adam tanner


[cambridge, ma]

intro’d to Adam via his book in free little library downtown.. what stays in vegas

notes/highlights/quotes as i’m reading:


p 256

jonathan zittrain….  yochai benkler….

p 257

ron suskind…



how data emerged to become the lifeblood of private industry, the elixir that fuels marketing efforts to compete and expand their businesses. the nsa and the fbi are not interested in the great majority of citizens. nor do they profit from data. and, however imperfectly, they are subject to govt, congressional, and judicial oversight. they can be called to account.

by contrast, private co’s regularly assemble detailed individual profiles on millions upon millions of people w only minimal restrictions..

ch 2

p 8

even within harvard’s rarefied atmosphere, the business school stands apart. many students and faculty members consider themselves a cut above the rest of the elite campus. …. business school is just far enough away to deter the busloads of tourists who regularly spill into harvard yard. with wood floors, stately desks, plush armchairs and couches, and a series of chandeliers hanging above, the main student building resembles the lobby of a luxury hotel. whereas the rest of campus freely opens its doors to all students. harvard business school limits some of its facilities to its own. future tycoons work out in a deluxe gym closed to others. they compete on their own tennis courts. dedicated chefs roll fresh sushi in the cafeteria……..

p 9

len schlesinger was one of the hbs profs who worked closely w loveman on topics related to the service econ..

p 10

on loveman working on customer lifetime value

p 23

like the businesses that eventually abandoned green stamps, casinos did not want to just give out free prizes. they wanted to learn about their best customers so they could market more effectively.


p 24

us airlines led the way in compiling info about their best customers by introducing the modern-day loyalty program. when american airlines designed the first frequent flyer program in 1981, it turned to outside consultant hal brierley. a harvard business school grad who founded epsilon data management,….he had a simple mandate: build a database of people and track their flights *to better target news and offers to the right people..

so this.. but.. *to better facilitate connections via curiosity.. our ultimate energy..

ie: hosting-life-bits via self-talk as data

at the time, (81), the program represented a game=changing innovation. car rental agencies, hotels, supermarkets, and many other businesses later embraced similar programs..

so.. chomsky’s.. within parameters.. make us think we’re thinking.. busy.. but really just using up energy w/in the business realm/os.. which is not us… broken loop

ch 5

p 44

on how deadly sharing personal data was.. before internet.. people were shot..

reading same time as so many talking about dumps w/o curation ie: Zeynep on wikileaks

p 47

they pay $60, provide their birth dates and places of birth, address, parents’ names (including mothers’ maiden names), the parents’ places of birth, details about any previous marriages, and social security numbers…. everyone goes thru same process… after wedding.. presiding official has ten days to send the marriage cert to the clark county recorder’s office, which scans the doc and enters the data.. if the couple ends up buying property, the recorder’s office logs those details, as well as liens, court judgments, financing, and other relevant docs..

dang.. what are relevant docs..? not any of the above..

marriage\ing ness – we’re so crazy..

all of the personal info captured in this process is public. anyone can see it, record it, and pass it on or sell it to others and that’s exactly what a handful of individuals such as marc hall do. they spend their days trolling thru public computers at the clark county recorder’s office hunting down info to sell to others such as banks and title companies…… ie: an alarm installation business pays him $35 a day to gather the latest home purchase registrations. he types in up to 200 new registrations a day, recording them as soon as they are posted. speed is important because a homeowners ill buy only one alarm system. …. another co pays hall %40 a case to research a property’s history, including liens, judgments, mortgages, and tax info. co’s might use such info to refinance lans, for ie? clark co places summary info from many of its public dos online, but not the actual docs. hall’s value comes from extracting details from the scanned copies of the original docs, which may contain ssn (in more recent docs these are redacted from public view), dates of birth, and fuller details. co’s doing background searches on potential hires ask him to check court records about people, earning him anywhere from $4 to $10 per person….. he makes anywhere from 80 000 to 150 000 a year. …

p 48


until the internet era, people who wanted to see marriage licenses or other public docs would have to go in person to a govt office and apply to see a specific doc. after a wait of some minutes, the visitor would peruse the papers in a reception area under the watchful eye of a dept employee. copying pages was expensive at $1 a page.

p 49

for an industry focused on revealing info about others, data brokers are awfully shy… then tells of everyone avoiding/cancelling interviews with him..

ch 6

p 65

the us postal service plays a vital role in the data broker ecosystem. whenever a person changes an address of forwards mail, he or she signs a form whose fine print authorizes the usps to share the info w companies ‘already in possession os your nam and old mailing address.

such info allows data brokers and co’s to update older lists continuously.

ch 7

p 77

we want to treat every single person differently, based on what we know they care about and what we can afford to give them – … this desire guided caesars

p 78

entrepreneurs mined telephone books to accumulate names as early as 1903

p 79

customization made it seem as though the person pitching you something really knew you..

