How Political Campaigns Use Your Data to Target You

5 days 9 hours ago

Data about potential voters—who they are, where they are, and how to reach them—is an extremely valuable commodity during an election year. And while the right to a secret ballot is a cornerstone of the democratic process, your personal information is gathered, used, and sold along the way. It's not possible to fully shield yourself from all this data processing, but you can take steps to at least minimize and understand it.

Political campaigns use the same invasive tricks that behavioral ads do—pulling in data from a variety of sources online to create a profile—so they can target you. Your digital trail is a critical tool for campaigns, but the process starts in the real world, where longstanding techniques to collect data about you can be useful indicators of how you'll vote. This starts with voter records.

Your IRL Voting Trail Is Still Valuable

Politicians have long had access to public data, like voter registration, party registration, address, and participation information (whether or not a voter voted, not who they voted for). Online access to such records has made them easier to get in some states, with unintended consequences, like doxing.

Campaigns can purchase this voter information from most states. These records provide a rough idea of whether that person will vote or not, and—if they're registered to a particular party—who they might lean toward voting for. Campaigns use this to put every voter into broad categories, like "supporter," "non-supporter," or "undecided." Campaigns gather such information at in-person events, too, like door-knocking and rallies, where you might sign up for emails or phone calls.

Campaigns also share information about you with other campaigns, so if you register with a candidate one year, it's likely that information goes to another in the future. For example, the website for Adam’s Schiff’s campaign to serve as U.S. Senator from California has a privacy policy with this line under “Sharing of Information”:

With organizations, candidates, campaigns, groups, or causes that we believe have similar political viewpoints, principles, or objectives or share similar goals and with organizations that facilitate communications and information sharing among such groups

Similar language can be found on other campaign sites, including those for Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz. These candidate lists are valuable, and are often shared within the national party. In 2017, the Hillary Clinton campaign gave its email list to the Democratic National Committee, a contribution valued at $3.5 million.

If you live in a state with citizen initiative ballot measures, data collected from signature sheets might be shared or used as well. Signing a petition doesn't necessarily mean you support the proposed ballot measure—it's just saying you think it deserves to be put on the ballot. But in most states, these signature pages will remain a part of the public record, and the information you provide may get used for mailings or other targeted political ads. 

How Those Voter Records, and Much More, Lead to Targeted Digital Ads

All that real world information is just one part of the puzzle these days. Political campaigns tap into the same intrusive adtech tracking systems used to deliver online behavioral ads. We saw a glimpse into how this worked after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the system has only grown since then.

Specific details are often a mystery, as a political advertising profile may be created by combining disparate information—from consumer scoring data brokers like Acxiom or Experian, smartphone data, and publicly available voter information—into a jumble of data points that’s often hard to trace in any meaningful way. A simplified version of the whole process might go something like this:

  1. A campaign starts with its voter list, which includes names, addresses, and party affiliation. It may have purchased this from the state or its own national committee, or collected some of it for itself through a website or app.
  2. The campaign then turns to a data broker to enhance this list with consumer information. The data broker combines the voter list with its own data, then creates a behavioral profile using inferences based on your shopping, hobbies, demographics, and more. The campaign looks this all over, then chooses some categories of people it thinks will be receptive to its messages in its various targeted ads.
  3. Finally, the campaign turns to an ad targeting company to get the ad on your device. Some ad companies might use an IP address to target the ad to you. As The Markup revealed, other companies might target you based on your phone's location, which is particularly useful in reaching voters not in the campaign's files. 

In 2020, Open Secrets found political groups paid 37 different data brokers at least $23 million for access to services or data. These data brokers collect information from browser cookies, web beacons, mobile phones, social media platforms, and more. They found that some companies specialize in more general data, while others, like i360, TargetSmart, and Grassroots Analytics, focus on data useful to campaigns or advocacy.

A sample of some categories and inferences in a political data broker file that we received through a CCPA request shows the wide variety of assumptions these companies may make.

