"Hoffman, an ad agency veteran, details the political and legal dangers posed by tracking-based advertising.
The author observes that the online advertising business is now colossal—approximately $350 billion is spent on it annually, though few businesses understand the “arcane nature of the online advertising ecosystem.” As a result, it is nearly impossible to precisely estimate its benefits or to effectively regulate it, and it is terrifyingly vulnerable to criminals and terrorists looking to exploit it.
Hoffman is especially concerned with tracking-based advertising, which employs intrusive surveillance to collect personal data about internet users to either sell or share it. The ramifications of this now ubiquitous corporate spying are unsettling and, according to the author, even pose a threat to democracy itself. The principal political risks are twofold: First, they contribute to the nation’s partisan polarization by promoting misinformation and encouraging rhetorical incivility, as these tactics attract attention—the author asserts that nothing produces clicks on social media like “false, sensational, slanderous, and scurrilous” posts.
They also pose a threat to national security insofar as the personal data mined is left completely unprotected, providing a wealth of opportunities not just to criminals, but also state-sponsored hackers. These points of vulnerability are rigorously documented by the author in this concise synopsis of the issue. Hoffman writes that tracking-based advertising isn’t even very effective, a fact well known within the industry but concealed because it is nevertheless very profitable.
He concludes that the tracking-based adtech industry is “organized crime at a global scale that has been normalized by involving virtually every major corporation, every pretty-sounding trade organization, and the entire advertising, marketing, and online media industry.” ... his account of the way in which advertising data collection works is as meticulous as it is accessible, and his presentation of its dangers is illuminating. For readers in search of a brief study of the issue, this is an eye-opening book.
A fascinating account of an advertising practice little understood." - Kirkus Reviews