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Old 05-12-2019, 05:38 PM
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Someone is watching me... Google


I think Iíve posted something like this before but damn itís creepy.

Yesterday I went on a road trip. I stopped for snacks along the way. Browsing the chip isle I spied a brand of chips I had never had nor had even heard of so I bought a bag.

Now today, today(!) Iím being flooded with ads for those chips. This kind of thing has happened before. Iím not going to be convinced itís a coincidence. Or that itís confirmation bias.
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Old 05-12-2019, 05:51 PM
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Did you pay with cash or a card?
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Old 05-12-2019, 05:51 PM
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I think some stuff is confirmation bias and other stuff just seems creepy and sinister. I was considering changing my car insurance company and talking to a friend on my iPhone about it, I even mentioned aloud about inquiring if Geico was cheap.

I've never done business with Geico I didn't do any searches on my phone or computer before that voice about Geico or even car insurance in general. After that conversation I got a lot of geico ads online and got some promotional material in the mail from them.

Creepy...
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Last edited by pool; 05-12-2019 at 05:52 PM.
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Old 05-12-2019, 05:59 PM
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This is concerning.
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Old 05-12-2019, 06:04 PM
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I've never had any phone or online conversations about Geico, and I also get tons of ads from them. All it means is that Geico does a ton of advertising, to everyone.
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Old 05-12-2019, 06:27 PM
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A very prescient Philip K. Dick quote:

Quote:
There will come a time when it isn't 'They're spying on me through my phone' anymore. Eventually, it will be 'My phone is spying on me'.
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Old 05-12-2019, 06:43 PM
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A few months back my wife started looking at area rugs online... on her phone, and on her account on our home laptop. A few days later I started getting ads on my phone for Ruggable and other companies that she had been looking at.
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Old 05-12-2019, 07:17 PM
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Did you pay with cash or a card?
Card.
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Old 05-12-2019, 07:30 PM
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Iím not going to be convinced itís a coincidence. Or that itís confirmation bias.
Your lack of belief does not alter the fact that it's coincidence or confirmation bias.
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Old 05-12-2019, 07:35 PM
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There’s no way you can know that. Your belief is no more valid than mine.
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Old 05-12-2019, 07:55 PM
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Thereís no way you can know that. Your belief is no more valid than mine.
Of course I can. Occam's razor: which is more likely?

a) A new product is available, and the company that makes it decides to advertise their new product. (Coincidence)

b) Assuming you're an average American, you see roughly 2,800 advertisements per day. You notice the one for the chips you bought yesterday. (Confirmation bias).

c) You buy something on a credit card. The card companies get access to the itemized list of things your bought, instantly decide to share that with the world in violation of who knows how many privacy laws, Facebook/Google/Whoever picks up on it, associates the credit card number with your account, and starts showing you ads for something you've already bought, in about 24 hours. (perhaps technically possible, unlikely bordering on the paranoid.)
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Old 05-12-2019, 07:56 PM
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I always feel like somebody's watching me
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Old 05-12-2019, 08:08 PM
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That video showed an ad before it -- for a product I've never bought. QED.
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Old 05-12-2019, 08:26 PM
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Aye; that was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw the thread title too.
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Old 05-12-2019, 08:41 PM
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So, how about an experiment.


Single guys talk about tampons, see if you get adds.

Ladies, call all your friends and tell them your thinking about putting nitros oxide injection on your car, see if you get adds.


I'm yelling "i want a bedazzler" right now to see if I'm being watched.

Yep, everybody at the coffee shop looked, its a conspiracy.
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Old 05-12-2019, 09:47 PM
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So, how about an experiment.


Single guys talk about tampons, see if you get adds.

Ladies, call all your friends and tell them your thinking about putting nitros oxide injection on your car, see if you get adds.
A better experiment would have the women talk about something that women never use or care about. That way it would better compare with single men talking about something they never use or care about (tampons).
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Old 05-13-2019, 12:51 AM
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Of course I can. Occam's razor...
I just looked it up, despite me having never seen them before they have been around since 1988.

And maybe tracking my purchases isnít breaking some laws. Maybe the permissions are in the fine print I never read.

