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Smartphone Surveillance Tech Used To Target Anti-Abortion Ads At Pregnant Women (rewire.news) 260

VoiceOfDoom writes: Rewire reports: "Last year, an enterprising advertising executive based in Boston, Massachusetts, had an idea: Instead of using his sophisticated mobile surveillance techniques to figure out which consumers might be interested in buying shoes, cars, or any of the other products typically advertised online, what if he used the same technology to figure out which women were potentially contemplating abortion, and send them ads on behalf of anti-choice organizations?"

Regardless of one's personal stance on the pro-choice/anti-abortion debate, the unfettered use of tracking and ad-targeting technology which makes this kind of application possible is surely a cause for concern. In Europe, Canada and many other parts of the world, the use of a person's data in this way would be illegal thanks to strict privacy laws. Is it time for the U.S. to consider a similar approach to protect its citizens?
Google has been reportedly tracking users on around 80 percent of all 'Top 1 Million' domains. Facebook is doing something similar. A recent report shows that Facebook uses smartphone microphones to identify the things users are listening to or watching based on the music and TV shows its able to identify. Facebook says the feature must be turned on, and that "it's only active when you're writing a status update."
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Smartphone Surveillance Tech Used To Target Anti-Abortion Ads At Pregnant Women

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  • So what (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @08:41PM (#52192039)

    Telling women to not do abortions is nothing bad IMO. Its what ads are about: telling us to do different stuff. Its what made google rich.

    What IS bad though is to forbid abortions, because this will just lead to women who want to abort their child to use more dangerous methods.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't suppose there's a less biased, neutral toned article on this subject available to read, is there?

    • I read the article, I didn't see where it said that. It was concerned with the level of spying on people during a deeply personal time. The same way if atheists targeted people in churches with anti-religious adverts.
    • by jmv ( 93421 )

      I'm sorry, but this is just bad taste... and yes, I would say the same if these were pro-abortion ads ("You're pregnant! Ever considered an abortion?"). Also, I suspect any attempt at having anti-abortion ads is bound to backfire and "promote" the idea as an option.

    • No.

      Any unbiased article on abortion would be attacked as biased by both sides. They don't even use the same terminology.

  • According to AdBlockPlus, I'm already blocking 10 ads on this page alone. Fortunately, this means I'll never have to find out if they're targeted or not.

  • HIPAA? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by romco ( 61131 )


  • Double standard (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Livius ( 318358 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @09:00PM (#52192105)

    I realize that people are emotional about abortion, but objectively this is no more creepy or unethical than anything else in the advertising industry.

    • while that may be true in a superficial sense, it's a step further in that it's intrusive based on an opposing ideology rather than selling a product. it would be like if it determined you were republican and fed you misinformation about voting dates and locations.

      • > based on an opposing ideology

        Crisis Pregnancy Centers offer help to young and struggling moms-to-be, such as free diapers and baby products, classes on parenting, and a lot of encouragement and support - being a young single mom is hard, but with help you can do it.

        Certainly some Crisis Pregnancy Center volunteers are aware that if no assistance and support were offered, if these young women felt that they had to do it all alone, some would get abortions. Some may feel that abortion is similar to murd

        • It goes beyond "ideology". Spreading misinformation and lying to patients about made-up bullshit like fetal pain and post-abortion suicide is just fraud and harassment.
          • by Livius ( 318358 )

            Spreading misinformation and lying

            So... the *same* as the rest of the advertising industry.

        • Some may feel that abortion is similar to murder.

          those women are the women who never even consider getting abortions.

          You say there is an "opposing idealogy". There is an idealogy which opposes offering help and encouragement to people who are facing difficult challenges?

          yes, there is. have you see what protesters write on their signs at abortion clinics? they don't right, "we want to help you," they write shit like, "murdering whores burn in hell" which i feel is exceptionally unhelpful.

          Is that YOUR ideology? If so, you've been unusually honest, probably unintentionally.

          you've taken a benign comment and attacked me out of personal zeal for your point of view. i hope you can learn some self-control because the world does not need more people lashing out emotionally.

    • because nobody has ever threatened lives and even carried through on those threats because of the type of soap I buy.
    • objectively this is no more creepy or unethical than anything else in the advertising industry

      Because having an abortion is on the same level as buying ethernet cables or looking up used car ratings? Methinks not.

    • but objectively this is no more creepy or unethical than anything else in the advertising industry.

      So, in other words, spectacularly creepy and deeply unethical then?

    • by rizole ( 666389 )
      I'd argue that it is more creepy and/or unethical because it's not just advertising is it? It's a biased communication pushing a moral agenda, more commonly called propaganda [wikipedia.org].
      • by Livius ( 318358 )

        The advertising is long since way past "just advertising". The pure evil is just a little more obvious in this case.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Medical privacy?

  • I admit this is sort of off topic, but this story just made me consider: why do I suddenly have ads on /.?

    For many years now, I've had no ads with a little message explaining that since I've had a story on the front page, I could browse Slashdot ad free. Did this go away with the last regime change?

    • That checkbox never worked for me. Maybe because I reset cookies each time I visit slashdot.

      Perhaps your cookie has expired and you had to re-login, perhaps try to re-check the checkbox.

      Anyway, I have an adblocker, so I don't notice.

      • Maybe because I reset cookies each time I visit slashdot.

        No, it won't be that. Slashdot implement that feature using telepathic visitor tracking.

