Expert Claims that Advertisers Monitor Your Every Move Even in Unexpected Places

Expert Claims that Advertisers Monitor Your Every Move Even in Unexpected Places

Advertisers are allegedly closely monitoring user activities, including their movements in unexpected places, according to an expert.

The practice, which raises concerns about privacy invasion, reportedly operates in a largely unregulated and unenforced environment, as per a report from Northeastern Global News.

(Photo : Erik Lucatero from Pixabay)

Primary Methods of Tracking User Location

Christo Wilson, an associate professor and director of the BS in Cybersecurity program at Northeastern University, sheds light on the absence of comprehensive rules and regulations governing the realm of advertisements.

Wilson explains that companies employ two primary methods to track user locations. The first involves mobile apps that request access to location sensors.

He explained that in the past, users had limited control over this access, with apps being able to collect location data even when not in use and potentially sharing it with third parties.

The second method revolves around online advertising, particularly through real-time bidding. When users visit websites, code provided by ad exchanges facilitates the delivery of banner ads. In this process, the browser contacts the ad exchange, which then transmits bid solicitations to numerous companies, potentially exceeding a thousand. 

Along with the bid, the ad exchange also shares additional information, such as the user’s current locatio, according to Wilson.

This means that every encounter with a banner ad could result in multiple companies accessing and utilizing location data, raising concerns about privacy implications.

In terms of regulations, Wilson reveals that there is an absence of comprehensive rules at the federal level in the United States. 

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Sensitive Data and Profitability

The use of sensitive data and its profitability are additional aspects of concern. He underscores that while some companies claim to have policies prohibiting the use of sensitive locations, the effectiveness and enforcement of these policies are often unclear and challenging.

Claims of data anonymization are also a subject of contention, as unique identifiers may be employed to track individuals over time, potentially leading to privacy risks and targeted advertising.

When asked if users should be concerned about this, Wilson said that they should be “super concerned”.

“Who knows what’s going on behind the scenes? Or the ways that it is used for discriminatory purposes, like targeting ads for real estate but only in affluent white areas,” Wilson said in a statement.

Given the potential ramifications and the risk of discriminatory practices, individuals are advised to be vigilant and cautious about these pervasive monitoring techniques. 

While preventing the sharing of location data entirely may be challenging, users can take certain precautions, such as uninstalling unused apps with location permissions or adjusting settings to limit location access.  

Additionally, employing ad blockers in web browsers may help mitigate the inadvertent leakage of location data during the ad-serving process, according to Wilson. 

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