Advertising’s getting a little scary

Me and my wife have a thing where we talk about various products we don’t particularly have any interest in, and see if suddenly we start seeing advertising for them. On our devices we’re pretty much only targeted to what we search, and what each other have searched. EG if I search for some rando tech gear, she might see a suggestion for that. Occasionally I’ll see an ad for something she’s searched.

TL;DR – had three “can’t be a coincidence” advertisings pushed at friends, all from no-text/search events.

We’ve recently had two contractors and guests from out of town come in and man are the ads being targeted to their iPhones scary.

It started out a week or so back when an air conditioning contractor was removing a duct for a kitchen remodel. Took him about two hours that he was here and we had a discussion about targeted advertising because we really had nothing else to do. His complaint was he was getting all sorts of medical advertisements specific to his coworkers and it was getting embarrassing.

He’d suspected for a bit they had had access to his phone and looked up some things, but couldn’t figure out how they got around his passcode. I told him a bit about how some of the stuff worked. Four hours later he texts me and asks if I’m a vegan because now instead of erectile dysfunction and herpes advertisements his coworkers jammed on his phone he’s getting ads for Boca Burgers. I tell him I’m a vegetarian, he was in my WiFi probably long enough that an algorithm determined he might be interested. Tad creepy, but within what I’d expect.

Do I search for Boca? No. My credit card or Fitbit food log probably tipped some sort of data off.


I’d picked up an extremely expensive shoe recently. I was out with the kids and they saw this high-heeled shiny monstrosity, picked it up, asked my youngest if it would fit her face and make her a unicorn, had absolutely no idea that a $1600 shoe existed at that store, and am told an attendant was high-tailing it for me before I put the shoe down and wandered off in my The Mountain multi-kitty shirt.

Kim told a guest we have with us this week (iPhone,) about the event while out, but did not text or Google it, friend started getting advertising for the shoe. I can think of no algorithmic reason internet advertising would suggest this to a friend who’s visiting here. Something was listening. I suspect it was on friend’s iPhone but not entirely sure on that one.

We still talk about various items that we’re not interested in in a clear loud voice occasionally to see if anything pops up. At least on our phones we’re not seeing it and I’ve got the kids old phones sitting either off or in a Pozio for charging.

With Android 12 these days I’m fairly confident that nothing’s listening on my phone. At least if it is it’s not using the microphone / using some other method like accessing the accelerometer (which does not have any restrictions that I know of.)

I still am not getting advertising for the junk we attempt to plant in the system. My hope is that means the rudimentary measures I take work to some extent. But who knows. I start wondering how long until the same tech is applied for political tracking, or if it already is in some authoritarian regimes.

Side note, third story of the week involved too much identifiable information about my kids after hanging out with another person, also iPhone. You’re not getting it past vague: Care options based on a weird schedule.

So it may seem I’m pointing at iPhones as all these people had them, I’m not. We just had a couple of weeks where everyone was iOS around us. Maybe it’s them, maybe it’s us, I suspect it’s something on both sides. Also, still not done with that Pozio review so don’t take this as a long companion piece for “this will solve all your problems.”

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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