These days all the YouTube ads that play on my laptop are in French. It started a couple of months ago when I happened to watch a few videos by Belgian pop star Stromae. Ever since, all the various soft drink and car ads have been playing en Francais. It’s another example of why I really don’t worry much about my online privacy. I get the impression the all-seeing, data-gathering online Big Brother is rather inept.
There’s a lot of rampant paranoia about the devious algorithms that gather your personal information to compile invasive online profiles. My Facebook feed is regularly peppered with feverish instructions about how I should thwart the corporate snoops apparently watching my every twitch and anticipating my inmost desires. But based on the targeted ads I get on social media, the all-seeing eye seems pretty myopic. I search for information on a charity and boom, I get ads from that charity on every site I visit. I check out a hotel, and damned if ads for that hotel don’t pop up like dandelions. What I don’t see is any evidence of genuine awareness of who I am and what I’m really likely to seek. If online marketers really know my secrets, where are all the targeted ads for Triscuits and havarti? Why don’t they understand my inner rage about the unavailability of Post Banana Nut Crunch cereal in Canada? A properly targeted ad would be from Purolator, offering me attractive rates on shipping said boxes.
Perhaps the problem is that I’m so cheap—if online software was truly sophisticated enough to understand me, advertisers would likely stop wasting their time and go bug people with money. In the meantime, I will continue to worry more about the pervasive spread of the paranoid mindset than I do about how much Google knows about my innermost desires. Maybe if they understood me a little better I’d be a contented man with a cupboard full of Banana Nut Crunch.
Photo by Namelas Frade.