WWLP: Creepy ads seen as tip of larger data privacy problem 

October 20, 2023

“We’ve all had the experience of being creeped out by an ad, right?” Caitriona Fitzgerald, deputy director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said. “A lot of people think our phones must be listening to us because the ads are so creepy. The reality is even creepier. They don’t need to listen to us to know what we’re seeing and thinking because that’s how much data they’re collecting on us.” 

Fitzgerald said companies track what websites internet users visit, whose cellphones are often near each other and what each of them are searching for, what people buy online and in stores, health and geolocation data, and more. 

“Advertising giants then use this data to create profiles about us, put us into categories like anxiety disorders, or heavy purchasers of pregnancy test kits, all to target us with more ads,” she said, testifying at a Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies hearing Thursday morning. 

… Fitzgerald said she and other data privacy organizations support the language in the bill that authorizes private right to action. 

“It’s really proven to be the only meaningful enforcement mechanism,” she said at a Joint Committee on Advanced Information Technology, the Internet and Cybersecurity hearing later on Thursday, during which people testified on Carey’s House version of the same bill. 

“Unfortunately, businesses know that the resources of the attorney general’s offices are limited, and they’re only going to be able to bring a few cases a year. So having that kind of threat of private action hanging over their heads forces compliance in a way that government enforcement does not,” she said. “It scares them more into compliance, and if you’re complying with the law, then it shouldn’t be an issue.” 

Read more here.

Support Our Work

EPIC's work is funded by the support of individuals like you, who allow us to continue to protect privacy, open government, and democratic values in the information age.