Regardless, I posted this humorously which is why I put it in this forum. Rest assured there is no paranoia involved. If anything I was marveling at how interconnected the world has become.
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:21 AM
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It could be coincidence but it could also be a phone app that is listening.
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:31 AM
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...I'm yelling "i want a bedazzler" right now to see if I'm being watched.

Yep, everybody at the coffee shop looked, its a conspiracy.
OMG, I had JUST done that myself! That is soooo weird.

Seriously, I dropped my phone in a swimming pool Thursday afternoon. Put it in rice, told no one, and Thursday night I got an email from an iPhone repair place in the next state.
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Old 05-13-2019, 10:37 AM
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If you give an app permission to your microphone it can listen to whatever it wants to and if it is buried the license agreement, they can do whatever they want with that info. Orwell only mistakes were that Big Brother would be the private sector and people would volunteer for it.
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Old 05-13-2019, 09:44 PM
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I recently read about this issue. In fact, it may have been in Straight Dope, I can't remember. But people here aren't the only ones wondering about being spied on by Google. Turns out that spying on people is so 20th century. Google and many of the major tech companies, Facebook for one, uses artificial intelligence to model the behavior of every individual. You already have a doppelhanger at Google. The AI monitors a few general characteristics about your current behavior and predicts specific future events about you. They don't actually listen in to your conversations, but as an example they know that when a person just like you calls their sister, that means you are likely to do something similar to what your sister is doing. If you sister is surfing the web looking at shoes, the AI will start serving you shoe ads. etc. They didn't listen in to your call, but they know who you called etc.

All very spooky and so far ahead of the law that legal issues simply aren't a factor. They aren't monitoring your activities, they are monitoring an AI creation of you that they created. That AI creation doesn't have any privacy to violate.
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Old 05-13-2019, 10:27 PM
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It's not just Google. The other day I was browsing on my PC for some items on Amazon. They happened to be expensive items, which may have triggered something. Obviously the advertising behemoths are going to be triggered to deluge you with related ads, but what I found disturbing is that I got an alert on my Amazon tablet! Not on the PC where I looked at this stuff, not via email, not via any normal communication mechanism. Just the kind of on-screen alert similar to "your battery is down to 20%". And what this alert said was "We just thought you might be interested in ... {the exact items I was looking at}".

These people are shamelessly aggressive and insidious and their aggressiveness now extends across platforms. The just love platforms that they own and can totally control. I think there is a market for apps that disable vendors' hidden online functions, including the Amazon tablets' mandatory updates that cannot be turned off.
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Old 05-13-2019, 10:32 PM
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All very spooky and so far ahead of the law that legal issues simply aren't a factor. They aren't monitoring your activities, they are monitoring an AI creation of you that they created. That AI creation doesn't have any privacy to violate.
They have to monitor your activities to create an AI or you though, don't they?
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Old 05-13-2019, 11:35 PM
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A few weeks back I was out with my brother. He was driving and we passed a sign outside an apparently new business that hadn't been there before. It said "Crazy Aaron's". I don't recall if I read it out loud or not but I was curious so I took out my phone to google it. I typed in "Crazy" and before I could type any further the first suggestion was "Crazy Aarons".

I had never heard of this business before let alone searched for it and I highly doubt that large numbers of people search on that phrase as opposed to other phrases starting with the word "crazy".

I'm hard pressed to attribute this to anything other than one of two possibilities. Either I said it out loud and Google keyed on that, or it was location based, since we had just driven past that business.

I assumed at the time that it was location based, but after reading this thread I'm starting to wonder.

In any case I recently was looking at what Google had stored about my searches, etc. and discovered that it had stored a bunch of short audio clips supposedly recorded from my "OK Google" voice searches.

Some of them sounded like conversational snippets that were definitely not part of some search. I assume I had somehow triggered voice searches automatically, probably by inadvertently touching the microphone icon in the search box.

I've since revoked the Google app's microphone and camera permissions. Voice search no longer works but I can live with that.

FB's app has a bunch of permissions to things like contacts, microphone, camera etc., all of which I've turned off.

Anytime I install ANY new app the first thing I do is check it's permissions and turn off anything that doesn't make sense for it's functionality.

