When the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, and Google testify later this week at a House hearing, a number of familiar policy reforms will be on the table. Antitrust. Section 230. Privacy legislation.
A new campaign wants to add another bold idea into the mix: “Ban Surveillance Advertising.” In an open letter posted today, the coalition defines surveillance advertising as “the practice of extensively tracking and profiling individuals and groups, and then microtargeting ads at them based on their behavioral history, relationships, and identity.” That business model is at the heart of how Facebook and Google make money. And, the letter argues, it’s harming society. It spurs an arms race for user attention, which in turn incentivizes algorithms that favor polarizing and extreme content and groups. It helps Google and Facebook dominate the market for digital advertising at the expense of the news media. In short, the letter concludes, the surveillance