These political data brokers make a lot of promises to campaigns. TargetSmart claims to have 171 million highly accurate cell phone numbers, and i360 claims to have data on 220 million voters. They also tend to offer specialized campaign categories that go beyond the offerings of consumer-focused data brokers. Check out data broker L2’s “National Models & Predictive Analytics” page, which breaks down interests, demographics, and political ideology—including details like "Voter Fraud Belief," and "Ukraine Continue." The New York Times demonstrated a particularly novel approach to these sorts of profiles where a voter analytics firm created a “Covid concern score” by analyzing cell phone location, then ranked people based on travel patterns during the pandemic.

Some of these companies target based on location data. For example, El Toro claims to have once “identified over 130,000 IP-matched voter homes that met the client’s targeting criteria. El Toro served banner and video advertisements up to 3 times per day, per voter household – across all devices within the home.”

That “all devices within the home” claim may prove important in the coming elections: as streaming video services integrate more ad-based subscription tiers, that likely means more political ads this year. One company, AdImpact, projects $1.3 billion in political ad spending on “connected television” ads in 2024. This may be driven in part by the move away from tracking cookies, which makes web browsing data less appealing.

In the case of connected televisions, ads can also integrate data based on what you've watched, using information collected through automated content recognition (ACR). Streaming device maker and service provider Roku's pitch to potential political advertisers is straightforward: “there’s an opportunity for campaigns to use their own data like never before, for instance to reach households in a particular district where they need to get out the vote.” Roku claims to have at least 80 million users. As a platform for televisions and “streaming sticks,” and especially if you opted into ACR (we’ll detail how to check below), Roku can collect and use a lot of your viewing data ranging from apps, to broadcast TV, or even to video games.

This is vastly different from traditional broadcast TV ads, which might be targeted broadly based on a city or state, and the show being aired. Now, a campaign can target an ad at one household, but not their neighbor, even if they're watching the same show. Of the main streaming companies, only Amazon and Netflix don’t accept political ads.

Finally, there are Facebook and Google, two companies that have amassed a mountain of data points about all their users, and which allow campaigns to target based on some of those factors. According to at least one report, political ad spending on Google (mostly through YouTube) is projected to be $552 million, while Facebook is projected at $568 million. Unlike the data brokers discussed above, most of what you see on Facebook and Google is derived from the data collected by the company from its users. This may make it easier to understand why you’re seeing a political ad, for example, if you follow or view content from a specific politician or party, or about a specific political topic.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Privacy

Managing the flow of all this data might feel impossible, but you can take a few important steps to minimize what’s out there. The chances you’ll catch everything is low, but minimizing what is accessible is still a privacy win.

Install Privacy Badger
Considering how much data is collected just from your day-to-day web browsing, it’s a good idea to protect that first. The simplest way to do so is with our own tracking blocker extension, Privacy Badger.

Disable Your Phone Advertising ID and Audit Your Location Settings
Your phone has an ad identifier that makes it simple for advertisers to track and collate everything you do. Thankfully, you can make this much harder for those advertisers by disabling it:

  • On iPhone: Head into Settings > Privacy & Security > Tracking, and make sure “Allow Apps to Request to Track” is disabled. 
  • On Android: Open Settings > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Ads, and select “Delete advertising ID.”

Similarly, as noted above, your location is a valuable asset for campaigns. They can collect your location through data brokers, which usually get it from otherwise unaffiliated apps. This is why it's a good idea to limit what sorts of apps have access to your location:

  • On iPhone: open Settings > Privacy & Security > Location Services, and disable access for any apps that do not need it. You can also set location for only "While using," for certain apps where it's helpful, but unnecessary to track you all the time. Also, consider disabling "Precise Location" for any apps that don't need your exact location (for example, your GPS navigation app needs precise location, but no weather app does).
  • On Android: Open Settings > Location > App location permissions, and confirm that no apps are accessing your location that you don't want to. As with iOS, you can set it to "Allow only while using the app," for apps that don't need it all the time, and disable "Use precise location," for any apps that don't need exact location access.

Opt Out of Tracking on Your TV or Streaming Device, and Any Video Streaming Service
Nearly every brand of TV is connected to the internet these days. Consumer Reports has a guide for disabling what you can on most popular TVs and software platforms. If you use an Apple TV, you can disable the ad identifier following the exact same directions as on your phone.

