Jonathan Mayer is a Ph.D. candidate in computer science at Stanford University, where he received his J.D. in 2013. He was named one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2014, for his work on technology security and privacy. Jonathan's research and commentary frequently appears in national publications, and he has contributed to federal and state law enforcement actions.
Jonathan is a Cybersecurity Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, a Junior Affiliate Scholar at the Center for Internet and Society, and a Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow. He earned his A.B. at Princeton University in 2009, concentrating in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Jonathan has consulted for both federal and state law enforcement agencies, and his research on consumer privacy has contributed to multiple regulatory interventions. A proud Chicago native, Jonathan is undaunted by freezing weather and enjoys celery salt on a hot dog.
We're pleased to announce we're beginning work on an IETF Internet-Draft for the Do Not Track header. We look forward to incorporating broad feedback.
In anticipation of the first version of the Internet-Draft, we're making a few minor updates to the header. The reference implementations at DoNotTrack.Us will be revised shortly. Read more » about Minor Updates to the Do Not Track Header
"If you remove tracking, you remove advertisers." "Stop [data] sharing and you put a stop to the Internet as we know it." "Thousands of small websites may disappear." "Would you like to pay $20 a month for Facebook?" A spate of such recent commentaries have speculated that Do Not Track could hobble advertising-supported businesses. Here's why it won't. Read more » about Do Not Track Is No Threat to Ad-Supported Businesses
Since our introduction of DoNotTrack.Us last week we've received a deluge of questions. This post answers some of the most common inquiries. If we haven't covered an issue you'd like a response on, shoot us an email and stay tuned - more Q & A posts are in the pipeline.
Q: Do Not Track does not block third-party tracking. Wouldn't that be a better solution?
Some privacy-conscious users block third-party tracking, most commonly through browser add-ons. This type of self-help is completely compatible with and complementary to Do Not Track; many Do Not Track users may elect to use blocking software. But blocking alone is not a complete solution to web tracking. Here are our chief concerns:
- Universal blocking is infeasible. Web security research (1, 2, 3) has uncovered dozens of means of tracking users; technical barriers to all these approaches are not practical. And a recent informal study of popular Firefox blocking add-ons suggests that blocking is, in practice, far from a universal opt out. Users should not be left guessing as to whether they've actually opted out of tracking.
- Blocking software requires perpetual development and user vigilance. There is frequent turnover of tracking services and tracking technologies. If a developer takes a break, its blocking tool will diminish in effectiveness. Users must, consequently, periodically ensure their blocking software is still maintained and up-to-date.
- Blocking inhibits third-party tools. A number of popular website tools and plug-ins are hosted by a third party that also tracks users. Blocking would disable these tools, while Do Not Track accommodates them.
The web privacy debate is stuck. Privacy proponents decry the diffusion of behavioral advertising and tracking services (1, 2, 3); industry coalitions respond by expounding the merits of personalized content and advertising revenue (1, 2). But for the average user, the arguments are academic: there is no viable technology for opting out of web tracking. A registry of tracking services, like privacy advocates proposed years ago, is cumbersome and unmanageable. Fiddling with cookies, as many advertising networks and anti-regulation advocates recommend, is an incomplete and temporary fix; both Google and NAI (an advertising industry association) have already moved away from opt-out cookies.
Do Not Track ends this standoff. It provides a web tracking opt-out that is user-friendly, effective, and completely interoperable with the existing web. The technology is simple: whenever your web browser makes a request, it includes an opt-out preference. It's then up to advertisers and tracking services to honor that preference – voluntarily, by industry self-regulation, or by law.
Arvind Narayanan and I have been researching Do Not Track for several months, and are pleased to now introduce DoNotTrack.Us, a compilation of what we've learned. The resource explains Do Not Track, provides prototype implementations, and answers some common questions. We'll be updating it in the coming months with new findings and responses to feedback.
Excited as we are about the Do Not Track technology, it is but a first step. Important substantive policy questions remain open: What tracking should be impermissible? When a user visits a site, what constitutes a third party? We look forward to collaborating with advertising networks, NGO's, regulators, lawmakers, and other stakeholders in answering these crucial questions. Read more » about Ending the Web Privacy Stalemate - DoNotTrack.Us
Late last year the Obama administration reopened talks with Russia over the militarization of cyberspace and assented to cybersecurity discussion in the United Nations First Committee (Disarmament and National Security). My intention in this three-part series is to probe Russian and American foreign policy on cyberwarfare and advance the thesis that the Russians are negotiating for specific strategic or diplomatic gains, while the Americans are primarily procedurally invested owing to the “reset” in Russian relations and changing perceptions of cyberwarfare.
