Analysis of ad platform targeting data reveals extent of surveillance capitalism

08/06/2023 | The Markup

A recent discovery on Microsoft-owned ad platform Xandr has revealed a vast collection of "audience segments" used to target consumers with highly specific and sometimes personal information and assumptions. This revelation has raised concerns about the privacy and ethical implications of such data collection and usage.

The Markup examined 650,000 Xandr audience segments and found ads were targeted to users based on a range of criteria, including the frequency of pregnancy test purchases or their level of depression, for example. This is made possible by combining personal data collected through online tracking and real-world movements, resulting in customised groups of potential ad viewers that can be marketed to publishers and advertisers.

Wolfie Christl, a privacy researcher at Cracked Labs, who discovered the file and shared it with The Markup said, “I think it’s the largest piece of evidence I’ve ever seen that provides information about what I call today’s “distributed surveillance economy.”

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