Since the passage of a number of state privacy laws, streaming services, like other sites, have offered a way for users to opt out of the sale of their info. Many have extended this right outside of states that require it. You'll need to be logged into your streaming service account to take action on most of these, but TechHive has a list of opt out links for popular streaming services to get you started. Select the "Right to Opt Out" option, when offered.

Don't Click on Links in (or Respond to) Political Text Messages
You've likely been receiving political texts for much of the past year, and that's not going to let up until election day. It is increasingly difficult to decipher whether they're legitimate or spam, and with links that often use a URL shortener or odd looking domains, it's best not to click them. If there's a campaign you want to donate to, head directly to the site of the candidate or ballot sponsor.

Create an Alternate Email and Phone Number for Campaign Stuff
If you want to keep updated on campaign or ballot initiatives, consider setting up an email specifically for that, and nothing else. Since a phone number is also often required, it's a good idea to set up a secondary phone number for these same purposes (you can do so for free through services like Google Voice).

Keep an Eye Out for Deceptive Check Boxes
Speaking of signing up for updates, be mindful of when you don't intend to sign up for emails. Campaigns might use pre-selected options for everything from donation amounts to signing up for a newsletter. So, when you sign up with any campaign, keep an eye on any options you might not intend to opt into.

Mind Your Social Media
Now's a great time to take any sort of "privacy checkup" available on whatever social media platforms you use to help minimize any accidental data sharing. Even though you can't completely opt out of behavioral advertising on Facebook, review your ad preferences and opt out whatever you can. Also be sure to disable access to off-site activity. You should also opt out of personalized ads on Google's services. You cannot disable behavioral ads on TikTok, but the company doesn't allow political ads.

If you're curious to learn more about why you're seeing an ad to begin with, on Facebook you can always click the three-dot icon on an ad, then click "Why am I seeing this ad?" to learn more. For ads on YouTube, you can click the "More" button and then "About this advertiser" to see some information about who placed the ad. Anywhere else you see a Google ad you can click the "Adchoices" button and then "Why this ad?"

You shouldn't need to spend an afternoon jumping through opt out hoops and tweaking privacy settings on every device you own just so you're not bombarded with highly targeted ads. That’s why EFF supports comprehensive consumer data privacy legislation, including a ban on online behavioral ads.

Democracy works because we participate, and you should be able to do so without sacrificing your privacy. 

Thorin Klosowski

Speaking Freely: Lynn Hamadallah

5 days 10 hours ago

Lynn Hamadallah is a Syrian-Palestinian-French Psychologist based in London. An outspoken voice for the Palestinian cause, Lynn is interested in the ways in which narratives, spoken and unspoken, shape identity. Having lived in five countries and spent a lot of time traveling, she takes a global perspective on freedom of expression. Her current research project investigates how second-generation British-Arabs negotiate their cultural identity. Lynn works in a community mental health service supporting some of London's most disadvantaged residents, many of whom are migrants who have suffered extensive psychological trauma.

York: What does free speech or free expression mean to you? 

Being Arab and coming from a place where there is much more speech policing in the traditional sense, I suppose there is a bit of an idealization of Western values of free speech and democracy. There is this sense of freedom we grow up associating with the West. Yet recently, we’ve come to realize that the way it works in practice is quite different to the way it is described, and this has led to a lot of disappointment and disillusionment in the West and its ideals amongst Arabs. There’s been a lot of censorship for example on social media, which I’ve experienced myself when posting content in support of Palestine. At a national level, we have witnessed the dehumanization going on around protesters in the UK, which undermines the idea of free speech. For example, the pro-Palestine protests where we saw the then-Home Secretary Suella Braverman referring to protesters as “hate marchers.” So we’ve come to realize there’s this kind of veneer of free speech in the West which does not really match up to the more idealistic view of freedom we were taught about.

With the increased awareness we have gained as a result of the latest aggression going on in Palestine, actually what we’re learning is that free speech is just another arm of the West to support political and racist agendas. It’s one of those things that the West has come up with which only applies to one group of people and oppresses another. It’s the same as with human rights you know - human rights for who? Where are Palestinian’s human rights? 