    • I have a feeling that if I post comments on this story, I'm going to be seeing ads for cervical sponges on every page I visit for the next month!
  • Moral relativity (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Maxx169 ( 920414 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @01:39AM (#52193001)
    Is it wrong to target a problem drinker with ads for AA? How about targeting problem drinkers with free booze? What about targeting young mothers with ads for 'family planning' services, or as the article suggests pregnant women with 'pro-life' services? I'm sure there is a line there somewhere. Morality is a funny, fuzzy deeply personal thing... and I guess the line will vary from person to person.

    Disclaimer: I am very strongly pro-choice (where choice is the right for a woman to seek an abortion if she wants).
  • I don't remember what comedian said it, but it's quite true, if men could get pregnant, you'd have a drive-through abortion clinic in every WalMart. And don't forget to have your membership card stamped, for with every tenth you get a pack of condoms for free!

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @06:53AM (#52193839)

    The abortion part is clickbait. What this is about is if privacy laws should be stricter in the US. The information of people was sold and is used. In Europe this is not allowed. From somebody who lives in Europe, this could be a bit stricter. So how does it work in Europe?

    So I worked for CompanyA who had clients (companies) that had customers (people). They decided to close and sell the product portofolio to CompanyB. The customers would still be able to keep the identical product with the same name and what not.
    As we sold the product and not the customer, we were not allwed to just send a file with everything to CompanyB and have it automated. What we did was
    1) Send a letter that we were going to stop
    2) Inform them that if they want, they can cancel
    3) If they did not cancel, they would be contacted by CompanyB
    4) CompanyB (where I work now) send a letter to the customer saying they would now be dealing with the product
    5) The customer needed to sign a new contract
    6) All contracts needed to be verified and treated as if they were a new customer (because in reality they were)

    The period of transfer CompanyA asked sometimes info about customers that, even while available, we were not allowed to give.

    For me personaly this was nice, as I was working for CompanyA while being paid by CompanyB.

    Other things mean that if your spouse calls for info, we are not allowed to give it, unless it is explicitely allowed. Mind you, most companies do not honor that last one.

    Direct marketing to people is very restricted. It is allowed to customers you have a business relation with (e.g. people who bought something from you) but not to others. So no buying of data and sending then mail or what not.

    If people ask to stop sending stuff, you better agree with that.

    To me the privacy laws are not going far enough, but that is just a personal opinion.

    • The abortion part is clickbait. What this is about is if privacy laws should be stricter in the US.

      Thank you for pointing out what should be obvious.
      Why isn't it obvious?

      Because many, or actually most of the people who post to /. have what I would call "slashdotitis". Slashdotitis is a commonly occurring degenerative disorder whereby someone will blabber endlessly in a post about completely idiotic shit without even "grokking" WTF the point of the parent, linked article is. Usually the blabbering occurs about a "hot button" issue like gun control, abortion, environmental regulations, climate chang

  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @08:02AM (#52194069)

    The inflammatory title is meant to get attention. However, I also believe it’s true (for most cases).

    We find it distasteful to force arbitary morals onto people or bombard them with propaganda and ads. Privacy violations are wrong too, and that’s what this article is really about. But the abortion issue itself is something that can be looked at objectively. And I want to understand how some people can claim to value human life on the one hand and then blithely throw it awas on the other hand.

    There are situations where abortions are medically necessary (like when the mother’s life is threatened by the pregnancy), and there are some gray areas when it comes to serious developmental defects that are often terminal anyway. But a lot of the time, abortion is used as retroactive contraception. People with no self-control or forward planning ability have sex, and pregnancy happens. There are lots of ways to prevent pregnancy in the first place, not the least of which is to find a partner of the same sex, which is something we honestly need to push our society into taking advantage of more.

    But hey, let’s just terminate human life willy-nilly because it’s fucking convenient for us! As someone who is liberal about most things, I see abortion (most of the time) as a massive shirking of personal responsibility. CHOICES have consequences, and you should have to deal with them and not force others to pay for your mistakes or, say, murder someone over it.

    This is what I really don’t get about the “pro choice” people. A human fetus does indeed have an underdeveloped nervous system, so killing it is not the same as torture. At the same time, you can also kill adults painlessly, yet we don’t have clinics where you can take your office enemies to have them euthanized. A human fetus is definitely alive, and it’s definitely human. So why do people make some arbitrary distinction that because it hasn’t been BORN yet, it’s okay to murder it? (I’m using the word “murder” because I don’t want to hide behind euphamisms. Deal with it. Abortion is killing someone who is not threatening your life, which makes it at least manslaughter.)

    Hey, maybe you want to live in a society ruled by social darwinism, where there’s are no rules against killing people. Most slashdotters would have been killed by now by bullies in highschool in that case, so you should appreciate the systems of laws and morals that protect you. I don’t care if you’re devoutly religious or an atheist, we have solid grounds for human societies to have ethics. And we as humans have decided that killing your fellow humans is wrong. Interestingly, I find atheists to often have a stronger sense of morality, because they don’t have religious fervor to tell them when it’s okay to break their own rules to force someone else to live by their bizarre and arbitrary religious tennets. So just to be clear, this is not a religious issue.

    Indeed, putting stupid religions aside, most people find murder to be objectively wrong. We value human life, instinctively, unless we’re psychopaths. It doesn’t matter if Christians tell you murder is wrong because Christians have been known to murder in the name of their God. The same is true of Muslims. When wars are fought and terrorists bomb airports, the rest of the world stands aghast at the needless loss of human life over stupid idiological issues.

    So don’t distort the abortion issue into a right vs. left thing or a stupid religious issue. 99% of religion is bullshit, and we don't get the idea of murder being wrong from religion.

    Often single mothers are vilified, especially if they’re in high school. (Although most abortions, I think, are not had by high school girls.) And the fathers frequently skip town or deny responsibility. A girl who has a baby before she can finish her college degree is typically screwed in more ways th

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.