Coincidence, or are tracker ads getting way too Big Brotherish?

So I’m used to googling work-related stuff at work and later seeing ads for the same work stuff I was googling on my personal devices later at home. And I’ve made a credit card purchase at a certain business for the first time, only to see constant ads for that business weeks thereafter.

But at lunch today I stopped at a Qdoba, bought a burrito (paid with cash, no frequent customer card or anything to ID myself), borrowed a bottle of Cholula hot sauce and used it liberally.

–just now I take a 5 minute break from work and check a news site on my phone. And see an ad for Cholula hot sauce. Seems just a teensie bit too on the nose. But how would they have tracked me? Nearest I can figure is some sort of store scanner communicating with my phone (an old iPhone 5). Or maybe they put tracking chips directly on the hot sauce bottles? Do I need to wrap my phone in tinfoil when I’m not using it?!?

…or, am I being paranoid, and it is just a weird coincidence?

The fact that it was the exact same sauce may be a coincidence but unless you have your location settings turned off, there is exactly a 100% chance that Google or Apple (depending on your phone) know you were in a Qdoba that day.

A different kind of snooping: I made a joke in a text to a friend about visiting France and suddenly every ad in my Twitter app was about Paris.

The company for which I work is a major “server” of digital ads, and Quimby’s post describes what’s going on. Using location services, the ad companies know where you (well, to be precise, your phone) has been, often down to an accuracy of a few meters. Yes, they know that you visited Qdoba. No, they probably don’t (yet) know that you used Cholula today.

But, only if you are using a location-enabled app.
If the phone is just sitting in your pocket (and you don’t have location services turned on in the background), then your position is not being tracked.

Yeah there is definitely some creepy stuff that happens, once I was reading on wikipedia about certain STD’s having to do with a school paper I was writing, later I’m reading the CNN website and all sorts of paid ads about STD testing. C’mon man!!! :smack:

Your phone’s location is also tracked by cell phone towers, so someone knows where you are to a fairly high degree of accuracy, no?

Yep, I had location services on. I’m convinced now I was tracked and quickly served that ad - Cholula is just too random of an item to pop up coincidentally in an ad an hour after visiting a Qdoba. Good to know I guess-- I’ll have to make sure to turn off location services if I visit a high-value target like a car dealership and I don’t want to be inundated with auto ads, say.

As for the Paris text thing, that’s just too creepy. Though it does make me want to pick something innocuous yet specific, randomly text it to people and see how long before I start getting ads for it.

Speaking of creepy:

Facebook made and sent me a video about how I’m part of their “community”, superimposing photos taken off my page with images of other people I don’t know. Supposedly this video cannot be viewed by anyone but me.

I am going to suggest they never do this again.

Hrmm, right now in this SD thread there’s an ad for a free cell phone tracker app…:rolleyes:

Well, sure, but that data is not available to advertisers (AFAIK).
Also, I don’t think the positional accuracy is that great - probably no better than a few hundred feet.

Thank your personal FBI monitor.

Seriously though, probably just random.

I’ve got location services on, and whenever I go to a restaurant or store I’ll get a push request to rate my visit. With a scary degree of accuracy too. If there are a cluster of businesses together I’m asked about the correct one better than 90% of the time.

Define “fairly high.” GPS can place you to within inches in the best circumstances, cell towers have a worst case of hundreds of miles (although less in urban areas likely to have Qdobas).

If I turn off Location Services on my iPhone, can a Lyft car still find me? Sorry if it’s a dumb question, but I haven’t taken Uber or Lyft yet and I’m still sorting out how it all works.

Right now, in this SD thread, there are 6 trackers following you. Advertising trackers Quantcast, gumgum, SkimLinks, and Google Publisher Tags. And site analytics trackers Google Analytics and Chartbeat.

This is relatively few compared to most sites. CNN current has 22 trackers. The Onion has 18. That is, unless you are getting wise and blocking them. Everything you do online or on your phone, (which is effectively the same thing), is being monetized.

I can’t answer for how Lyft or Uber get your location; I haven’t used either. Depending on the UI it can be pretty trivial to just turn location services on and off. For me, it’s one swipe, a tap to enable, and then another tap to get back to what I as doing. I keep location serrvices off except for the rare times I am using my GPS. A 911 call automatically enables them again on Android without my interaction so it’s not a safety issue.

For google, regardless of whether you are on an Android mobile device, you can also turn location history off for your entire account. You can even delete the old location history records. Apps using location, when you have it on, still work without location history but google isn’t storing it.

For all of google’s Big Brotherish defaults they are pretty decent about allowing you to opt out. They still make money off randomly placed ads. It’s just not as much money as they make with customized ads. Besides most don’t opt-out and they know it.

I was carpooling to an unmanned aircraft symposium the other day, when the other passengers in the vehicle started talking about purchasing guns at Cabela’s for a long distance shoot they were going to be attending. I was sitting silently and reading the Dope, as I usually do when I have the good fortune to be a passenger and not the driver.

I clicked a link in a thread, and the advertisements on whatever page I was redirected to were for ammunition available at Cabela’s…

I do NOT hunt, fish, or anything of the sort. Ads based on my preferences would almost always be video games or board games, as those are pretty much the whole of my interests. There is no way that my phone had not been listening in on the ambient conversation in the vehicle- I have never used the Cabela’s website, and they don’t have a retail store in my state.

I’m not usually one to be bothered by privacy stuff, but that really squicked me out.

Since I still use a flip phone, I think that I get to point and laugh at everybody else in this thread.

IME, Google lets you opt-out and then offers to show you how to opt right back in every singe time you access one of their products when you’re on mobile. I wish they’d save my ‘No Thanks’ somehow.

Just for fun, I go to and search for hotels in a dozen different countries. It drives them craxy.

This sounds really, really scary to me too.

But I’m wondering: could there be another explanation, other than eavesdropping?
Is this scenario possible: while chatting about the guns, one of the passengers opened Cabela’s web site on his phone?
Then Google’s location-based software realized that your phone was physically present next to the one which opened Cabela’s gun shop website?
So their adverstising software used the same logic as when you enter a restaurant and it chooses relevant ads.

I don’t know if my scenario is feasible–and either way, it still squicks me out.
You are still being tracked, but at least nobody is listening into your private conversations.

It’s slightly less Big Brother-ish.
But only slightly.