Incognito

Demystifying data ethics, privacy, and technology

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What is behavioural advertising?

It’s the thing that turned the likes of Facebook and Google into giants — free services are also advertising networks Behavioural advertising does what it says on the tin: it’s advertising which is based on your behaviour. Have you ever seen an ad for something you need right now? Or...

*Ring ring*: how enhanced security leads to a lack of privacy

Amazon’s Ring are creating a lucrative pot of consumer data for themselves — all in the name of security. It’s interesting how one way of making yourself or your house more secure would be to get a security guard. That guard would have access to your private property and have...

The UK government want to start centralising data: you cannot undo this by deleting cookies

The government in the UK has started making urgent plans to centralise all user data from gov.uk sites ‘ahead of Brexit’. There are several problems with this, and they don’t all lie on the government’s decision… 🌍 Scraping and centralising data into one place without a good reason is sketchy...

The easiest way to understand cryptography

Sending information over the internet is often encrypted — that means it is only readable to the sender and recipient. So when you send a message to a friend over WhatsApp, the only devices the message is visible in are your phone and your friend’s phone. Asymmetric cryptography is a...

Facebook just released a white paper on data portability

Are they serious, or is this just more privacy posturing? Data portability is where you can take any data you produce for one service, and move it to another. E.g. taking all data away from Facebook, and putting it into a Facebook alternative so you don’t have to ‘start again’....

Google has been using a workaround for GDPR

Johnny Ryan from Brave has found a data-gathering workaround Google have been implementing on 8.4 million sites In the wake of GDPR, Google made (some) effort to stop publishers from using Google’s tools to engage in real-time bidding (RTB), which is a method of broadcasting as much user information as...

Five common data privacy misconceptions

The data privacy space contains many secrets and misconceptions — a lot of the time so that companies can continue to receive healthy torrents of consumer data. Fear not, user of the internet; watch as I demystify this fiendish and confusing space before your very eyes. Remember, the more you...

Regulating the Internet: is it even a good idea?

What do I even mean by ‘regulation’? First of all, let’s get one thing straight: the internet is amazing. If you’ve forgotten why it’s amazing, simply read this very comprehensive love letter and you will once again understand the infinite, wondrous treasure-trove that is our internet. But, through decades of...

Is data consent anonymous?

Some of it is and some of it isn’t. Time to explore, internet users. Everyday you browse the web and (theoretically) manage consent relating to how your data is processed. What many of us are forgetting is that this can be both anonymous and not anonymous. But first, it’s important...

Startups: what does trust look like?

Trust is something you have to earn from your users and from each other Check out this diagram of revolutionary trust-based toilet cubicle. This toilet has no locking door, so if you want to use it you simply have to trust that the person waiting after you will knock before...

Google announce Privacy Sandbox

What is Privacy Sandbox and is it even for real? Google announced this last week on their blog and called it an ‘initiative’, which sounds vague, but could still be the real deal. The reason as to why I am questioning the ‘realness’ of this initiative is that since May...

What are tag managers?

In short, they are something that turns multiple tasks for developers into a single task for marketers Let’s say you run a website that sells shoes. As well as making sure your customers get their shoes, you will probably also want to gather some information such as what shoes they’ve...

Do other cookies have more cookies nested inside?

Good question, with an answer that you may not like: yes. As you may already know, if you run a site, you are responsible for getting consent for any cookies that are dropped by third-parties. So, if you use Intercom for live chat, you need to ask your users if...

Starting Metomic 2.0

When defining a new market you have to be in it for the long-term. Consider selling organic eggs to a restaurant 10 years ago. At the time that seemed stupid. Restaurants would say to a supplier “why would I buy your organic eggs if they’re twice as expensive as the...

Targeted advertising is dead: a brief intro to contextual advertising

How a pro-privacy, alternative ad network is bringing ethics to the advertising industry We’ve all been there: one moment, you’re buying a new product on Amazon. Then, as little as minutes or as long as months later, you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed and see an ad for the same...

What happens to your data after you die?

Where life is short, the internet’s memory is long. About a month ago I was listening to a podcast called Reply All (it’s interesting and it makes me appear more intelligent at parties — try it, it could do the same for you). Someone called into the show and described...

What are essential cookies?

They are easier to identify than you think ‘Essential cookies’ is not a codified term at all — it’s simply about understanding, and therefore not misidentifying, what ‘essential’ means in this context. It’s fairly simple: anything that sits outside of what is needed to deliver your services to your users...