We’ve seen free speech being weaponized to spread hate and desecrate Islam, for example, in the case of Charlie Hebdo and the Quran burning in Denmark and in Sweden. The argument put forward was that those cases represented instances of free speech rather than hate speech. But actually to millions of Muslims around the world those incidents were very, very hateful. They were acts of violence not just against their religious beliefs but right down to their sense of self. It’s humiliating to have a part of your identity targeted in that way with full support from the West, politicians and citizens alike. 

And then, when we— we meaning Palestinians and Palestine allies—want to leverage this idea of free speech to speak up against the oppression happening by the state of Israel, we see time and time again accusations flying around: hate speech, anti-semitism, and censorship. Heavy, heavy censorship everywhere. So that’s what I mean when I say that free speech in the West is a racist concept, actually. And I don’t know that true free speech exists anywhere in the world really. In the Middle East we don’t have democracies but at least there’s no veneer of democracy— the messaging and understanding is clear. Here, we have a supposed democracy, but in practice it looks very different. And that’s why, for me, I don’t really believe that free speech exists. I’ve never seen a real example of it. I think as long as people are power hungry there’s going to be violence, and as long as there’s violence, people are going to want to hide their crimes. And as long as people are trying to hide their crimes there’s not going to be free speech. Sorry for the pessimistic view!

York: It’s okay, I understand where you’re coming from. And I think that a lot of those things are absolutely true. Yet, from my perspective, I still think it’s a worthy goal even though governments—and organizationally we’ve seen this as well—a lot of times governments do try to abuse this concept. So I guess then I would just as a follow-up, do you feel that despite these issues that some form of universalized free expression is still a worthy ideal? 

Of course, I think it’s a worthy ideal. You know, even with social media – there is censorship. I’ve experienced it and it’s not just my word and an isolated incident. It’s been documented by Human Rights Watch—even Meta themselves! They did an internal investigation in 2021—Meta had a nonprofit called Business for Social Responsibility do an investigation and produce a report—and they’ve shown there was systemic censorship of Palestine-related content. And they’re doing it again now. That being said, I do think social media is making free speech more accessible, despite the censorship. 

And I think—to your question—free speech is absolutely worth pursuing. Because we see that despite these attempts at censorship, the truth is starting to come out. Palestine support is stronger than it’s ever been. To the point where we’ve now had South Africa take Israel to trial at the International Court of Justice for genocide, using evidence from social media videos that went viral. So what I’m saying is, free speech has the power to democratize demanding accountability from countries and creating social change, so yes, absolutely something we should try to pursue. 

York: You just mentioned two issues close to my heart. One is the issues around speech on social media platforms, and I’ve of course followed and worked on the Palestinian campaigns quite closely and I’m very aware of the BSR report. But also, video content, specifically, that’s found on social media being used in tribunals. So let me shift this question a bit. You have such a varied background around the world. I’m curious about your perspective over the past decade or decade and a half since social media has become so popular—how do you feel social media has shaped people’s views or their ability to advocate for themselves globally? 

So when we think about stories and narratives, something I’m personally interested in, we have to think about which stories get told and which stories remain untold. These stories and their telling is very much controlled by the mass media— BBC, CNN, and the like. They control the narrative. And I guess what social media is doing is it’s giving a voice to those who are often voiceless. In the past, the issue was that there was such a monopoly over mouthpieces. Mass  media were so trusted, to the point where no one would have paid attention to these alternative viewpoints. But what social media has done… I think it’s made people become more aware or more critical of mass media and how it shapes public opinion. There’s been a lot of exposure of their failure for example, like that video that went viral of Egyptian podcaster and activist Rahma Zain confronting CNN’s Clarissa Ward at the Rafah border about their biased reporting of the genocide in Palestine. I think that confrontation spoke to a lot of people. She was shouting “ You own the narrative, this is our problem. You own the narrative, you own the United Nations, you own Hollywood, you own all these mouthpieces— where are our voices?! Our voices need to be heard!” It was SO powerful and that video really spoke to the sentiment of many Arabs who have felt angry, betrayed and abandoned by the West’s ideals and their media reporting.

