Is Google listening to my conversations?

Except in my case, there would NEVER be a reason for me to be shown those ads.

Normally, ads for me make sense; gaming shit, for the most part, or computer parts and accessories. VR gear. But the one time I’m riding with a group of gun nuts rambling about that stuff, I start getting fed those ads? I mean, sure, coincidences happen, but that is just insane.

whoops double post

The reason is possibly because you were riding with them or at least because of your trip together. Google or Facebook or whichever knows you’re all coworkers, knows you all took the same flight to the convention (if you did, anyway), knows you’re all now gathered away from work at a convention (or at least at a non-work location) and even may very well know that you are all literally riding together. And if your coworkers were all talking about low ammo prices at Cabela’s, it’s a good bet they were at some point searching on their phones for low ammo prices at Cabela’s. Given all of that data, plus whatever overlapping demographics you all share, the algorithm is thinking there’s a good chance that you too are interested in low ammo prices at Cabela’s.

It’s crazy that they have the capability for that kind of invasive data gathering, but they do, and it’s a lot more efficient and accurate than just eavesdropping on you 24/7 which they don’t do.

I wonder where these agencies get the manpower and time to review and collate trillions of conversations in order to zero in on the handful that pose actual menace to Our Way Of Life.

Most likely the incriminating evidence is reposing in vast digital files that at best will be discovered long after bad things happen.

As mentioned, there are all sorts of ways to corelate you with the people who are gun enthusiasts. The proximity information is probably the most critical and the fact that you’re in a car with multiple people associated with firearms is more than enough information to try a few ads and see if you click through. But as others have noted, there are lots of associations between you and firearms that can be inferred (rightly or wrongly) from the huge amount of data assembled through other means.

Yesterday, I was told by my best friend, who works as a technician, that he had called someone about IIRC plumbing supplies, and shortly thereafter, got ads about plumbing sent to the Internet browser on his phone. Make of that what you will.

There are lots of anecdotes like this, but when investigated there are always some details that are missed. Some search, some proximity or location data, or other connection generally is forgotten or missed. It’s impossible to debunk a story like this without more information, but when someone has access to the phone or the account explanations are found that don’t involve listening to phone calls.

And about a year ago, I was suddenly getting a lot of ads for used airplanes, right after I… had a bunch of conversations that didn’t have anything to do with planes at all.

If the algorithms can sometimes make crazy random out-of-left-field guesses like that, then sometimes they can make crazy random out-of-left-field guesses that coincidentally happen to be spot-on.

I’ve long known that the DoD and probably some other alphabet agencies have A File On Me due to several relatives holding various types of Top Secret clearances. I pity whomever has to read mine because I’m pretty mundane and boring in real life.

This was confirmed the one time I applied for a job with the TSA - and that they were aware of usual my internet nicknames. Heck, the FAA’s contact e-mail for me is the same one I use for message boards.

Frankly, I’m less worried about the government than I am about hackers and phishers. It’s not that I trust the government - not very much, really - it’s that I don’t trust private industry or private individuals either.

As a data point - I don’t own a dog, I don’t search anything to do with dogs on the internet, I am not close friends with anyone locally who owns a dog, and I’ve been getting “itchy dog” ads, too - so maybe the itchy-dog drugs people are just blitzing everyone right now. Unfocused ad campaigns still occur.

To half of you, you need to take the tin foil hat off. The ads you see are just are an exponentially better version of of denture cream commercials during “Murder She Wrote”

To the other half, you need to put a tin foil hat on. If you don’t think tech companies don’t know you need denture cream, i got news for you. And you don’t need to google denture cream for them to know it.

Yep. I suffer from tinnitus. but I’ve never looked it up online. I have talked anout it at home. I get inundated with ads for tinniitus products. Am I being listened to?

No. What I am is a male in my late 50’s. Lots of us have tinnitus. If they wanted to narrow it down further they no doubt know that I am a pilot, and airplanes are loud. They know I’m a rock music fan, and concerts are loud. It’s not rocket science for an algorithm to figure out that I’m a candidate for tinnitus products.

The fact that we are all having everything we do online stored for future use, and that AIs are getting better at figuring things out about you by walking your internet and location historg should be the really frightening thing. It’s far more dangerous than an AI listening to you talk.