How Google, Facebook, and Amazon are bringing the internet to the rest of the world

What does this mean? On the surface the internet will be made available for communities who would otherwise go without This is a good thing, right? Yes. End of article. Just kidding, don’t be silly. This new wave of connectivity provided to the world raises many questions: if big tech...

Is free public wifi worth the convenience?

Free online services are extremely convenient. But should we be questioning the ‘free’ part? When a product is free, it’s not a product anymore. You are. We use free services and in exchange we produce buckets of data for companies that we don’t even interact with. Free wifi is an...

A quick guide to cookie consent for startups

The ICO recently wrote a blog post on what good practice is surrounding cookies. One thing they explain several times in this post is that they are not opposed to innovation — but you should not compromise privacy in the name of innovation. They’re right, of course, but the ICO...

How to execute a successful Product Hunt launch 🚀

You just made a cool shiny new product that could change the world Yes, that’s right… could. You can’t very well bring forth change if no one knows who you are or what your cool new thing is. Product Hunt is an excellent way to shout about it. If you...

Apple join the Data Transfer Project

Apple have just joined a data portability project… what does this mean? The Data Transfer Project was set up so that internet users can move their data easily between services, if they wish to do so. Main players are Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and now Apple. Why this is good...

A story about legitimate interests

This is a real-life application of ‘legitimate interests’ — read it and marvel at its disturbing flexibility A couple of months ago our CEO Rich had an amazon package delivered while he was out. The delivery person decided to leave it with the Pret A Manger across the road. Therefore,...

A hidden market in the USA: student data

Student data in the US is being harvested for commercial profit — it’s amazing what you can do without transparency. Getting spam is not news. Practically every online activity, from shopping to liking a page on Facebook, leaves a substantial papertrail that data brokers (companies that buy and sell information...

The 'like' button is unlawful: is this the end of the Facebook Pixel?

The EU Court of Justice has finally ruled that Facebook tracking you in secret is unlawful At the moment if you read any blog or news website (not this one, of course) it will likely be laden with social media buttons, so that you can share the wonderful content that...

How Facebook, Google, and Apple are doing privacy

Facebook started in a Harvard dorm room, Apple is just a fruit, and Google isn’t even a word. So how are they going to handle privacy? In March, Mark Zuckerberg wrote this painfully long blog post on how Facebook are pivoting to privacy. Let me just get one thing out...

Getting space from London: what we learned on our week away

We are having a growth spurt, and on the other side is Metomic 2.0 The last few months at Metomic have been extremely exciting. Following our launch on Product Hunt we’ve realised we have a product which companies love and so it was time to take Metomic to the next...

Not all third-party tools are evil

It seems like every week there is another privacy scandal hitting the news. They have become so common that many don’t even make the front page any more. Whether it’s giants like Facebook selling your data to a political campaign, dating apps like Grindr sharing its users’ medical data, or...

Funding and fines, breaches and spies

🙋🏻‍♀️ Happy Monday, internet users 👉 a sweet cash injection for privacy 👉 it’s ICO fine season 👉 cool your jets 👩‍💻 Seen on the web-nets: surveillance has shown us how nice we are…? Have you heard of the bystander effect? Where someone is in trouble in public, and people...

Making your business ethical with data: harder than you think

Listen, try doing a startup that’s completely ethical with data — I dare you. Because it’s hard, okay. Even for us at Metomic. If you want to achieve true data privacy for your customers or users, the space you can exist in on the internet is very small indeed. At...

Crypto is fair and balanced ⚖️

🙋🏻‍♀️ Happy Monday, internet users 👉 £$¢Libra is coming 👉 a better virtual assistant 👉 and the ICO are… not GDPR compliant? 👩‍💻 Seen on the web-nets: Surprise, it’s Alexa! An interesting take on consent: when you buy a new piece of hardware and do not quite notice that it...

Sorry I can't talk, I'm being private

This week is WWDC, and Apple are getting super hard for #privacy. Thank you for finally catching up — I’ve been hard for privacy for longer than it takes to read and understand the GDPR. Also, Russia are about to see all those dick pics you have sent and/or received😱...

'Oh no, technology is getting out of control'

Don’t blame technology for all the world’s problems — we’re just humans full of #emotions. It’s our fault. A few weeks ago, this blimp happened And everyone was scared of it, even though it poses absolutely no threat whatsoever. All I can see is a fairly efficient way of delivering...

Did you know you can solve your problems with Cryptocurrency?

Normal money Zucks, become a Libra Facebook are doing this thing where they ‘pivot to privacy’. Some of us think they should have been doing privacy already thus making a pivot unnecessary. Others think that this could be the start of some really encouraging changes. I don’t know where this...