While we're on this subject; recently, while I'm on the SDMB, Tapatalk has been showing me a lot of ads concerning where close carry is legal and where I can get a close carry license.

In fact those are the only ads it's been showing me and it doesn't matter what thread I'm in. I've never expressed interest in close carry either on or off line. I've never even owned a gun. So whatever algorithms determine these things aren't infallible.
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Old 05-14-2019, 07:54 AM
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I had a strange incident as well. I had to have mold remediation done in my apartment. The building management took care of most of the arrangements, although there were a handful of phone calls to the remediation company. No emails, though.

The mold testing system they used connected to a phone app. Immediately after they did this test, I started seeing ads for mold remediation.

Probably something to do with the phone numbers I called, even though that happened days before I started seeing the ads. I was almost thinking that my devices had somehow registered the proximity of the mold testing app, even though the testers weren’t connected to my network? Crazy, huh?

Last edited by Ann Hedonia; 05-14-2019 at 07:55 AM.
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Old 05-14-2019, 01:06 PM
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I had a strange incident as well. I had to have mold remediation done in my apartment. The building management took care of most of the arrangements, although there were a handful of phone calls to the remediation company. No emails, though.

The mold testing system they used connected to a phone app. Immediately after they did this test, I started seeing ads for mold remediation.

Probably something to do with the phone numbers I called, even though that happened days before I started seeing the ads. I was almost thinking that my devices had somehow registered the proximity of the mold testing app, even though the testers weren’t connected to my network? Crazy, huh?
They weren't using your WiFi? If not, i can see a couple of other possibilities.

Their location could have connected them to you, either through your phone's location or the fact that their phone's location coincided with your address that your ISP has on file.

Another possibility could occur if you and they are both Xfinity subscribers. Xfinity users can use any public Xfinity hotspot. Xfinity uses some home modems to broadcast a separate channel.that is one of these public hotspots. If the worker uses Xfinity and your modem is being used as a public hotspot his phone may have been using your modem.
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Old 05-14-2019, 01:19 PM
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It's not just Google. The other day I was browsing on my PC for some items on Amazon. They happened to be expensive items, which may have triggered something. Obviously the advertising behemoths are going to be triggered to deluge you with related ads, but what I found disturbing is that I got an alert on my Amazon tablet! Not on the PC where I looked at this stuff, not via email, not via any normal communication mechanism. Just the kind of on-screen alert similar to "your battery is down to 20%". And what this alert said was "We just thought you might be interested in ... {the exact items I was looking at}".

These people are shamelessly aggressive and insidious and their aggressiveness now extends across platforms. The just love platforms that they own and can totally control. I think there is a market for apps that disable vendors' hidden online functions, including the Amazon tablets' mandatory updates that cannot be turned off.
The two devices are likely linked by email address to the same account. Even if they aren't, they share enough data for it not to be any big secret they're owned by the same person.

Years ago I learned this when I'd search for an address on my work computer and then two hours later I'd get in my car and my phone would tell me how long it's going to take to get there. Similarly, I could search for something at home, and it would autofill the search term (on google) at work (and show it as already having been searched).
I'm a big believer in using private mode, especially at work, when doing anything sensitive. But now, I make sure to do that even at home and on my phone (Firefox Focus).
I'd hate to be at work and start to search for "What day is Easter 2020" and have it fill in "What's this funny rash on my thigh" as soon as I hit the W.

On top of all that, my home computer and phone use one gmail account. At work, I'm logged into a different one, just to make sure they really don't overlap.
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Old 05-14-2019, 01:33 PM
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They don't actually listen in to your conversations, but as an example they know that when a person just like you calls their sister, that means you are likely to do something similar to what your sister is doing. If you sister is surfing the web looking at shoes, the AI will start serving you shoe ads. etc. They didn't listen in to your call, but they know who you called etc.

