Are the Googles watching?

Tinfoil Hat Alert!

Tinfoil Hat

In summary, I've had a couple of situations recently where things that I have been verbally discussing with people have then quickly appeared as adverts in various places...

My first thought was that multiple people in the room use Android, and on occasion, one of the team members phones was erroneously detecting people saying "OK Google", even though they weren't saying it. I personally have this feature permanently disabled, but for those that don't - Google categorically deny that they use voice recorded with this feature for advertising purposes.

Perhaps they could correlate enough data from other sources, for example - GPS location, proximity to other people that had searched for this sort of stuff. Perhaps they've just worked out that I'm in a ThoughtWorks office, or an employee of ThoughtWorks so are showing me relevant ads. This is a scary enough thought, especially as I consider myself to be security and privacy conscious (using VPNs, anon browsing, Ad blocking, Tor).

However, I don't believe them, and here are a couple of examples from this week alone.

Okta

Now, this one, in some ways I could shrug off a bit. At ThoughtWorks we use Okta, ultimately this means that my browsing history has Okta in it, and I occasionally peruse their API documentation.

However following a meeting yesterday where we were discussing Okta (not using laptops, or tech, just talking) I logged onto Facebook only to be shown an advertisement for it. It's worth noting that during this meeting, my colleagues phone repeatedly thought someone in the room was saying 'OK Google'.

Okta

Hyatt

This one makes me wonder more. I was walking back to my hotel (not a Hyatt) with one of my colleagues, and asked him where he was staying. His response was "The Hyatt". I logged into Instagram a few minutes later and at the top of my feed, an advert for Hyatt!

Hyatt

Apiary

I don't have a screenshot of this one unfortunately, but Apiary is a API mocking service that I used some years ago. I was in a standup meeting with my team in Brazil and suggested it as a method of unblocking a stream of work. I hadn't used, search for or even thought about this service in two years.

When I got back to my desk - at the top of Facebook, you guessed it, an advert for Apiary.

Come on.