Social media is providing  a voice to more diverse people, elevating them and giving the public more control around narratives. Another example we’ve seen recently is around what’s currently happening in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These horrific events and stories would never have had much of a voice or exposure before at the global stage. And now people all over the world are paying more attention and advocating for Sudanese and Congolese rights, thanks to social media. 

I personally was raised with quite a critical view of mass media, I think in my family there was a general distrust of the West, their policies and their media, so I never really relied personally on the media as this beacon of truth, but I do think that’s an exception. I think the majority of people rely on mass media as their source of truth. So social media plays an important role in keeping them accountable and diversifying narratives.

York: What are some of the biggest challenges you see right now anywhere in the world in terms of the climate for free expression for Palestinian and other activism? 

I think there’s two strands to it. There’s the social media strand. And there’s the governmental policies and actions. So I think on social media, again, it’s very documented, but it’s this kind of constant censorship. People want to be able to share content that matters to them, to make people more aware of global issues and we see time and time again viewership going down, content being deleted or reports from Meta of alleged hate speech or antisemitism. And that’s really hard. There’ve been random strategies that have popped up to increase social media engagement, like posting random content unrelated to Palestine or creating Instagram polls for example. I used to do that, I interspersed Palestine content with random polls like, “What’s your favorite color?” just to kind of break up the Palestine content and boost my engagement. And it was honestly so exhausting. It was like… I’m watching a genocide in real time, this is an attack on my people and now I’m having to come up with silly polls? Eventually I just gave up and accepted my viewership as it was, which was significantly lower.

At a government level, which is the other part of it, there’s this challenge of constant intimidation that we’re witnessing. I just saw recently there was a 17-year-old boy who was interviewed by the counterterrorism police at an airport because he was wearing a Palestinian flag. He was interrogated about his involvement in a Palestinian protest. When has protesting become a crime and what does that say about democratic rights and free speech here in the UK? And this is one example, but there are so many examples of policing, there was even talk of banning protests all together at one point. 

The last strand I’d include, actually, that I already touched on, is the mass media. Just recently we’ve seen the BBC reporting on the ICJ hearing, they showed the Israeli defense part, but they didn’t even show the South African side. So this censorship is literally in plain sight and poses a real challenge to the climate of free expression for Palestine activism.

York: Who is your free speech hero? 

Off the top of my head I’d probably say Mohammed El-Kurd. I think he’s just been so unapologetic in his stance. Not only that but I think he’s also made us think critically about this idea of narrative and what stories get told. I think it was really powerful when he was arguing the need to stop giving the West and mass media this power, and that we need to disempower them by ceasing to rely on them as beacons of truth, rather than working on changing them. Because, as he argues, oppressors who have monopolized and institutionalized violence will never ever tell the truth or hold themselves to account. Instead, we need to turn to Palestinians, and to brave cultural workers, knowledge producers, academics, journalists, activists, and social media commentators who understand the meaning of oppression and view them as the passionate, angry and, most importantly, reliable narrators that they are.

Jillian C. York

Americans Deserve More Than the Current American Privacy Rights Act

5 days 10 hours ago

EFF is concerned that a new federal bill would freeze consumer data privacy protections in place, by preempting existing state laws and preventing states from creating stronger protections in the future. Federal law should be the floor on which states can build, not a ceiling.

We also urge the authors of the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA) to strengthen other portions of the bill. It should be easier to sue companies that violate our rights. The bill should limit sharing with the government and expand the definition of sensitive data. And it should narrow exceptions that allow companies to exploit our biometric information, our so-called “de-identified” data, and our data obtained in corporate “loyalty” schemes.

Despite our concerns with the APRA bill, we are glad Congress is pivoting the debate to a privacy-first approach to online regulation. Reining in companies’ massive collection, misuse, and transfer of everyone’s personal data should be the unifying goal of those who care about the internet. This debate has been absent at the federal level in the past year, giving breathing room to flawed bills that focus on censorship and content blocking, rather than privacy.