All very spooky and so far ahead of the law that legal issues simply aren't a factor. They aren't monitoring your activities, they are monitoring an AI creation of you that they created. That AI creation doesn't have any privacy to violate.
I am not so sure they don't listen. I've had way too many examples of having a conversation about something, then going to search for it, and finding nearly perfect search terms show up before I get the first word completed. Not just the word, but the full thing I was just discussing. Like if I am talking with my wife about drip irrigating our garden and wondering what the best spacing for the emitters is, if I go google that a few seconds later, I'll get "drip irr" typed in and the first hit will be "drip irrigation emitter spacing" (just like David Allen's)

I mean, I'm not surprised that googling something on my phone will end up having tailored ads start showing up on various sites, including Amazon, or that Amazon has a pretty good handle on stuff I'd like based on my virtual doppleganger, but what surprises me and unnerves me is when my Google searches are TOO accurate and pertinent.

Last edited by bump; 05-14-2019 at 01:33 PM.
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Old 05-14-2019, 02:09 PM
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Check out the podcast Reply All episode titled "Is Facebook Spying on You?" The are any number of ways for them and Google and whomever else may be interested to obtain information about you. And they have a ton of it.
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Old 05-14-2019, 03:13 PM
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It's an interesting business strategy. We all know Google, Amazon etc. do extensive data mining, stuffing our computers with cookies and showing us page after page of ads for washing machines if we just showed interest in one through our clicks, or our searches or our online purchases. And they don't keep it a secret.

But their "listening in on people" illegal and secret approach apparently only applies to a small percentage of people("Yes it happened to me too" on a message board, or your facebook wall, does not make it universal), and is used for bizarre purposes like targeting snack adds and customizing google search term completion.

I especially like the last one, because it must make google so much money to violate the law just so people can type in one less word of a search they were already doing!

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Old 05-14-2019, 03:13 PM
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Well, I notice that whenever I learn a new word, suddenly I start seeing and hearing that word all over the place. Same concept at play as others have discussed, and I KNOW Google didn't have anything to do with that.
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Old 05-14-2019, 04:49 PM
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Well, I notice that whenever I learn a new word, suddenly I start seeing and hearing that word all over the place. Same concept at play as others have discussed, and I KNOW Google didn't have anything to do with that.
The Baader-Meinhof Effect.
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Old 05-14-2019, 05:39 PM
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Well, what is the brand name so we can see if anyone else has been getting ads.

Dennis
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:36 PM
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About 2 months ago I was on the UC Santa Barbara website looking up campus tour dates to see if we could line up a tour with my son's Spring Break. Later that night I was watching a show on the ad-supported VRV streaming service. Every ad break featured the exact same 15 second ad repeated 4 times.

What was it? A public service announcement from the Santa Barbara police department warning that DUI checkpoints will be in effect during the UCSB street party held over Spring Break.

Definitely not ISP location based, as I live over 100 miles from Santa Barbara. I used the same instance of Chrome to access both sites, so most likely the ad server just looked at my cookies. After I cleared my cookies, I started getting ads for Uber Eats.
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Old 05-14-2019, 06:40 PM
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Check out the podcast Reply All episode titled "Is Facebook Spying on You?" The are any number of ways for them and Google and whomever else may be interested to obtain information about you. And they have a ton of it.
Before I listen to a half hour podcast...is using your phone to listen to you one of the ways?
I mean, anything else, I think most people have a grasp of. It's the concern that they're listening that bothers people.
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Old 05-14-2019, 09:15 PM
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A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realizes that there's this, like, lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything.

I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly, Google will say, like, "plate," or "shrimp," or "plate of shrimp," out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.
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Old 05-14-2019, 09:53 PM
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You eat a lot of acid, Miller, back in the hippie days?
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Old 05-14-2019, 09:56 PM
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A better experiment would have the women talk about something that women never use or care about. That way it would better compare with single men talking about something they never use or care about (tampons).


I propose that women gush about nitros at the same rate men talk about tampons... more than zero, less than alot.



To clarify, some men use (1st aide for ex) or wonder aloud about tampons, but not many, and obviously there are some women interested in cars, but also not many.
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Old 05-15-2019, 06:59 AM
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I've had similar experiences. Stopped by a shop I don't normally use, and got flooded with ads for that shop. Turned off location on my phone and the problem cleared itself up. Stranger things too. Gotten ads for products my SO was browsing, etc. I've gotten some control of it through using different accounts for different purposes on my browser, but the occasional weirdness makes its way through. A friend in the UK said to do the occasional search for bras. Then most of the advertising targeted to me will show pretty tits.
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Old 05-15-2019, 11:02 AM
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I posted a very similar thread here last year. I went to a Qdoba for lunch, using a lot of Cholula hot sauce on my burrito. I paid cash. When I got back to work, I took a quick look at a news website on my work computer, aaaand there was an ad for Cholula hot sauce. I’d link to my post from last year but i’m on my phone now.

