Examples of Abuse

Almost everyday a company or government abuses your data. Whether these abuses are intentional or the result of error, we must learn from these abuses so that we can better build tomorrow's policies and technologies. This resource is an opportunity to learn that this has all happened before, as well as a tool to query these abuses.

Please contact us if you think we are missing some key stories.


11 Dec 2013
In this 2013 piece, Virginia Eubanks discuss the move in Indiana from relying on caseworkers to automating the distribution of benefits and how through the use of performance metrics to speed up the decision-making process, the system ended up being incentivising the non-distribution of benefits
23 Dec 2013
In August 2016, Oracle's MICROS division, one of the top three global point-of-sale vendors, was hacked by the Carbanak Gang, a Russian organised cybercrime group known for hacking into banks and retailers. In 2014 when Oracle acquired it, MICROS' systems were in use at more than 200,000 food and
08 Jan 2014
In 2014, Acxiom's chief product and engineering officer, Phil Mui, described the system the company had been building to link individuals' activities across the many channels, devices, and applications they use. A single individual may accumulate four different personas via 24 cookies across six
15 Jan 2014
Virginia Eubanks explains what we can draw from understanding the experience of surveillance of marginalised groups: it is a civil rights issue, technologies carry the bias of those who design them, people are resisting and why we need to move away from the privacy rights discourse. https://prospect
24 Jan 2014
In 2014, DataKind sent two volunteers to work with GiveDirectly, an organisation that makes cash donations to poor households in Kenya and Uganda. In order to better identify villages with households that are in need, the volunteers developed an algorithm that classified village roofs in satellite
21 Mar 2014
This article is an overview of some of the research documenting how people in vulnerable positions are the ones most affected by government surveillance. https://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/technology-opportunity-researcher-says-surveillance-separate-and-unequal Author: Kimberly
15 May 2014
In 2013 and 2014, Quantcast's CEO, Konrad Feldman, claimed that real-time bidding, the latest trend in advertising technology, was providing a new way to game advertisers. RTB, also known as "programmatic" advertising, uses cookies to track what users have looked at and then retarget them through
21 Jun 2014
In 2014, NYC Planning Labs Chris Whong was sent and made public a complete a complete dump of historical trip and fare logs from New York City taxis in response to a Freedom of Information request. The more than 20GB of uncompressed data comprising more than 173 million individual trips included
25 Jul 2014
Nearly 700,000 Facebook users were subjects of a research study where researchers changed randomly selected users' newsfeeds to be more positive or negative to study whether those users then displayed a more positive or negative affect in response. The experiment showed the power of Facebook's control over the News Feed and the algorithms that determine which of the possible pieces of content shows up at the top at any given moment.
08 Oct 2014
In the 2014 report "Networked Employment Discrimination", the Future of Work Project studied data-driven hiring systems, which often rely on data prospective employees have no idea may be used, such as the results of Google searches, and other stray personal data scattered online. In addition
19 Dec 2014
In 2014, researchers at Princeton University outlined an attack that uses multiple third-party cookies to link traffic so that individual users can be identified and tracked from anywhere in the world. A nation-state wishing to surveil particular users outside its jurisdiction, for example, may have
07 Jan 2015
In 2015, Turner Broadcasting, a semi-autonomous division of AT&T's Warner Media announced it would integrate offerings from Episilon, Krux, and Oracle into its data management platform, which powers its ads. Oracle and Epsilon help bring in offline and multichannel consumer data, while Krux bridges
10 Feb 2015
In October 2015, Experian announced that a breach of its computer systems exposed the Social Security numbers and other data of approximately 15 million people who applied for financing from the mobile network operator T-Mobile USA, to which Experian supplied credit assessment services. Experian
05 Apr 2015
Because banks often decline to give loans to those whose "thin" credit histories make it hard to assess the associated risk, in 2015 some financial technology startups began looking at the possibility of instead performing such assessments by using metadata collected by mobile phones or logged from
13 Apr 2015
In 2014, Tapad claimed its system for matching consumers across multiple devices protected privacy because it relied on probabilistic matching rather than a deterministic approach that builds on personally identifiable information. The deterministic approach relies on logins - for example, an
13 Apr 2015
In 2016, Tapad launched a partnership with the location-based ad targeting firm Placed to provide a service measuring the impact of digital advertising on in-store sales. Tapad sends anonymous campaign data to Placed, which has a panel of more than 500,000 users who have opted in. Placed measures
07 May 2015
In 2014, India's newly elected prime minister, Narendra Modi, allocated INR70.6 billion (upwards of £750 million) to a plan called "100 Smart Cities". Although a year later the funding dropped to INR1.4 billion, smart city-themed conference continued to take place in Delhi and Mumbai, and urban
14 May 2015
In 2015, Chinese authorities banned the 1.6 million members of the country's People's Liberation Army from using smartwatches and other wearable technology in order to prevent security breaches. Army leaders announced the decision after a soldier in the city of Nanjing was reported for trying to use
20 May 2015
In 2015, a newly launched image recognition function built into Yahoo's Flickr image hosting site automatically tagged images of black people with tags such as "ape" and "animal", and also tagged images of concentration camps with "sport" or "jungle gym". The company responded to user complaints by
20 May 2015
Over the course of a few seconds in April 2013, a false tweet from a hacked account owned by the Associated Press is thought to have caused the Dow-Jones Industrial Average to drop 143.5 points and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index to lose more than $136 in value. The tweet was retweeted 4,000 times