In general, the APRA would require companies to minimize their processing of personal data to what is necessary, proportionate, and limited to certain enumerated purposes. It would specifically require opt-in consent for the transfer of sensitive data, and most processing of biometric and genetic data. It would also give consumers the right to access, correct, delete, and export their data. And it would allow consumers to universally opt-out of the collection of their personal data from brokers, using a registry maintained by the Federal Trade Commission.

We welcome many of these privacy protections. Below are a few of our top priorities to correct and strengthen the APRA bill.

Allow States to Pass Stronger Privacy Laws

The APRA should not preempt existing and future state data privacy laws that are stronger than the current bill. The ability to pass stronger bills at the state and local level is an important tool in the fight for data privacy. We ask that Congress not compromise our privacy rights by undercutting the very state-level action that spurred this compromise federal data privacy bill in the first place.

Subject to exceptions, the APRA says that no state may “adopt, maintain, enforce, or continue in effect” any state-level privacy requirement addressed by the new bill. APRA would allow many state sectoral privacy laws to remain, but it would still preempt protections for biometric data, location data, online ad tracking signals, and maybe even privacy protections in state constitutions or some other limits on what private companies can share with the government. At the federal level, the APRA would also wrongly preempt many parts of the federal Communications Act, including provisions that limit a telephone company’s use, disclosure, and access to customer proprietary network information, including location information.

Just as important, it would prevent states from creating stronger privacy laws in the future. States are more nimble at passing laws to address new privacy harms as they arise, compared to Congress which has failed for decades to update important protections. For example, if lawmakers in Washington state wanted to follow EFF’s advice to ban online behavioral advertising or to allow its citizens to sue companies for not minimizing their collection of personal data (provisions where APRA falls short), state legislators would have no power to do so under the new federal bill.

Make It Easier for Individuals to Enforce Their Privacy Rights

The APRA should prevent coercive forced arbitration agreements and class action waivers, allow people to sue for statutory damages, and allow them to bring their case in state court. These rights would allow for rigorous enforcement and help force companies to prioritize consumer privacy.

The APRA has a private right of action, but it is a half-measure that still lets companies side-step many legitimate lawsuits. And the private right of action does not apply to some of the most important parts of the law, including the central data minimization requirement.

The favorite tool of companies looking to get rid of privacy lawsuits is to bury provision in their terms of service that force individuals into private arbitration and prevent class action lawsuits. The APRA does not address class action waivers and only prevents forced arbitration for children and people who allege “substantial” privacy harm. In addition, statutory damages and enforcement in state courts is essential, because many times federal courts still struggle to acknowledge privacy harm as real—relying instead on a cramped view that does not recognize privacy as a human right. In addition, the bill would allow companies to cure violations rather than face a lawsuit, incentivizing companies to skirt the law until they are caught.

Limit Exceptions for Sharing with the Government

APRA should close a loophole that may allow data brokers to sell data to the government and should require the government to obtain a court order before compelling disclosure of user data. This is important because corporate surveillance and government surveillance are often the same.

Under the APRA, government contractors do not have to follow the bill’s privacy protections. Those include any “entity that is collecting, processing, retaining, or transferring covered data on behalf of a Federal, State, Tribal, territorial, or local government entity, to the extent that such entity is acting as a service provider to the government entity.” Read broadly, this provision could protect data brokers who sell biometric information and location information to the government. In fact, Clearview AI previously argued it was exempt from Illinois’ strict biometric law using a similar contractor exception. This is a point that needs revision because other parts of the bill rightly prevent covered entities (government contractors excluded) from selling data to the government for the purpose of fraud detection, public safety, and criminal activity detection.

The APRA also allows entities to transfer personal data to the government pursuant to a “lawful warrant, administrative subpoena, or other form of lawful process.” EFF urges that the requirement be strengthened to at least a court order or warrant with prompt notice to the consumer. Protections like this are not unique, and it is especially important in the wake of the Dobbs decision.

