They’re just now wising up to this?

Have you ever been talking about a pair of trainers or holiday destination, and then suddenly seen an advert for that precise thing pop up on social media?

Us too. As incredible as it sounds, it might be because our phones are secretly spying on us.

It’s a question I’ve been asking for a while after seeing adverts for things I’ve been talking about – but not searching – popping up on my phone.


A year or so before we moved out here I went and saw an attorney over some legal matters and when I was called into his office he pointed at a basket on his secretary’s desk and told me to dump my phone in there, then he put his phone in, saying he didn’t allow cell phones in his office when he was talking to a client.

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19 Responses to They’re just now wising up to this?

  1. Harry says:

    They’re not listening to you. It may be worse than that…. The tracking technology is so good, it seems like they’re listening. Here’s a general blueprint of how it works…

    Facebook has your profile. This is where it starts. You sign up for FB and willingly fill out your likes, interests, and personal status. Then over time, you like, share and interact with posts.

    What most people dont realize, is that the Facebook “pixel” (tracker) is installed on many websites. This allows FB to track your behavior – even when you’re not logged in. To compound this, Google Analytics is used on a huge number of sites. This also tracks all of your web behavior. (Now think about all the other Google services that you think are free… Gmail, Google Docs, Drive, Calendar. To be fair, Google claims they stopped scanning your emails back in 17, so there’s that.)

    But then, and here’s the kicker, your social graph kicks in. See, FB doesn’t use your website behavior in a vacuum. They bump your (self described) information, your likes, shares, your web surfing behavior, up against everybody you know and everybody you’ve ever interacted with.

    Then they cross reference this data. And BOOM! You see an ad for sometihng you talked about, and it seems like they were listening.

    Here’s what really happened…

    You and your buddy Jim were talking about a trip to New York City. Jim – not you – goes home and does a search for “best places to eat in NYC” and ends up at a website that has the Facebook pixel installed. You and Jim are Facebook friends and have several times per week interactions. FB sees that Jim went to the site about eating in NYC. Then you go to your computer and go to FB and see an ad for “Top Restauarants in NYC.”

    It seems like FB was listening to you, but they weren’t. They just have enough of a social graph built out to deduce that you are interested in going to NYC. Those deductions can be made with startling accuracy.

    Both FB and G have “remarketing” ads (that follow you around) and both have very sophisticated big data algorithms that construct social graphs that can create very well defined “look-alike” audiences.

    Start with using Duck Duck Go to prevent tracking scripts, then wipe your Google data and lock down your FB settings. Even then…. they already have a ton of info on you…

    Full disclosure, I make a living running these types of ad campaigns. Sorry.

  2. Howard says:

    I was watching YouTube on my Kindle. My sister sent a text to my cell phone. For those that don’t know, these new you two completely different technologies and two completely different networks. I texted back about allergies and trouble breathing. The next two YouTube are on the Kindle were for asthma medication.

  3. 1980XLS says:

    It’s true.
    Check this shit out. You don’t need Alexa for them to be listening.

  4. Paulo says:

    I discourage cell phones in my house and we don’t own one and never will. Sometimes it’s a hassle as everyone wants to contact you by cell, but lately people are saying “Good for you” and “It must be nice”.

  5. Jeffery in Alabama says:

    A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were going to a fund raiser supper. As we were getting dressed I was talking to my wife about her not replacing my shoe stretchers she had borrowed from my dress shoes that I rarely wear. She commented to me that she wanted to get a set of shoe stretchers for her shoes that stretched the length, width, and particularly the toe area. The next day the first ad that popped up on her FB feed was for the exact stretcher she had described. She had not searched, shopped, or etc. for that item ever before yet there it was. In my opinion, a shoe stretcher is a pretty uncommon item. I believe either Google or her FB heard “I need” combined with the description and sent her the ad. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that Big Brother and Big Marketing is listening and watching most of the time.

  6. B says:

    Dues. I moved from Android to IPhone just because of this.

    I was TEXTING about a somewhat estoeric subject to a friend. And I got ads shortly thereafter about that same rare subject. Odds of that randomly happening are pretty close to ZERO.

    I don’t do Facebook, and nether does he. so the above doesn’t apply.

    Apple may be just as bad, but Google/Android is pretty blatant about it.

    So far, since the move to Apple, none of that shit has happened. Yet, anyway.

    And here I always thought Apple was the Big Brother company.

  7. Dan says:

    Anyone who sys that our cellphones don’t listen to EVERYTHING we say is either a liar or an abject moron. The ONLY remaining question is can they listen when TURNED OFF. I have zero doubts they listen 24/7/365 when TURNED on no matter WHAT settings are enabled or disabled.

    • TRX says:

      It might say it’s turned off… but with so many modern electronics, from televisions to desktop computers, “off” often means “low-power state, waiting for ‘wake-up’ command”.
      There can be quite a lot that can be going on when a device is “off.”

    • Harry says:

      Whether or not cell phones are capturing and recording voice data is a separate issue than the original post. The OP is about whether or not ads are served based on collected voice data…. Voice traffic has been catured, recorded and filtered by the gubment for years. But again – that’s not what this post is about…

  8. Gordon K says:

    On an Android device; Go to Settings, then Applications, find Google in the list and select it. Tap App Permissions. Turn off Microphone. That eliminates one source of snooping. Unfortunately, it also gets rid of some nice voice response features of your phone. Also, find Google photos and turn off Syncing. To really get Google out of your life you need to stop using text messaging, Google Calendar, GMail, and Google search. and basically every google service.

    • Padawan says:

      I got a a new phone (the LG Stylo 4) a couple of months ago and it only (supposedly) uses Google calendar. Is there a way that you know of to change it?

  9. tallow pot says:

    I think there’s a connection between email on aol and fb also.

  10. Wilson Lee says:

    I find those Danish Cookie tins to have a delightful number of uses…. My phone feels really safe riding around in it. YMMV :)

  11. Firehand says:

    A lot of companies do the same thing as that lawyer: you’re going into a meeting, you leave your phone outside. Period.

  12. WestcoastDeplorable says:

    I kinda of have a Linked-In page. Just my name and email address, nothing else. I regularly get suggestions for people i might want to connect with. Here’s the weird thing; recently I saw my CPA’s name, and today, the name of one of my clients. I don’t use Fbook or other social media either. So how the hell are they making these connections unless some unauthorized person has access to my email?

  13. Curtis says:

    Way back in ’96 my job in the middle east required that I conduct a lot of business at embassies all over the Gulf and you couldn’t bring your cell/mobile phone into the embassy and they wanted you to take the battery out when you left it in the lockbox by the Marine guard. Oh yea, they’re listening all the time.

  14. mathman54 says:

    It ain’t just phones, it’s anything you can talk to. Some TVs let you use voice commands. Alexa is fairly common. If it’s listening for a command, it’s listening to everything.

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