Rifts

How much it costs to stalk someone with mobile ads; the legislation dividing NYC techies; and more.


  • Local politics: A hearing on novel legislation introduced by New York City Council Member James Vacca on algorithmic transparency in city government revealed a rift in the city’s tech community, I report for Civicist.

  • Cyber-insecurity: According to a new study out of the University of Washington, it only takes a $1,000 and a little know-how to track someone’s location using mobile ads, Andy Greenberg reports for Wired.

  • Even after the Tennessee Republican Party told Twitter that an account purporting to speak for them was fake, the company was reluctant to shut it down, Kevin Collier reports for BuzzFeed. All told, it took the social media company 11 months to close the account, which of course was run by Russians.

  • Benjamin Elgin and Vernon Silver report for Bloomberg that Facebook and Google employees helped an ad agency conduct an anti-Hillary, anti-Islam, and anti-refugee campaign on behalf of a conservative nonprofit. “Facebook’s collaboration with Secure America Now went beyond optimizing its ad reach, and included efforts to test new technology,” Elgin and Silver write. “In one instance, Facebook used the Secure America Now campaign to try out a vertical video format, which the Facebook reps were eager to see used on a large scale.”

  • Although Mark Zuckerberg loudly proclaimed that Facebook was trying to ensure the integrity of the recent German election, the company did not remove attack ads targeting the Green party that were in violation of German Media Authority regulations for not providing accurate contact information, Stefanie Dodt, Jeff Larson, and Julia Angwin report for ProPublica.

  • Former director of digital advertising for the Clinton campaign Jason Rosenbaum writes in Newsweek that we have long needed a solution for tracking political digital ad buys. “Before joining Secretary Clinton’s campaign, I led the Elections and Issue Advocacy media team at Google. We offered our clients—political campaigns for every level of office from city council to beyond—a self-service advertising platform that provides access to 90 percent of people on the internet,” Rosenbaum writes. “There are virtually no mechanisms in place for the public to see who is buying what. It’s not hard to see why that’s a problem.”

  • Although several senators including John McCain plan to introduce legislation on disclosing online political ad purchases today, the tech industry is beefing up its lobbying power to try to shape any new regulations, Kenneth P. Vogel and Cecilia Kang report for The New York Times.

  • In a letter to the NationBuilder community, Jim Gilliam explained that his NationBuilder co-founder Lea Endres has stepped into the role of CEO, after Gilliam himself became very sick this year, although Gilliam has since returned to work.

  • Craigslist founder Craig Newmark donated $50,000 to NYC Veterans Alliance to kick off their capital campaign, according to a press release. The organization, which is led by Civic Hall member Kristen Rouse, is aiming to raise $100,000 in total, which will go towards supporting an expansion of their policy advocacy for New York City-based veterans and their families.

  • Driving fatalities on the road are on the rise (especially involving bike riders and pedestrians, which have increased by 22 percent in just two years) but its difficult to pin the blame on cell phones because the data on distracted driving is so bad, Kyle Stock, Lance Lambert, and David Ingold report for Bloomberg.

  • Writing for Politico, Paul Roberts tells cities begging for Amazon’s second headquarters that the company can absolutely transform a place, but not always for the better.