I personally don’t think the AIs are feeding you ads by listening to you. That would seem to me to be something that should be relatively easy to detect one way or another by monitoring network usage from the device that is supposedly feeding your voice down the line (or is the theory that it does on-board analysis looking for keywords and then just sends a couple short packets along to tell Google or whomever what ads to feed you?)

Regardless, there’s so much that could be figured out about you based on browser history, location data, personal info, etc. and what they already know about you that listening in to your conversations constantly to figure out what you’re talking about seems like overkill and highly unlikely to me. And completely unnecessary. I mean, Target years ago was able to figure out a teen was pregnant before her father did and sent her targeted ads in the mail for diapers and stuff, all based simply on her recent purchases in a brick-and-mortar store. And that’s just from a fraction of the data these guys have on you.

Also, apart from being served uncannily targeted ad info, what’s maybe even more unsettling is how they know which devices you use are ‘yours’.

I started a thread a couple years ago describing how I went to Qdoba on my lunchbreak, paid cash, and had a burrito on which I added liberal amounts of Cholula hot sauce. When I got back to work, I opened a web browser on my work computer, and there was a banner ad for Cholula. Seemed far too coincidental for such a random product. But how was I tracked, when I paid cash, and didn’t look up Qdoba on my phone beforehand? The consensus was GPS tracking my location with my iPhone, knowing I went to Qdoba.

Ok, but the fact these targeting companies can jump from tracking my phone to serving me ads on my work computer is in a way even creepier. Or conversely, I’ll research a product for work on my desktop, and ads for that product will follow me on my iPad, my phone, and my laptop. And I don’t log into my Google account on any browser unless I have to.

Or maybe they didn’t know that the user of that computer went to Qdoba… they just guessed that it was pretty likely. But at some point, those correlations and guesses have to break down. Like, this winter I spent a couple of months accessing one computer every day, and then spent another couple of months accessing a different computer every day, and so Google or whoever might reasonably make an association between both of those computers and me. But other people used those computers before and after the time when I did, and those people are not the same people. Google might guess that they might be the same, but in that case, that guess would be wrong.

I don’t think it farfetched to suggest that you could be ‘fingerprinted’ as a user of even a public computer by patterns that have been detected in the way you use the computer. The web sites you visit, in what order, how often you comment on stories, how long they tend to be, how much you loiter on each site, your vocabulary… AIs are very good at picking up patterns and relationships we didn’t even know existed.

An insurance company could definitely fill out a detailed risk profile of you by looking at your internet usage. Won’t it be fun when we find out our car insurance or life insurance is being ‘adjusted’ based on our online profiles? Talk too much about your late-night cookie eating, or how much trouble you are having losing weight, and next year your life insurance goes up 20 bucks and you have no idea why. Or talk too much about hating government and spend a little time on gun sites, and suddenly you are getting a visit from the FBI.

You go for your next job interview, and it goes swimmingly. As a next step, the company orders up a report from ‘research analytics, inc.’, and they find out how many hours you’ve spent on the internet during business hours, whether you’ve bad-mouthed your previous employer online, whether your location data shows you’ve entered legal marijuana stores, how late you stay up at night, whether your online habits indicate you are politically undesirable, ad infinitem. You don’t get the job, and you’ll never kmow why.

Whether these things are being done today is unknown. Whether the data collection going on now enables that kind of behaviour is indisputable.

I would suspect people are fairly distinct in the way they type, speeds between letters, all sorts of other patterns related to timing or position that few would even consider. Most people likely visit the same websites again and again - only a small percentage of Interwebz users have visited the SDMB, much less visit often. Though I know little about this it does not seem impossible to figure out which of a small group of people might use a device if so inclined, especially when you check your email or social media accounts - but maybe it is a harder problem than I think.

Earlier today I showed Mrs. J. a photo of Fiona Godlee (who just stepped down as editor of the British Medical Journal), commenting that she looked exactly as I expected for a Fiona.

Just now I was checking Facebook, and they suggested an unknown (to me) woman named Fiona as a potential Facebook friend.

Eerie. :thinking:

Except that I found out about Fiona Godlee leaving the BMJ by clicking on a Facebook link. So that’s got to be it.

Or They have planted a listening device here in the family room.