Creeping on Google

16 May

Google ads have been creeping me out for a few months now. This is the one that came up while I was responding to a friend’s quips about silly work stuff. Really? Google concludes that we should head to Hong Kong to get away.  Or that wooden lockers might make End of Grade testing go more smoothly?  Maybe a VPN connection would help stop me from creeping on Google.  A few weeks ago, I sent a particularly bitchy email to my husband about his lack of attention to detail – nothing earth shattering, but a clear message about my discontent over a relatively minor thing and google hawked divorce lawyers from the side bar. That was the first time I really took any notice of the ads. I had to sit there for a moment and regain my composure. Had I been that nasty in my email? Did Google know something I didn’t? Do people who write direct emails about what pisses them off get divorced? Geez. I thought that was one of the things that makes my marriage strong – no festering resentments here. You disappoint me, piss me off, or make me happy, I tell you. No guessing games. It’s quick and to the point. We are very happily married; at least he agrees with me when I ask. And I did ask after the ads I got.

I stopped to think about the fact that someone has written a computer program to scan my text and aggregate a series of targeted marketing messages based on what I write. It’s creepy. It’s also brilliant. The fact that google in turn provides me with free email and other great tools makes it hard for me to complain too loudly about it. I just wonder about the accuracy of my digital profile. Maybe I should write more emails about my love of art or my culinary expertise or my desire to do good in the world.

Yesterday, I wrote an email to a friend about my job search – google offered plumbing school, an MBA program, and psychological counseling services. Maybe I should get some counseling about a new career path that promises to be crappy.

7 Responses to “Creeping on Google”

  1. xterminal May 16, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    …and yet somehow we all manage to get the gout ads. No target marketing there…

    • Allison Mahaley May 16, 2012 at 7:18 am #

      Oh – I have not gotten that one…re-read your emails, my friend. You tipped them off.

  2. Paul Baerman May 16, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    What gets me are the ads on those screens above the gasoline (petrol to you) pumps. I’ve already scanned my credit card, so you know they’re rifling through my purchase history, mortgage, political and sexual proclivities, and Tweets to come up with … an ad for adult diapers. Maybe it was my zip code.

  3. Greg Goth May 16, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    The Toronto Sun also makes particularly good use of cookies and reading my IP address. I find it quite interesting that a Canadian paper is hawking golf courses in Connecticut. I never click through so their investment is wasted, but it’s still intriguing strategy.

  4. gina May 16, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    I have a personal feature (some say it is a bug) that makes me impervious to advertising. I can’t explain it, but my eyes don’t see ads on television, my ears don’t hear radio ads, my senses are unable to detect internet ads. To take in an ad, I have to make a real effort — and very likely, I won’t remember it later. Not the brand or product or jingle — nothing at all. No matter how many times it has been aired. The only exception are ads that include an animal as the main character. (those I notice sometimes, although often don’t remember the product or brand) or images that are extremely disturbing (starved children, lots of violence or animal abuse, etc.). I am too sensitive to disturbing images for my comfort level, so I installed an ad blocker on my computer. Your observation is very interesting to me — I would try to make an effort to notice if I get any that are creepy or on (or off) target, but I suspect my ad blocker means they don’t get thru.

    • J. Eric Smith May 16, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      I’m with Gina in using an AdBlocker on my home computer, so I don’t see any of this, either. It’s called AdBlock Plus, and I use it with Firefox, and I highly recommend it. It doesn’t mean Google isn’t collecting data on you, of course, but it does keep you from having that fact rubbed in your face everytime you check your e-mail.

  5. David Liebschutz May 17, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    I agree with Eric about the ad-block, but this phenomena is not new. Companies have been buying your name and interests for decades, especially magazine subscription lists to generate junk mail. Now that we have “do not call” registries and junk mail opt-outs, companies have to find other ways to reach customers and Google has figured this out in a pretty ingenious way.

    Nice post!!

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