Would poisoning YOUR data work?


Sure it would. At least in one… “collateral” way, that is.

Would poisoning YOUR data work? /img/ad-nauseam.jpg

The problem: your mandatory digital breadcrumbs

From here * Every day, your life leaves a trail of digital breadcrumbs that tech giants use to track you. * That data is fed into machine-learning algorithms to target you with ads and recommendations. Google cashes your data in for over $120 billion a year of ad revenue. * Increasingly, we can no longer opt out of this arrangement.

Let’s pollute then!

BUT, says Mit Technology Review, “the algorithms used by Big Tech are meaningless without enough of the right data to train on”.

This fact is the basis on which the researchers interviewed by the Review base their suggestions of “new ways to redress this power imbalance by treating our collective data as a bargaining chip”.

One of these ways is Data poisoning, which involves contributing meaningless or harmful data: AdNauseam, for example, is a browser extension that clicks on every single ad served to you, thus confusing Google’s ad-targeting algorithms”.

Of course, this would only work if enough people used this technique. How many? A lot, surely. Many millions. And of course such actions could only complement other ones, e.g. “policy advocacy and worker organizing”.

But we won’t know until enough people do it, so let’s try, why not? Of course, you should first understand, and want, both sides of this coin.

Interesting collateral effects? Of course

There are at least two I can think of. One is explained in the article: “Could data poisoning end up just adding more work for content moderators and other people tasked with cleaning and labeling the companies’ training data?”

Then there is one that may be even more interesting: if “you”, that is your browser, automatically click on every ad of every page you visit, this will change what you see, every time you search for something online, or visit Facebook, or any other social media platform that lives of advertising.

Doing “data pollution”, that is, may not “weaken Big Tech”. But it will surely expose you to stuff you have never seen before, and very likely would never see otherwise. That may be an even better reason to try stuff like AdNauseam. Do it!

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