Weird Wednesday: Journalist Discovers Her Apps Are Spying on Her

This person doesn’t strike me as particularly clever or admirable – note the moment late in this article where she, a white woman, Has Opinions about what jokes black men ought to laugh at. But in this article she touches on legitimate concerns about the way internet advertisers seem to get access to everything a smart phone+social media can tell them about specific individuals. Her language is at times almost superstitious, but that too is interesting as an insight into how superstition arises, from attempts to create mental models explaining what one does not understand.

My own advice to anyone trying to outfox the advertisers is to go wide with the number of your interests and narrow with the focus of them. For instance, I’ve watched at least excerpts of every surviving Jane Austen adaptation not set in contemporary times, plus read all seven books (if Northanger Abbey counts, then so does Lady Susan) at least once and 80% of Georgette Heyer; but I’m not super interested in a). Downton Abbey, b). The Crown, c). steamy Regency romances, or d). Charles Dickens, so a lot of ads that are aimed at me because the advertisers think interest A means interest B ends up being way off target.

If this sound like the best way to confuse online advertisers is to be an annoying, finicky hipster, well, here’s some humbler advice. Avoid social media as much as possible and avoid clicking on internet ads at all costs. Watch foreign language programming as much as you stand, from as many cultures/languages as you can stand, because few things are funnier than being served Spanish language ads right after you were watching the Italian language series Don Matteo. Engage with real life people about things that don’t particularly interest you and bring your phone along; the resulting confusion in the ads is hilarious.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s