|Weekly News Digest
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Lifehacker Looks at How Phones Seem to Read Our Minds
Stephen Johnson writes the following in “Your Phone Isn’t Spying on You to Show You Ads (It’s Worse Than That)” for Lifehacker:
Your conversations are not routinely transmitted to distant advertising companies so they can pick up random words and serve you commercials. This would take a lot of resources, and probably violate wiretapping and other privacy laws. …
A few basic data points would be all anyone would need to get a rough idea of how to advertise to you. If your location is ‘Beverly Hills’ and you recently spent an hour looking at the Lexus website, you’re probably a rich guy in the market for a new car. In olden times, that’s all they’d need to target you, maybe with a billboard in your neighborhood or something. But online behavioral advertising collects so much other information—you bought a tent last month, you watched Star Trek on Sunday night—that targeting becomes scarily precise, to the point that it can feel supernatural. …
[Computers] dispassionately compare mind-bogglingly huge datasets, and I assume they are making connections that are not apparent and can’t be readily explained. Maybe people just like you tend to be interested in learning to play the banjo when they turn 35, and that’s why that ad popped up on your birthday.
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