Towards transparency and privacy in the online advertising business

Would you like to know the money you are generating for Facebook?

A great advantage of online advertising over more traditional printed and TV advertising is its capability to target individuals with specialized advertisements tailored to their personal information.

For instance the ad campaign planner from Facebook (FB) allows defining an audience using more than 13 different attributes related to personal information of the end-user. Therefore, an online advertiser can launch a campaign targeting a well-defined audience based on personal information attributes, thus an important part of the FB business model is built up on top of the personal information of its subscribers. Although there are no doubts of the legality of the business model implemented by FB and other major players in the Internet, there are some actors raising the request of generating tools that let end-users knowing what is the actual value of their personal information. In other words, how much money FB, Google, and other companies in the on-line advertising market make out of my personal information. Providing Internet users with simple and transparent tools that inform them of what is the value that their personal data generates is not only a civil society request, but a demand from governmental forces. The transparency such a tool entails is also intrinsic to the TYPES project as a whole.

The goal of this project is to develop a tool that informs in real-time Internet end users regarding the economic value that the personal information associated to their browsing activity has generated. Due to the complexity of the problem the scope of this tool has been narrowed to FB in this project, i.e., inform FB users in real time of the value that they are generating to FB. The tool is referred to as the FB Data Valuation Tool (FDVT).

The team behind FDTV is comprised of Dr. Ángel Cuevas, Dr. Rubén Cuevas , Raquel Aparicio, and José González. The former presented the tool at the Data Transparency Lab (DTL) 2015 conference. The tool and the work carried out at UC3M for TYPES and DTL got the attention of the Spanish and Latin American press media. Coverage of the tool developed by the TYPES member continues to grow beyond the over 50 publications whose interest was raised immediately after the unveiling of FDTV, and includes prestigious media outlets such as El Pais,  BBC Mundo, and La Nación, just to name a few.


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