Friday, March 23, 2012

First, Don't Get Caught Being Evil

Has anyone been creeped-out by the persistence of targeted google ads recently? For the past week I've been seeing ads for Budd wheel sockets. Which just happens to be something I googled in order to get a list of manufacturers awhile back. Now I see them every day. Well, I did until I googled cardboard balers, and my adverts were replaced with those.

I see what they're trying to do. And I suppose that one day an ad will remind me that I need to get something that I had previously checked out online. But mostly these things are wasted on me. I bought a budd socket locally the next day, and believe me, at $80 apiece, nobody wants two of them. (also, I didn't even want the first one because it meant I was working on a tire that rivaled me in weight) The cardboard baler? I'm never buying one, I just needed a manufacturer's phone number for parts.

So those ads are mainly just going to irritate me. But what if I was searching for one of those hemorrhoid doughnut pillow things, or adult diapers, or erectile dysfunction drugs? I can imagine a ton of searches that might prove embarrassing. (thankfully I'm not searching out any of those things.... yet)

Another thought: how long before young men are borrowing their friends computers, ostensibly to check email, but also with the intent to load up their google ads with embarrassing surprises. Use your imagination.

So the ads haven't got me in the rabid frothing at the mouth stage yet. But here's something I could see getting under my skin pretty darned quick:

Adverts could soon be tailored according to the background noise around you when using your smartphone, if a patent application by Google becomes reality.

The search engine giant has filed for a patent called ‘Advertising based on environmental conditions’.

As that title implies, it’s not just background sounds that could be used to determine what adverts you seen on your mobile phone. The patent also describes using ‘temperature, humidity, light and air composition’ to produced targeted adverts.

Now that would be creepy. Sure, I'm used to the police listening in to analyze the airplanes and church bells in the background. But they're just trying to find out where I'm hiding the kidnap victims. And the wife has an interest in the ambient bar sounds when I call home. But I'm sorry, google doesn't have the right to note the screaming babies, unruly dogs, or angry political discussions in Russian they might pick up from my phone.

"Oh Ned, the computer says that's the sound of a dog chewing up his reading glasses again. Send him the ads for chew toys and For Eyes."

I'll tell you what. The first time I get an ad that seems targeted to my real life, I'm stirring up the mix. I'll start playing Hitler speeches and Mr Rogers episodes. I'll start mixing Foo Fighters and Jimmy Stewart soundtracks. I'll change my name to Rusty Shackleford and start making my own license plates. I'm serious Google. Stay out of my underwear drawer. I'll go Kung Fu on you.