today.. bn a year in revenue

ch 9

p 100

the internet is returning standards back to those of the small towns where people knew many details about one another.. “i really don’t think we are violating people’s privacy. i feel that there is an era of innovation that we are going thru that is shrinking the world and putting us in public where we thought we were in private,’ – jim adler

p 101

carter jernigan: “it’s not about what they post about you, it si what they post on themselves that then reflects on you.”

p 102

latanya sweeney 1997: study… showed .. just knowing someone’s dob, gender and postal code provided enough info to id up to 87% of the us population

p 103

one study showed.. it would take a person between 181 hrs and 304 hrs  a year to read all the privacy statements he/she came across over that period.. well over a  month of working hours.

p 108

selling de identified data has become a multibillion-dollar business, even if such practices are largely hidden from the public..

p 130

even if there is more info readily available than in the past, the threat of litigation has tempered its distribution

ch 13

p 159

if you do something that other people who bought lipstick do, i’ll try to sell you lipstick. people’s actions speak a lot clearer about tho whey are – Claudia Perlich says

p 163

he (tom phillips) says such ads, addressed to you by name and delivered by mail, email, or telemarketing, are much more personal than messages coming via the internet and mobile. with internet and mobile ads, ‘they can always clear the cookie, not pay attention to the ad. they can be in control’ in fact, in the short term, the biggest threat to dstillery and the industry overall came not form public outcry about tracking but from a pattern of deliberate deception that perlich and other data scientists at the company discovered..

p 165

click fraud…  automated.. cookie traveled back and forth among 700 sites fora millisecond each.. suggesting single user had clicked to diff pages 10 000 times in one day… so then… co’s .. buying ads that no one would ever view

p 166

people made money by not rocking the boat..

w/o the numbers their annual bonuses could suffer…

p 169

in the big picture, perlich says click fraud continues more or less unabated…

ch 14

p 175

what we observe recently is that it is much harder to predict what similar people will do after the crisis… – loveman

ch 15

p 187

advising companies on using mobile phone location data.’the public doesn’t like that. nobody likes that.’ – daniel ruby

p 188

rich mirman: tracking consumer location thru mobile phones makes him uneasy. ‘now, to me it seems a little bit unethical in terms of watching their movement w/o them knowing that you are… there is a big diff in me pulling a card out of my wallet, … that’s a deliberate act that says i want you to know something about me..’

ch 17

p 221

in a typical week.. acxiom processes a trillion transactions.. twenty times number of searches conducted by google…. in sept 2013 – acxiom launched a web interface that allows the general public to look up their data instantly… thousands went online to meet their digital doubles.. found.. imperfect replicas… wrong on many levels…

p 222

surprising happened – 11% corrected inaccuracies in their files..(political party as single item changed most often)


p 223

many users corrected their files for free. but  what if consumers received cash/compensation in exchange fore their info..

ch 18

p 226

snowden revelations.. .. and ester dyson of electronic frontier foundation: everyone who ever became good at this idea of empowering people with their data ended up going to the dark side

reputation dot com – michael fertik..(grows up affluent) made money then empowered people w own data –

p 229

we are gathering data w/o people’s knowledge right now in order to learn and get info, but we are not sharing/selling it.. fertik says… unless you get enough data, you don’t have enough insight…. then can’t get vendors to sign up.. and if can’t get vendor.. can’t get consumer.. i don’t think it is creepy (a privacy co assembling profiles on millions w/o knowledge).. because we don’t plant any cookies.. we basically find stuff that is on the open internet about people.. he says..

p 230

personal dot com – tarik kurspahic and edin saracivic.. (grew up in sarajevo… war… et al… ) empowered people first then find out way to make money

what if with both reputation and personal.. there is no money.. imagine that – and too – because can’t be partial.. 7 bn people free to be themselves.. as the day – we hav eno idea..

p 231

shane green  visiting e germany… asking for passport.. green’s chaperones had warned him to avoid exactly such a situation in which an e german official might take away travel docs.. he felt helpless/angry.. he didn’t want to conform to such a system…after he left e berlin he burst in to tears.. these experiences inspired green to become an evangelist for he individual’s right to control his/her data…. he meets up with saracevi and kurspahic… together they created the map network.. co making digital /print maps for special events such as super bowl… others not interested in their idea of letting individuals own/control own data via ie: mobile…

p 232

what would it look like if we turned this whole model upside down and built a platform for individuals to become the ultimate gatekeepers, controller of their own data – green to his bosnian partners.. the idea for personal dot com was born.. 2009

we believe the ave u.s. consumer can earn 1000 or more annually.. he told potential investors..

great.. but then you have people selling selves for money..

p 233

unless you have millions/millions of users, no one cares about you.. they scoff at you – green  … part of problem frm inability to make users money…

p 234

launch ‘ fill it’ in 2013 – advertisers paying for the data.. and money going to users

p 235

selling other people’s data w or w/o their knowledge remains far more profitable than protecting and selling data on behalf of consumers.. at least for now..