The consensus, if I recall correctly, was that my phone had been gps tracked and the ad relevance guessed at from my location. There were a few votes for coincidence but Cholula hot sauce seems too random of an ad for that. So, my location was likely tracked from my phone, my consumer preference correctly divined, and I was cross-tracked to my work computer, where I was delivered my Cholula ad less than an hour later. Brave new world!

Last edited by solost; 05-15-2019 at 11:04 AM.
  #41  
Old 05-15-2019, 11:16 AM
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. After I cleared my cookies, I started getting ads for Uber Eats.
Sure, your computer knew that without cookies you'd be hungry.
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Old 05-15-2019, 11:47 AM
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There were a few votes for coincidence but Cholula hot sauce seems too random of an ad for that.
Nothing is too random when you have thousands of possible coincidences and thousands of possible people for them to happen to.

And the number of votes for coincidence in a discussion thread would be underrepresented since there is little point in posting "coincidence" over and over again, while people speculating on absurd connections have more freedom to invent their own unique spin.
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:09 PM
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A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realizes that there's this, like, lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything.

I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly, Google will say, like, "plate," or "shrimp," or "plate of shrimp," out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness.
If you see a commercial or a billboard or someone starts talking about something you asked a friend about yesterday, I think most people assume it's a coincidence long before they wonder if it's on purpose. But people have been questioning this for quite a while. IIRC, google got in trouble years ago for turning peoples PC microphones on and listening for keywords in conversation to serve up ads.*

Look at it like this. When you go to the grocery store and checkout and a machine spits out a few coupons, they're very clearly based on what you typically buy. No big deal right. You always use a credit card or punch in your phone number or swipe a savings card. Makes sense.
But what if all the coupons were for things you talked about, but have never purchased. And far more often that what would be a coincidence. At some point it's fair to assume this isn't confirmation bias and you're going to wonder how this is happening.

*I couldn't find the article I read a long time ago, but I did find a this article in which the author confirmed this by talking about random things (ie going back to school, needing cheap t-shirts etc) and found that ads for those items were consistently served up within 24 hours.
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Old 05-15-2019, 12:12 PM
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Nothing is too random when you have thousands of possible coincidences and thousands of possible people for them to happen to.

And the number of votes for coincidence in a discussion thread would be underrepresented since there is little point in posting "coincidence" over and over again, while people speculating on absurd connections have more freedom to invent their own unique spin.
I’m not saying that it definitely wasn’t coincidence, that I disbelieve any posters who said it was, or even that the response sampling in my post was enough to come to a definitive conclusion.

But i’ve been tracked plenty of times from one computer to another— usually looking at a product online, then being served ads for the product for days or weeks afterward on various other devices. Also being served ads for a store after I shop there once, using a credit card. Based on my experience, being tracked via gps does not seem more unbelievable than coincidence.

Last edited by solost; 05-15-2019 at 12:13 PM.
  #45  
Old 05-15-2019, 12:15 PM
Joey P is offline
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Originally Posted by solost View Post
I posted a very similar thread here last year. I went to a Qdoba for lunch, using a lot of Cholula hot sauce on my burrito. I paid cash. When I got back to work, I took a quick look at a news website on my work computer, aaaand there was an ad for Cholula hot sauce. Iíd link to my post from last year but iím on my phone now.

The consensus, if I recall correctly, was that my phone had been gps tracked and the ad relevance guessed at from my location. There were a few votes for coincidence but Cholula hot sauce seems too random of an ad for that. So, my location was likely tracked from my phone, my consumer preference correctly divined, and I was cross-tracked to my work computer, where I was delivered my Cholula ad less than an hour later. Brave new world!
Your phone certainly knew you were at Qdoba. That's why facebook, yelp, foursquare etc so easily give you the ability to 'check in' at the location. If you have an Android you can even pull up your history and it'll show you all the places you went to on a specific day, what time it was, how long you were there and a few other things.
From there, I don't think it would be a huge leap for Cholula to pay for their ads to be served to people that were at restaurants using it.

