our movements, our social networks—and perhaps even our thoughts. Maybe you’re disturbed by the concentration of so much economic power in a handful of companies built on the West Coast’s fault lines. Or maybe you want them to have less insight into your life so they have less sway over our society. But how? How do you reduce their power? Is it even possible?
The common retort to these concerns is that you should “just stop using their services.” So I decided to try.

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mobile phone users and a megaphone with Facebook icon, illustration

Does Facebook Use Sensitive Data for Advertising Purposes?

Citizens worldwide have demonstrated serious concerns regarding the management of personal information by online services. Policymakers have reacted to this situation by passing or proposing new regulations in the area of privacy and/or data protection. In a recent work, we demonstrated that Facebook (FB) labels 73% of users within the EU with potentially sensitive interests (referred to as ad preferences as well), which may contravene the GDPR. First, this article extends the scope of our analysis from the EU to 197 countries worldwide in February 2019. Second, we analyze whether the enactment of the GDPR on May 28, 2018 had some impact on the FB practices regarding the use of sensitive ad preferences. Third, we discuss privacy and ethics risks that may be derived from the exploitation of sensitive FB ad preferences. Finally, we present a technical solution that allows users to remove in a simple way the sensitive interests FB has assigned them.

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