Strengthen the Definition of Sensitive Data

The APRA has heightened protections for sensitive data, and it includes a long list of 18 categories of sensitive data, like: biometrics, precise geolocation, private communications, and an individual’s online activity overtime and across websites. This is a good list that can be added to. We ask Congress to add other categories, like immigration status, union membership, employment history, familial and social relationships, and any covered data processed in a way that would violate a person’s reasonable expectation of privacy. The sensitivity of data is context specific—meaning any data can be sensitive depending on how it is used. The bill should be amended to reflect that.

Limit Other Exceptions for Biometrics, De-identified Data, and Loyalty Programs

An important part of any bill is to make sure the exceptions do not swallow the rule. The APRA’s exceptions on biometric information, de-identified data, and loyalty programs should be narrowed.

In APRA, biometric information means data “generated from the measurement or processing of the individual’s unique biological, physical, or physiological characteristics that is linked or reasonably linkable to the individual” and excludes “metadata associated with a digital or physical photograph or an audio or video recording that cannot be used to identify an individual.” EFF is concerned this definition will not protect biometric information used for analysis of sentiment, demographics, and emotion, and could be used to argue hashed biometric identifiers are not covered.

De-identified data is excluded from the definition of personal data covered by the APRA, and companies and service providers can turn personal data into de-identified data to process it however they want. The problem with de-identified data is that many times it is not. Moreover, many people do not want their private data that they store in confidence with a company to then be used to improve that company’s product or train its algorithm—even if the data has purportedly been de-identified.

Many companies under the APRA can host loyalty programs and can sell that data with opt-in consent. Loyalty programs are a type of pay-for-privacy scheme that pressure people to surrender their privacy rights as if they were a commodity. Worse, because of our society’s glaring economic inequalities, these schemes will unjustly lead to a society of privacy “haves” and “have-nots.” At the very least, the bill should be amended to prevent companies from selling data that they obtain from a loyalty program.

We welcome Congress' privacy-first approach in the APRA and encourage the authors to improve the bill to ensure privacy is protected for generations to come.

Mario Trujillo

Tell the FCC It Must Clarify Its Rules to Prevent Loopholes That Will Swallow Net Neutrality Whole

5 days 10 hours ago

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released draft rules to reinstate net neutrality, with a vote on adopting the rules to come on the 25th of April. The FCC needs to close some loopholes in the draft rules before then.

Proposed Rules on Throttling and Prioritization Allow for the Circumvention of Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is the principle that all ISPs should treat all traffic coming over their networks without discrimination. The effect of this principle is that customers decide for themselves how they’d like to experience the internet. Violations of this principle include, but are not limited to, attempts to block, speed up, or slow down certain content as means of controlling traffic.

Net neutrality is critical to ensuring that the internet remains a vibrant place to learn, organize, speak, and innovate, and the FCC recognizes this. The draft mostly reinstates the bright-line rules of the landmark 2015 net neutrality protections to ban blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

It falls short, though, in a critical way: the FCC seems to think that it’s not okay to favor certain sites or services by slowing down other traffic, but it might be okay to favor them by giving them access to so-called fast lanes such as 5G network slices. First of all, in a world with a certain amount of finite bandwidth, favoring some traffic necessarily impairs other traffic. Secondly, the harms to speech and competition would be the same even if an ISP could conjure more bandwidth from thin air to speed up traffic from its business partners. Whether your access to Spotify is faster than your access to Bandcamp because Spotify is sped up or because Bandcamp is slowed down doesn’t matter because the end result is the same: Spotify is faster than Bandcamp and so you are incentivized to use Spotify over Bandcamp.

The loophole is especially bizarre because the 2015 FCC already got this right, and there has been bipartisan support for net neutrality proposals that explicitly encompass both favoring and disfavoring certain traffic. It’s a distinction that doesn’t make logical sense, doesn’t seem to have partisan significance, and could potentially undermine the rules in the event of a court challenge by drawing a nonsensical distinction between what’s forbidden under the bright-line rules versus what goes through the multi-factor test for other potentially discriminatory conduct by ISPs.

The FCC needs to close this loophole for unpaid prioritization of certain applications or classes of traffic. Customers should be in charge of what they do online, rather than ISPs deciding that, say, it’s more important to consume streaming entertainment products than to participate in video calls or that one political party’s websites should be served faster than another’s.