Metomic's £1.4M Seed Round & Other Stories

2019 is proving to be an exciting year for Metomic At the beginning of the year we closed our £1.4M seed round - a testament to the increasing importance of online businesses empowering their customers through transparency and control of data. Now, almost half way through the year, we want...

What is a data trust?

Fun fact about data trusts: they don’t exist yet Data trusts are just an idea — but they one of the more interesting and challenging ideas about data that we’ve come across so far. The point behind a data trust is to extract value from data without being evil. Sounds...

An island of privacy in a sea of data-driven politics: Spain’s 'Friday List'

Its general election season in Spain, and political parties want your data. As a citizen, The Friday List is a tool to re-vindicate your rights over your personal data — to tell lawmakers that they are not to be sold short. Back in December of 2018, Spanish lawyers, academics and...

Looks like we broke the world — to the moon!

🎵 Blue moon, you saw me standing alone with a trillion other humans 🎵 When Jeff Bezos woke up one morning and finally realised that we’ve accidentally spent many decades pounding the earth into toxic mulch, he did what any other sane multi-billionaire would do: he announced that we should...

Living in a Panopticon

Greetings reader, here is a short piece of data ethics fiction for you to absorb: Julia is in prison and every morning has ‘cell inspection’ with her cell mate Aubrey. Aubrey has a smell that reminds Julia of old dead leaves but Julia is now used to this because she’s...

Black Holes in our Digital Universe

Our physical universe started from [what seems like] nothing. Over 13.8 billion years the system’s complexity increased — the creation of matter, the building of stars, the construction of solar systems and then, finally, the origination of life. Now, within this complex system that is our physical universe, life seems...

Someone else is in charge of your memories

Sure, you can just ‘remember stuff’ but who has time for that anymore? When we stopped using physical photo albums and started putting our holiday snaps on Facebook, who was in charge of making sure those photos did not get lost? Yes, Facebook. Not you, but a faceless corporation. Don’t...

The New Vocabulary: how we're wrong about 'consent'

The conversation surrounding ‘consent’ in terms of data is dark and messy. Time to get a torch, I think. First thing’s first: what do I even mean when I say ‘data’? Let’s just look at data as information. It could be information about yourself, about someone else, about the colour...

Let's take to the skies!

You’re not crazy, you’re just a Loon Google have been offered a nice pile of money to help with Loon, which is a project that takes the internet into the stratosphere. Sounds like nonsense future-babble, but it’s a real thing. It is essentially a bunch of solar powered low-orbit drones...

You're due for a downgrade: user experience (part one)

The internet, at first: ugly, funny, hard to use And then: sleek and cool And now: ugly, not funny, impossible to use Look at this awesome website. Can you believe the web used to look like this? This is the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen, but also the best thing...

Fun coupons

Bavaria: good beer, even better data privacy laws So the Bavarian Data Protection Authority has just ruled that Facebook Custom Audience is actually illegal. This teaches us that breaking the law is really easy as long you do it secretly and you are also a multi-billion dollar corporation. Anyway, people...

Open data: never mind 'ownership', what about access?

Look I’m sorry but the real world really isn’t working for me right now. Please come into this alternate universe with me, and assume the identity of April, our companion from part one of this article. You don’t have to read part one to understand what’s going on in this...

Cookies are a perfect and irresistible distraction from other bad things

While you’ve been having fun blocking cookies, advertising networks have been developing fierce alternatives… Hopefully you know by now that, in part, cookies are a form of 21st century surveillance. If you’ve never thought about cookies in that way before, it’s fine. Just remember: you are served cookies basically all...

Coming off social media is the new progressive

Being a brand on social media used to be hip and cool. Now it’s just lame and stupid. The timeline of events for brands on social media looks roughly like this: Early stage social media times: Social media is just for individuals… instagram doesn’t even exist yet… why would Oreos...

AOC quits Facebook, Facebook quits privacy

Oh, you’re not on Facebook? I’m too busy to indulge you about why that is right now… The other day, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decided to quit Facebook. You may ask, “why is this any different to any other person who decides to stop using Facebook?” Duh, because she’s a politician. And...

A Metomic retro

The last 6 weeks have been a blast for Metomic. We’ve grown as a team, released our maiden product, and our launch event at Newspeak House was a fantastic success. But as with any startup, we face challenges and saviour successes. So we thought, hey, transparency is our bread and...

'Your data' does not exist

There’s an ugly, complex, tangle of common misconceptions about your data that I will now explain to you so please pay attention. After GDPR the likes of Facebook and Google were all like “woo power to the people, you all own your data now!” Haha, great. Except not, because: they’re...

