Review of Frank Pasquale’s The Black Box Society by Steven Aftergood (who runs the Secrecy News blog) in Nature.
Everyone who uses the Internet for entertainment, education, news or commerce is implicated in a web of data collection whose breadth surpasses ordinary awareness.
Last May, a US Senate investigation reported that a single visit to a popular tabloid-news website triggered activity on more than 350 other web servers. Most of those contacts, including delivery of advertisements, are likely to be benign. But they typically deposit a software ‘cookie’ on the visitor’s computer; these enable the identification and tracking of visitors, generating digital profiles of their interests and patterns of online behaviour.