The FCC Should Clearly Rule Preemption to be a Floor, Not a Ceiling

When the FCC under the previous administration abandoned net neutrality protections in 2017 with the so-called “Restoring Internet Freedom” order, many states—chief among them California—stepped in to pass state net neutrality laws. Laws more protective than federal net neutrality protections—like California's should be explicitly protected by the new rule.

The FCC currently finds that California’s law “generally tracks [with] the federal rules[being] restored. (269)” It goes on to find that state laws are fine so long as they do not “interfere with or frustrate…federal rules,” are not “inconsistent,” or are not “incompatible.” It then reserves the right to revisit any state law if evidence arises that a state policy is found to “interfere or [be] incompatible.”

States should be able to build on federal laws to be more protective of rights, not run into limits to available protections. California’s net neutrality is in some places stronger than the draft rules. Where the FCC means to evaluate zero-rating, the practice of exempting certain data from a user’s data cap, on a case-by-case basis, California outright bans the practice of zero rating select apps.

There is no guarantee that a Commission which finds California to “generally track” today will do the same in two years time. The language as written unnecessarily sets a low bar for a future Commission to find California’s, and other states’, net neutrality laws to be preempted. It also leaves open unnecessary room for the large internet service providers (ISPs) to challenge California’s law once again. After all, when California’s law was first passed, it was immediately taken to court by these same ISPs and only after years of litigation did the courts reject the industry’s arguments and allow enforcement of this gold standard law to begin.

We urge the Commission to clearly state that, not only is California consistent with the FCC’s rules, but that on the issue of preemption the FCC considers its rules to be  the floor to build on, and that further state protections are not inconsistent simply because they may go further than the FCC chooses to.

Overall, the order is a great step for net neutrality. Its rules go a distance in protecting internet users. But we need clear rules recognizing that the creation of fast lanes via positive discrimination and unpaid prioritization are violations of net neutrality just the same, and assurance that states will continue to be free to protect their residents even when the FCC won’t.

Tell the FCC to Fix the Net Neutrality Rules:

1. Go to this link
2. For "Proceeding" put 23-320
3. Fill out the form
4. In "brief comments" register your thoughts on net neutrality. We recommend this, which you can copy and paste or edit for yourself:

Net neutrality is the principle that all internet service providers treat all traffic coming through their networks without discrimination. The effect of this principle is that customers decide for themselves how they’d like to experience the internet. The Commission’s rules as currently written leave open the door for positive discrimination of content, that is, the supposed creation of fast lanes where some content is sped up relative to others. This isn’t how the internet works, but in any case, whether an ISP is speeding up or slowing down content, the end result is the same: the ISP picks the winners and losers on the internet. As such the Commission must create bright line rules against all forms of discrimination, speeding up or slowing down, against apps or classes of apps on general traffic in the internet.

Further, while the Commission currently finds state net neutrality rules, like California’s, to not be preempted because they “generally track” its own rules, it makes it easy to rule otherwise at a future date. But just as we received net neutrality in 2015 only to have it taken away in 2017, there is no guarantee that the Commission will continue to find state net neutrality laws passed post-2017 to be consistent with the rules. To safeguard net neutrality, the Commission must find that California’s law is wholly consistent with their rules and that preemption is taken as a floor, not a ceiling, so that states can go above and beyond the federal standard without it being considered inconsistent with the federal rule.

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Tell the FCC to Fix the Net Neutrality Rules

Chao Liu

【シンポジウム】メディアの姿勢問うシンポ 沖縄の声 全国に届けよ=古川英一 

5 days 13 hours ago
 2月の沖縄はもう上着がいらないような温かさ、辺野古・大浦湾の海は薄曇りながら穏やかできらきらと輝いていた。しかしその海の一角に埋めたてのための平たい作業船が視界に入る。去年の12月に福岡高裁が国の代執行を認める判決を出し、これを受けて今年から大浦湾での工事が始まった。1年ほど前に訪れた時、こうした光景だけは見たくないと強く思ったのだか・・  ◇ ..