so .. let’ s bag profit ness… hosting-life-bits via self-talk as data

consumers are beginning to realize data itself has value  – todd cullen…

yeah.. but not money value.. then it loses value.. because data is about not-us.. science of people – so many years/energy.. spent on false data

ch 19

p 237

vance packard: the most serious offense many of the depth manipulators commit, it seems to me, is that they try to invade the privacy of our minds.. it is this right to the privacy in our minds – privacy to be rational or irrational – that i believe we must strive to protest…. packard wrote those words not about google, fb or other digital age corps.. he was writing in 1957 about the growing sophistication of marketing/advertising..

p 242

if you don’t want such info on the marketplace, don’t enter the contest.

jim harper: steps to protect privacy.. false info (ie: zip code) on forms

p 246

privacy itself is not a risk. it impacts on other risks. what are the odds that you will lose your job or never get a data again …. – George Church

so – making all those other things irrelevant.. allows for ps in the open..ness (ie: no money, no marriage like we know it,

p 250

privacy policies should be short..straighforward

p 252

tim suther spoke openly about the limitations of personal data. ‘it’s like searching for the fountain of youth.. you know that people are searching for that one bit of info that reliably predicts or describes people, and it just doesn’t exist. you know we are all complex human beings w changing needs/context.


the point of empowering people with their own data is not to slow the mighty wheels of commerce. people will continue to buy..

why this can’t be part\ial ie: won’t work if we’re not free (from money as os et al) .. as long as that is around (money et al) we’ll abuse privacy ness.. begs gershenfeld something else law..


2014 – 3 min video interview on his book


2014 – 40 min talk on his book

3 min – how little they understood what i was up to.. making a guidebook to travel for under $25..

today.. much more detailed/insightful… not done by govt but by companies.. 

6 min – on getting chevy chase’s daughters self-phone number

i’ve been mostly surprised by extent of data gathering by all diff sectors of econ and all diff people..

most surprising data gatherer.. jimmy page.. guitarist for led zeppelin.. to get beyond first page.. name, dob, address.. et al

7 min – i thought an interesting place to research this would be vegas.. ie: in vegas.. 1\ more people are married there.. and 2\ more surveillance cameras than anywhere else… and 3\ consumer loyalty programs.. to get free drinks/rooms

10 min – on lovemann (mit math/stats nerd) at ceasars.. studying.. how much is a customer worth..

16 min – this kind of sophistication data is happening all over.. not just in vegas casinos..

19 min – lots of the tech revolutions are great.. but at same time.. side affects that can be data brokers.. sell info to major co’s that then market to us..

21 min – gathering info on scholarships dot com… fine print says will share… but not realizing how data is sold.. ie: categorized in groupings.. and sold.. ie: hs students that are gay; women who have bought porn..

24 min – good sides of this .. ie: may get a good deal for your interests..

prof at uni.. just 3 pieces of data: zip code, dob, gender.. just those 3.. can find you..

25 min – uses of neg data… ie: mugshot websites; .. then used to say.. pay this and i’ll take photo down..

28 min – many businesses that collect data about us are secretive about personal lookup sites..… i then used photo in google engine search.. in fake surname she had.. i found ref to another woman and man…

31 min – then found.. debt to co – victoria’s secret..

32 min – point is.. when  you post/share data.. out there for a long period of time.. little pieces of info can be shared.. like a mosaic

36 min – on .. either you pay (like in vegas).. and they don’t sell your data.. or it’s free.. and they sell your data..

thinking.. ps in the open ness

main interest – that co’s gathering more than govt.. which shouldn’t be surprising to me.. i’ve watched/read about govt pressuring co’s for data.. but it just never sunk in.. so… another reason we disengage from money as os


find/follow Adam :

link twitter

Harvard Fellow Adam Tanner. Author “What Stays in Vegas: The World of Personal Data,” & upcoming book The Big Health Data Bazaar (Jan. 2017) – @datacurtain

his page on harvard site:

Adam Tanner (twitter @datacurtain) is a fellow at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. He is the author of the 2014 book “What Stays in Vegas: The World of Personal Data – Lifeblood of Big Business – and the End of Privacy as We Know It.” The Washington Post named the book one of 50 books notable works of non-fiction in 2014. Reviews have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Postand the Financial Times.  He has lectured in the United States, Canada, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and Mauritius and he has appeared on media including CNN, Bloomberg TV, MSNBC, CNBC, NPR, the BBC, VOA, WNYC, Al Jazeera, and PRI’s The World.

From 1996-2011 he worked for Reuters News Agency as Balkans bureau chief based in Belgrade, Serbia, San Francisco bureau chief, and reporter posted in Moscow, Berlin and Washington D.C. He has written for Forbes, Scientific American, Pacific Standard, Slate and other magazines. His next book, “The Big Health Data Bazaar: Uncovering a Multi-Billion Dollar Trade in Our Medical Secrets,” will be published in January 2017.