Do they really know everything about you?
No…I’m not talking about your parents, significant other or best friend…but I will return to them…
I am referencing Facebook and Google as proxy for the all-knowing, all-seeing eye of digital.
Yes…those ads that follow you around can feel creepy and make you wonder about Big Sibling (PC…LOL), but just how powerful are those impossible-to-hide-from algorithms and just how much do they really know?
Google has no idea who I am. Could be that, like many, I confuse their software: Doors fan; Peter, Paul and Mary disciple; Beethoven lover; Grandfather; Gamer; World Traveler; Broadway show goer; hippie; CEO; Circus Attendee; Fashion Shopper; Book Buyer – physical and e-…and on and on.
While I am far from being a new Google user, here is what they said in profiling me:
You do not have any topics associated with your Google account. Topics are used to show you ads that are relevant to you. Topics will be added automatically as you use Google services or you can add specific topics.
And yet I have no doubt that they sell my data without appending that notation.
Facebook, on the other hand, has taken a much more aggressive view of profiling me and confidently has pegged me to the point of actually showing me the kinds of ads they will expose me to, based on what they are sure they know about me.
Now do as I did…go to https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences and start clicking around. Facebook says:
How we determine your ad preferences.
We use information from a few different sources to figure out which ads might be relevant and useful to you. Things like your Facebook profile information, activity on Facebook and interactions with businesses can all influence the ads you see.
The first thing you will notice is that there is no magic here. In fact, I was actually surprised at just how linear it all is. Clearly, there was zero insight applied anywhere, which made their classifications not just mundane, but downright wrong.
Whatever I might have clicked on or shared – for one reason or another — showed up as a preference. And yet multiple preferences that were in fact connected and clearly so — had even a modicum of insight been applied — showed up as siloed, single preferences.
In other words, the depth of the algorithm seems to be rather shallow, while its breadth seems to be all-encompassing…inch deep and a mile wide…better to see others, I imagine.
Worse…I previewed the ads I might see based on my preferences and I was appalled, again, at the complete and total disconnect from anything but a broad and linear relationship to the general topic…more for them to sell, to others, as of interest to me, and none at all of any real interest.
I have a lot to think about here and more to study, but since their announcement last week, I wanted to get a first salvo out and solicit your view after you study your own preferences.
So many implications…
As I have written before, our access to eclectic information that can truly help inform and shape opinion is being limited by linear algorithms making decisions for us…and as far as I can tell, often uninformed decisions.
On the good side, I’m sleeping easier – they really know very little about me and what they know is just not relevant…
My fear is that all of us will soon be talking and hearing from just ourselves and not always from the self we are interested in…Listen:
“I am not what you see. I am what time and effort and interaction slowly unveil.”
Richelle E. Goodrich
And there you have it. Be careful what you click or the ad for the pink pants with the purple embroidered whales will follow you around forever, and you will wonder whatever happened to that other candidate you wanted to learn about until you forget they even existed….
I want to hear what you found!!!
What do you think?