For years companies have been tweaking their web sites and advertising algorithms so that they can show you targeted ads. Banners that offer you exactly what you want just when you think you might need it. Search for weightloss on Google and you will likely see marketing for local slimming classes search on Amazon for anything about nutrition and you’ll often be recommended diet books. Use one of those new-fangled, internet-conneted smoke alarms and if you’re house isn’t burning down they advertise insurance against fire and if it is burning down you’ll probably see an ad for fire extinguishers.
They have got so clever, so sneaky, with the cookies they foist on you when you visit a page, all those logins on sites connected to Facebook etc, the credit databases. They know everything about who, where and what you’ve been, what you did and who with and how much it all cost. They could be even more targeted with the ads if they really wanted to and for months a lot of people have been complaining just how creepy it was all getting. Did Facebook really know you were searching for snorkels and flippers but you had no intention of taking part in watersports? What about that the equine interest, were you really looking for stuff related to your My Little Pony fixation or a good time with a stablehand? The sites know.
Then came the NSA scandal. Not only do the commercial concerns know all your who, why, what, where and wahays…so does the American government and it doesn’t really matter whether you’re in one of the 50 States or somewhere else. If you’ve ever connected to the internet, fired up a smart phone or just had a lottamocca skinny sprinkle frappacino with hornbeam syrup in your local cyber cafe they know.
But, tracking, cookies, cross-site logins…all so scary that it seems they’re reining themselves in (pardon the pony pun). I hear reports from lots of people that the ads they’re seeing these days are way off target and they’re getting purchase recommendations for stuff they already bought. What is this, web 1.0 beta again? No, I don’t think so. The companies are running scared in the wake of the NSA spying scandal and have temporarily crippled their advertising algorithms to make it look like they’re not tracking you.
Of course, once the tracking dust settles they will come back with a vengeance as they are currently working on even stronger more targeted advertising software that will not only spot your fixation but recommend the right antibiotic cream to treat it afterwards as well as avoiding that particular allergy of yours…you know the one to horse hair…