9 Privacy Tools You Should Know About

Ugh WHY is privacy so hard? It’s becoming more and more obvious that the masters of the internet (Google, Facebook, Amazon, anyone else like that) are in no rush to begin valuing your privacy. While we wait for them to change their minds about that (lol), here are some tools...

Regulate, regulate, regulate

Lush: clean offline and online “Cruelty-free soap that smells nice and comes in cool packaging is great, but why does it need to be on social media?” Pff, that sounds like an attitude from 2006. Being a brand on social media shows that you know what you’re doing and you...

Zombie cookies: cookies that just won't die

You may already know a decent amount about what cookies are because of this other article that we wrote. If you haven’t read it yet and don’t have time, there are two simple facts about cookies that you should know: First simple fact: cookies track your browsing habits so that...

Welcome To Metomic

Our mission is to create transparent and trustworthy online experiences. Metomic is the best way for websites and mobile apps to meet modern data privacy standards. Forward thinking businesses use Metomic to comply with privacy regulations and to give their users a modern, transparent and trustworthy online experience. How are...

Help, I don't know what cookies are

That’s great, I’m so glad you said that. Hardly anyone really knows what they are. But it’s okay to not know. The first step is admitting it. Well done. You’re obviously here because what you do know is this: cookies are important, but cookies are confusing. Don’t worry - I...

Data Ethics: the unsexiest cult ever?

Every day we see a new story about how Google or Facebook or some hotel we stayed in once 10 years ago misusing/misplacing our data. It’s not because they’re all evil (mostly), it’s because it’s a hard problem to solve. Really hard. The internet has been built for almost three...

A love letter

I was born in 1996. When I was 4, my dad bought a computer on finance. It cost him £1200 over a two year period, and by today’s standards was pretty shit. Specs aside, it was probably the best headstart I could ever receive in life. Every day after school...

The Most Devastating Pixel on The Internet

Facebook is tracking you on over 8.4 million websites… and there’s very little any of us do about it. It all comes down to the most powerful pixel on the planet… The Facebook Pixel. I hear you… “how can a simple pixel be so consequential?” Companies want to optimize their...

Blimpy McBlimpface

Keep an eye on your third parties, because otherwise… 540 million Facebook profiles have been stored openly on AWS by Cultura Colectiva. Right okay… there are multiple organisations at fault here, but look at it in this order: Cultura Colectiva are a digital media publisher based in Mexico. They publish...

The Customer-Centric Dilemma

In 2012, Jeff Bezos said to his shareholders: “When we’re at our best, we don’t wait for external pressures. We are internally driven to improve our services, adding benefits and features, before we have to. We lower prices and increase value for customers before we have to. We invent before...

How To Make A Data Request

Step 1: just don’t Step 2: read this article, live normal life Yes exactly, making a data request is a bit like asking if you can carry around a bit of paper with your name, age, and hair colour on it. You already know that stuff, why do you need...

This isn't fair, Dragonflies were just meant to be pretty

An Apple, but metal and shaped like a credit card Apple have just announced the release of a bunch of new products, but most interesting of which is the Apple Card. It’s a credit card, made of metal, that shows ONLY your name. What future magic is this? How can...

RTB: fast, secret auctions with your data.

RTB stands for real-time bidding. If you like browsing - which I’m sure you do, you browsed to this article, after all - you have been subject to RTB many, many times. Just think back to the last time you had this thought: ‘wow I really want to visit that...

I spoke to over 50 DPOs, here's what I learned...

Over the past 3 months I have spoken to over 50 Data Protection Officers at large B2C companies across the pharmaceutical, finance, technology, media, health care, and telco industries. Here are my 5 key takeaways: (N.B.: This isn’t a survey commissioned by some big corporate to make things seem incredibly...

Facebook: Oh shit, is plaintext not okay?

“One porn, please” By next month in the UK, if you want to watch porn you’ll have to prove you’re over 18 by providing ID to your porn site of choice. Law makers kept this one quiet didn’t they? Alternatively, you can purchase a porn pass from the newsagent, and...

How Facebook Have Built Up Your Trust Over The Years

Joke’s on you: turns out they haven’t done that at all… Great so now you have the below list ready to pull out should you forget about the shadowy aura of mistrust Mark Zuckerberg has slathered all over the internet in the last 15 years. Click on any of the...

Can the big five please stop being so damn big? Thanks

When three become one, privacy becomes… none. This week has been mostly about how Mark Zuckerberg wants to merge together all three of his ‘let’s have a private conversation now’ apps. So that’s Facebook Messenger, Instagram messenger, and Whatsapp. He says this is all in the name of privacy and...