Ban surveillance advertising!

EFF’s technological and legal proposal for a surveillance-free internet.

Cory Doctorow
5 min readMar 22, 2022

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EFF’s mobile advertising banner: a collage of stylized tablet and phone screens with sinister eyes in the middle of them. Image: EFF https://www.eff.org/files/banner_library/mobile-privacy-knight-2_0.png CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/

I’ve been working with EFF for 20 years (!) now, and that association continues to pay dividends. EFF basically invented the idea of promoting tech policy positions that were informed by deep expertise in technology, law and human rights principles.

This three-legged stool produces some remarkably sturdy proposals and policies — proposals that are legally sound, technologically achievable, and that advance important human rights causes in the digital realm.

The latest of these is EFF’s policy on how and why to ban surveillance advertising, entitled “Ban Online Behavioral Advertising,” written by my colleagues Adam Schwartz and Bennett Cyphers:

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2022/03/ban-online-behavioral-advertising

The article begins by laying out the mechanisms that make behavioral ads — that is, ads that “[target] us based on our online behavior” — viable:

  1. Tracking: When our tech “quietly collects information” about who we are and what we do, e.g. “app interactions and browsing history,” and share that info with “ad tech companies and data brokers”
  2. Profiling: Linking that data to information that ad tech/data broker…

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