Editorials

Trying to catch an audio predator, what I’ve found so far

Something happened a couple of weeks ago where a conversation I was having IRL at my house followed with extremely perfect advertising I had never seen before, nor searched online for, about six hours later. I’m still being bombarded with ads for various versions of this product.

TL;DR – some methods we tried over three weeks to gotcha an advertising snooper, and nothing

It was so on target for an offline conversation I did not believe it could be coincidence. This was followed by multiple versions of said perfect solution and no. Bizarre.

I decided to set up some traps, monitor my network activity to make sure nothing was firing off data while we were talking and out of the range of microphones me and Kim decided on a series of products and services to talk about at random that we’ve never talked about before.

Now, I’d determined nothing was streaming audio out while we talked, but that did not rule out the idea that something was listening on either the phones or the smart TVs (which I’m pretty sure do no have mics, but who knows) or my computer (which if it’s picking up audio from that range I’m really impressed). It would have to locally do voice recognition and then fire it off at some later point.

That was possible. It wasn’t really probable with the phones just for reasons of disabling the mic in most everything. Nothing fired off unexpectedly, however that’s not to say it couldn’t have ridden shotgun with some valid data.

So we talked about Buicks (I’d picked the first car that passed me,) randomly and how we’d like to lease one, and we talked about products that I DuckDuckGo’d from someone else’s computer that we’d never talked about before and a couple of things that really a man my age would be interested in or have medical conditions associated with.

We ran this test for three weeks randomly inserting into conversation something that I’d written down. It was a fun game and funny to insert into conversation with the kiddos… Eat your macaroni Maggie or you’re not going Buick shopping with us.

Then yesterday I got hit on Facebook with a Buick theme. Unfortunately it’s for an upcoming episode of American Chopper so my little Buick plan was completely derailed.

After three weeks of planting random product names and medical conditions in our conversations and monitoring when network traffic occured, the only thing I’ve concluded is if I talk about a product evidently American Chopper is going to go ahead and work with them.

Alternately, whatever’s listening overheard enough to realize that I’m attempting to play whatever advertising bot caught me.

This should not be construed to mean they’re not listening to you however. Paranoia, cha cha cha.

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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2 thoughts on “Trying to catch an audio predator, what I’ve found so far

  • Avatar of Paul M

    I sometimes play a game with my wife… I hum a tune and see how long before she hums the same tune. it often takes ten minutes or more. I then ask her why she’s humming the tune, where did she hear it?
    Chances are, she doesn’t know.

    I’m not saying your conversation was bugged, but could it be possible that you were the victim of subliminal advertising and thus had no idea that it was actually triggered earlier without your conscious awareness?

    Reply
    • My particular scenario not probable. Had a medical issue pop up Dec 24th, discussed it, got advertised hard for it on Facebook from the 25th until now.

      Nothing I’d ever researched… I mean, I get that I get CPAP ads because I have one, I get that I probably get ED advertising because I’m 45. I get that there potentially is information in somewhere in the internet from 1993 about a condition that resurfaced three weeks ago and suddenly I’m bombarded with advertising on the 25th anniversary of said medical condition after never seeing anything for it and talking about it the night before.

      But it feels absurdly unlikely. I get big data analytics, but man, that would be scary and I want this thing to tell me what it thinks will break next on me.

      Reply

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