Admittedly, I’ve been subconsciously aware that web companies like Google and Facebook capture data about my purchasing habits. After all, after buying an electric razor online, I’m suddenly and not-so-subtly inundated with ads for Men’s facial products and other electronic gizmos. Advertising agencies use algorithms to determine what products I might be interested in and then plant those tempting little seeds just inside my peripheral view, hoping I’ll succumb to the urge to click their little logo. Even if I’m not completely comfortable with it, I’ve come to recognize the symbiotic relationship that defines this little invasion of privacy for the expediency of online purchasing.
Recently, however, I’ve experienced a nightmare-ish feeling that the algorithm needs some adjusting. To wit:
If I buy a camera, I’d expect some ads about photo services, picture frames, maybe even an entreaty from a travel agency about a destination vacation. Those would make sense, be civilized, appropriate. What is not appropriate after a camera purchase, and what makes me wonder if the algorithm writers are standing at the cliff’s edge, is the following:
Ads for parabolic microphones, ladders, tree branch cutters, comfortable cushions, and magazines about subversive living. I think the phrase “What the fuck?” is apposite here. What sick stalking genius tagged the camera purchase to these deviant acts?
One might posit a “bad apple” theory here, suggesting this is an anomaly. Except now the advertisers have me paying attention and I’m seeing some pretty horrifying patterns.
The other day I used an online form to order Chinese Food. The following morning, my ads consisted of Single Chinese Women Looking for Fun (no I didn’t call!), Confucius Quotes, A Life Insurance Ad, and Taxidermists in Your Area (seriously?).
Worse yet, apparently I had a little water on my mousepad and the damn cursor slipped and I accidentally clicked an ad for tree service. So tell me, who’s the cranial cutter who thinks I now desire information on erectile dysfunction, bikini waxing, and local Briss performers? Is that what tree service suggests to you?
I remember simpler times when people asked things like Coke or Pepsi, regular or unleaded, cash or credit? Now I suffer forehead rivers just thinking about purchasing a pair of boxers or a toothbrush. Might as well just shoot me if I ever have diarrhea.
Look, I’m all for universal exploration and alternative perspectives. Welcoming cultural enlightenment has been a cornerstone of my existence since my first trip to Tijuana, circa 1987, when I was introduced to donkeys and alcohol in ways that challenge one’s moral intellect. At some point, however, shouldn’t there be a check on these things.