Stop Being Creepy Google

Yesterday, I wrote an amusing little vignette about an email I had received. I am, of course, using the word “amusing” very loosely. I guess you could say the same thing about “vignette.” Really, most of that last sentence was a large pile of crap.

In this email I referred to, the Republican National Committee had offered me the very rare opportunity to receive a pair of comical socks endorsed by a former president in exchange for a $35 donation. It seems to me that they were really just offering to sell me an expensive pair of socks, but they were pretty adamant that this was a donation.

When writing, I do my best to be a professional. That means that I spend a fair amount of researching. In this situation, a fair amount of time is equal to the amount of time it takes for me to stop reading articles like “The Top 25 Product Flops of All-Time.” (Spoiler Alert: Number one is New Coke. Number one is always New Coke.)

In an effort to write the most well-informed post I could, I spent time Googling these socks. I read people’s reaction to them, I mocked people’s reaction to them, I even learned that George H.W. Bush does, in fact, love socks. I stopped researching and I began writing. 9 to 10 distractions later, my post was finished and I thought I would never hear about these socks again.

Then today, I began to notice something strange. Every single website I visited was displaying an ad for these socks. That’s mighty peculiar, I thought. And yes, I did think it in that exact wording.

Then I began to notice something else. When it was not an ad for George Bush socks, it was an ad for P.F. Flyers, a shoe that I had just purchased online. Other times it was an ad for vacationing in Colombia, coincidentally a search I had made the night before while Anthony Bourdain’s “Part’s Unknown” tried to convince me that a trip to Colombia will not end with me being murdered.

Now, I have known for quite some time that Google tracks my web history to provide me with what they call “interest-based ads.” That is the sacrifice I make when I choose to use Gmail and Google Chrome over, say, Yahoo mail and Netscape.

Now, though, I am beginning to be concerned about what Google may think of me. In my mind, there is one individual responsible for tracking my search history. He looks at everything I do. Now, based on three searches, he thinks I have some weird preoccupation with my feet and that I am headed to Colombia for no particular reason. He is probably sitting there thinking “Oh good. Nathan finally ordered his shoes for Colombia. Those will be very comfortable on his trip.”

I began to think about other things that I might have searched for. Immediately after looking at Colombian vacations, I remembered comparing prices to several other South American countries. There is a strong possibility that Google thinks I am attempting to flee the country for some reason. In the mind of Google, I have to get out of the United States quick. Just me, my P.F. Flyers and my colorful socks.

I suppose I should be more concerned about this than I am. Fortunately, I never attempt to buy anything nefarious online, so these ads are likely to consist of guitars and the occasional nerdy DVD set. I do want to make sure Google knows one thing, though.

I am not that concerned about my feet. Please do not peg me as an individual fixated on my own feet. Please.

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17 thoughts on “Stop Being Creepy Google

  1. I had something similar a short while ago. I registered for a sports event online. I mentioned in the office that I would need to get some new sneakers. A colleague shouted, ‘go to blah-blah-sports site – thy have great deals’. A few minutes later, before I had even entered the URL in my browser, adverts for ‘blah-blah-sports site’ were already popping up on my fb right column. Now that’s creepy!

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    • You should start looking at books about giving children up for adoption. Then Amazon might think you gave your baby up for adoption and they would leave you alone. That is what we like to call flawless logic.

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      • It seems pretty difficult to argue with that logic. Perhaps I should try to really freak out the person who is in charge of tracking my search history by gradually looking for more and more disturbing things. That could also probably get me arrested.

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  2. I was thinking the same thing several weeks ago. At first I was a little creeped out by it, but then I realized that it’s unlikely that a it’s person or even people paying attention to my search habits; I’m sure it’s an algorithm. At least, that’s what I tell myself so I can sleep at night.

    Also, if I have to see ads as a necessary part of life, I guess I prefer ads for things that I’m maybe possibly somewhat interested in, rather than seeing the useless ads I used to see… dating sites (I’m happily married), work from home offers (I already work from home), weight loss pills (I’m pretty damn healthy, thank you very much) and how could I forget, Viagra? Maybe those Viagra ads could have stayed… they were always good for a laugh.

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