Real-Time Bidding (RTB) allows foreign states and non-state actors to obtain compromising sensitive personal data

jack_christie

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America's hidden security crisis​

Real-Time Bidding (RTB) allows foreign states and non-state actors to obtain compromising sensitive personal data about key personnel and leaders.


Key insights:


  • Our investigation highlights a widespread trade in data about sensitive American personnel and leaders that exposes them to blackmail, hacking and compromise, and undermines the security of their organizations and institutions.
  • This data flows from Real-Time Bidding (RTB), an advertising technology that is active on almost all websites and apps. RTB involves the broadcasting of sensitive data about people using those websites and apps to large numbers of other entities, without security measures to protect the data. This occurs billions of times a day.
  • Our examination of tens of thousands of pages of RTB data reveals that U.S. military personnel and political decision makers are targeted using RTB.
  • This report also reveals that Google and other RTB firms send RTB data about people in the U.S. to Russia and China, where national laws enable security agencies to access the data. RTB data is also broadcast widely within the U.S. in a free-for-all, which means that foreign and non-state actors can indirectly obtain it, too.
  • RTB data often include location data or time-stamps or other identifiers that make it relatively easy for bad actors to link them to specific individuals. Foreign states and non-state actors can use RTB to spy on target individuals’ financial problems, mental state, and compromising intimate secrets. Even if target individuals use secure devices, data about them will still flow via RTB from personal devices, their friends, family, and compromising personal contacts.

  • In addition, private surveillance companies in foreign countries deploy RTB data for surreptitious surveillance. We reveal “Patternz”, a previously unreported surveillance tool that uses RTB to profile 5 billion people, including the children of their targets.

  • Our examination of RTB data reveals Cambridge Analytica style psychological profiling of target individuals’ movements, financial problems, mental health problems and vulnerabilities, including if they are likely survivors of sexual abuse.


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