And with that, you have to keep in mind that your phone only collects data (possibly...or possibly not including keywords it hears) and asks advertisers who they want their ads served to. It wouldn't be a big deal for Cholula to ask for their ads to be shown to people that have visited a QDoba in the last 24 hours.
  #46  
Old 05-15-2019, 12:33 PM
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I'll throw out there that Facebook has the ability to target ads to a very specific location. For example my son's Cub Scout Pack was selling Christmas Trees, and we wanted to advertise on Facebook. Rather than just hit the entire zip code, we had the option to target anyone who was checking facebook from a phone that was currently located within a short distance from the lot.

It's not much of a stretch to think that Google could target anyone who drove past a particular billboard, or shopped at a particular store that stocks a new brand of chips.
  #47  
Old 05-16-2019, 07:49 AM
Joey P is offline
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Originally Posted by solost View Post
But iíve been tracked plenty of times from one computer to anotheró usually looking at a product online, then being served ads for the product for days or weeks afterward on various other devices. Also being served ads for a store after I shop there once, using a credit card. Based on my experience, being tracked via gps does not seem more unbelievable than coincidence.
Being tracked from one device to another isn't anything new. So long as (for example), your phone and your computer are both logged in with the same gmail account, google will treat them (kinda) as the same device.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheesesteak View Post
I'll throw out there that Facebook has the ability to target ads to a very specific location. For example my son's Cub Scout Pack was selling Christmas Trees, and we wanted to advertise on Facebook. Rather than just hit the entire zip code, we had the option to target anyone who was checking facebook from a phone that was currently located within a short distance from the lot.

It's not much of a stretch to think that Google could target anyone who drove past a particular billboard, or shopped at a particular store that stocks a new brand of chips.
Yes. When I did a little bit of advertising on facebook, the ability to target the ads gives you a good insight to how much they track all those details. For example, I could target my ads to people in a specific set of zip codes and/or X miles from a/my location, gender, age etc. I could even have my ads target people who like specific other (competitor) businesses. IIRC, there were a handful of other metrics as well.
On top of that, you could then see, based on those things, which groups were engaging (or not engaging) with your ads so you could make adjustments.

And, for what it's worth, just about every website you go to does this as well. Google has a free tool called Google Analytics that will do it for you. I can see how many people have been to my website, how long they were there for, how many pages they visited, where they went after they left, what site they were at before, what terms they searched for to find my site, what type of device they used, IP address and quite a bit of other stuff, to the point that it's almost overwhelming.
  #48  
Old 05-16-2019, 07:56 AM
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I was on the phone the other day and, during the course of my conversation, said; "Wow, it's already the 12th of May! Can you believe it?!"

Immediately, and out of nowhere, my Alexa said, "No, today is the 11th of May."

?!!

I never said "Alexa", so she never should have responded.

Last edited by Jasmine; 05-16-2019 at 07:56 AM.
  #49  
Old 05-16-2019, 08:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Jasmine View Post
I was on the phone the other day and, during the course of my conversation, said; "Wow, it's already the 12th of May! Can you believe it?!"

Immediately, and out of nowhere, my Alexa said, "No, today is the 11th of May."

?!!

I never said "Alexa", so she never should have responded.
Yes, Alexa's ability to recognise when something is not her name is surprisingly bad, but Alexa listening all the time is an essential part of how it works.

You can go in and most likely see what the program thinks it heard.
  #50  
Old 05-16-2019, 09:54 AM
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Before I listen to a half hour podcast...is using your phone to listen to you one of the ways?
I mean, anything else, I think most people have a grasp of. It's the concern that they're listening that bothers people.
The episode started as an investigation to see if your phone's apps, including Facebook, are using your mic to listen to you. Facebook and former Facebook employees claim they are not. But not everyone is convinced. There are some user experience stories that are pretty hard to dispute the use of a hit mic. But even if they aren't listening through your mic, they've got soooo many other ways to capture your data. And then they categorize you in ridiculously specific buckets. Like they apparently know if you're "someone who pretends to text in awkward situations."
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