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HomeGlobal Perspective & Critical ResearchMajor Media Outlets That Use Invasive User Tracking are Lobbying Against Regulations

Major Media Outlets That Use Invasive User Tracking are Lobbying Against Regulations

Author: Lee Fang

Affiliation: Journalist Based in San Francisco, California, USA

Organization/Publisher: The Intercept

Date/Place: February 1, 2022/USA

Type of Literature: Analysis

Word Count: 2479



Keywords:  Transparency, Data Collection, Mass Surveillance Reform, and Surveillance Capitalism




Media outlets suffer a lack of much needed transparency and privacy, along with lobbying against proposals to regulate mass information collection. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), which deals with mass collection of private data from users to facilitate targeted advertisements, has been an active player in lobbying against such proposals to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The IAB represents outlets such as CNN, the New York Times and Fox News, claiming that modern media cannot exist without mass data collection. Media outlets depend on privacy violations even though they are supposed to report them; Media companies collect data from other websites to target the audience in particular ways via advertisement operations programs. The media at best could report scandals every once in a while, but they remain major culprits in this ordeal. News websites’ date-tracking reached a level higher than banking and business websites globally, earning large sums of money such as the case of the Times having an ad revenue increase by $19.2 Million in 2020. Advertising platforms like OpenX collect data from all over the internet and feed it to news websites to post targeted ads, and the news outlets along with advertising agencies use data brokers to target potential customers while violating privacy with little to no concern. The FTC has issued a $2 million fine against OpenX for its illegal activities, however regulations are not yet sufficient for curbing this system of surveillance capitalism. Because this status quo has forced every major media company to be a culprit in mass surveillance activities, instead of posing the problem as individual scandals there needs to be an incentive for reform. The question out of the predicament is whether there is a possibility to have a free press that is un-reliant on mass surveillance. 

Critical Commentary: The network of mass surveillance for profit was well illustrated, showcasing the lack of transparency and violation of user privacy. The media is a primary culprit as it financially benefits from the status quo and seeks to curb regulations, only reporting on a scandal here and there to give the illusion of transparency. The author does not elaborate on other aspects of why the network of mass surveillance has taken root; doing it for profit is a strong reason but not the only viable one at play. It could be seen that the network’s origins extend further than media companies wanting profit; it is naïve to believe that user data would only be used for targeted ads, as it could be used for more nefarious purposes by other powerful institutions. The fine issued by the FTC against OpenX is a meager fine which is borderline symbolic and not genuine in its attempts to regulate, and the news outlets appear to be a piece of the network of capitalism surveillance which certainly includes other actors. Media companies are not being forced but are fully-willing culprits in a larger power structure.


By: Omar Fili, CIGA Research Assistant



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