By Edward Felten and Jonathan Mayer
Snooping on the Internet is tricky. The network is diffuse, global, and packed with potential targets. There’s no central system for identifying or locating individuals, so it’s hard to keep track of who is online and what they’re up to. What’s a spy agency to do? Read more » about How the NSA Piggy-Backs on Third-Party Trackers
John Mitchell and I have written a new paper that synthesizes research on policy and technology issues surrounding third-party web tracking. It will appear at the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy in May. Read more » about Third-Party Web Tracking: Policy and Technology
"“We were able to identify a number of patterns that were highly indicative of sensitive activities or traits,” Mayer said, offering an example of one participant that had contacted several local neurology groups, a specialty pharmacy, a rare-condition management service and a pharmaceutical hotline used for multiple sclerosis." Read more » about Researchers find metadata reveals personal information
""We don't need to tell the Web server nearly so much as we do right now," says Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford University grad student and former working group member. "We can limit it to the bare bones required for the Internet to do its thing."" Read more » about Ad tracking: Is anything being done?
""It's very clear there are enormous loopholes," said Jonathan Mayer, a cybersecurity fellow at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, who is reverse engineering the NSA surveillance program to learn how much collection — if taken to extremes — is legally possible. "Their rules, combined with their capabilities, cut against the classical protections built into our legal system."" Read more » about Experts say NSA rules leave privacy vulnerable
""What surprised us was how much sensitive information was crammed into the metadata," said Jonathan Mayer, a doctoral candidate and a cybersecurity fellow at the school's Center for International Security and Cooperation. "We didn't think there'd be that much."" Read more » about Phone call metadata easily yields details of private life
"Mayer, in a phone interview, says he hopes his research brings "scientific clarity" to the privacy properties of metadata. "There's a great policy debate flaring out and that debate depends upon factual assumptions," he says. "Our hope is to make sure that those factual assumptions are accurate."' Read more » about What My Droid's Metadata Says About Me
This talk presents an empirical assessment of the NSA’s legal restrictions, including research cited by President Obama’s intelligence review group. We find that present limits on bulk surveillance programs come up far short; authorities to intercept international Internet traffic and domestic telephone metadata place ordinary Americans at risk. Read more » about The Science of Surveillance
Solutions to many pressing economic and societal challenges lie in better understanding data. New tools for analyzing disparate information sets, called Big Data, have revolutionized our ability to find signals amongst the noise. Big Data techniques hold promise for breakthroughs ranging from better health care, a cleaner environment, safer cities, and more effective marketing. Yet, privacy advocates are concerned that the same advances will upend the power relationships between government, business and individuals, and lead to prosecutorial abuse, racial or other profiling, discrimination, redlining, overcriminalization, and other restricted freedoms. Read more » about Big Data and Privacy: Making Ends Meet
Have you ever borrowed a smartphone without asking? Modified a URL? Scraped a website? Called an undocumented API? Congratulations: you might have violated federal law! A 1986 statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), provides both civil and criminal remedies for mere "unauthorized" access to a computer. Read more » about Innovation or Exploitation?
Hosted by the Stanford Center for E-Commerce.
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm: Registration/Reception (Manning Faculty Lounge, second floor breezeway fo Stanford Law School) Read more » about Behavioral Advertising and Privacy Law Reboot - US and International Legal Trends and Best Practices for Internet, Cloud and E-Commerce Companies
The third edition of the Privacy Identity Innovation conference will be held in downtown Seattle this Spring. Taking place May 15-16 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, pii2012 Seattle will explore how to protect sensitive information while enabling new technologies and business models. Read more » about Privacy Identity Innovation - pii2012
Have you ever borrowed a smartphone without asking? Modified a URL? Scraped a website? Called an undocumented API? Congratulations: you might have violated federal law! A 1986 statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), provides both civil and criminal remedies for mere "unauthorized" access to a computer. Read more » about Innovation or Exploitation (Video)
Have you ever borrowed a smartphone without asking? Modified a URL? Scraped a website? Called an undocumented API? Congratulations: you might have violated federal law! A 1986 statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), provides both civil and criminal remedies for mere "unauthorized" access to a computer. Read more » about Innovation or Exploitation? (Audio)