5 votes

Does Google know me better than I know myself?

5 comments

  1. [4]
    Kremor
    Link
    This article made me realize something weird that happened yesterday with YouTube while indulging myself in very intense session of internet browsing, although is also very speculative. This...

    This article made me realize something weird that happened yesterday with YouTube while indulging myself in very intense session of internet browsing, although is also very speculative. This happened in two different computers, both with chromium , one logged into a google account and the other not.

    In the first instance I browsed r/ask_transgender for a little bit, later it surprised me when a I found the video of a FtM folk taking about his experience in the YouTube recommendations.

    In the second case I was looking for body modifications posts in a very sketchy website, I also opened YouTube later and found a video about someone talking about their experience with a specific body mod. This was in the computer that wasn't logged in, and I'm sure I've never watched a YouTube video in that chromium instance which makes the event more surprising.

    I've to add that I don't use chromium very often, only when the websites work better with it, but yesterday I was using it without restrictions.

    3 votes
    1. [2]
      stu2b50
      Link Parent
      I would just note that that may have nothing to do with targetted advertising, but rather just confirmation bias + entropy. It's like when you think about buying a trampoline one night, and...

      I would just note that that may have nothing to do with targetted advertising, but rather just confirmation bias + entropy. It's like when you think about buying a trampoline one night, and suddenly the next day the office is talking about trampolines! Or when a song seems to follow you wherever you go.

      Those aren't because your coworkers (and your brain) are part of Google's network, it's just because you think about buying lots of shit and don't notice when your coworkers don't talk about it, since that is the default.

      Human brains are great at picking out patterns.

      So it could be targetted ads/suggestions. Or it could just be coincidence.

      4 votes
      1. DougM
        Link Parent
        This happens to me with cars. When we first purchased our new car, it was only then that I realized how many other people have it.

        This happens to me with cars. When we first purchased our new car, it was only then that I realized how many other people have it.

        1 vote
    2. Adys
      Link Parent
      YouTube recommendations are very hit and miss. When they hit, though, they hit dead center: My recommendations have been extremely high quality … … right up until I started figure skating more...

      YouTube recommendations are very hit and miss. When they hit, though, they hit dead center: My recommendations have been extremely high quality …

      … right up until I started figure skating more seriously. Now Google is convinced I am a young female and I have to keep telling youtube that no, I don't want to see makeup tutorial videos.

      It seems to have learned though, as I am extremely thorough in curating my recommendations to keep them high-quality.

      4 votes
  2. skybrian
    Link
    Online, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between coincidence and surveillance. This works both ways. It’s extremely easy to indulge in what’s effectively modern superstition,...

    Online, it can be very difficult to tell the difference between coincidence and surveillance. This works both ways. It’s extremely easy to indulge in what’s effectively modern superstition, attributing intention to lucky guesses. But without an in-depth understanding of how targeting works that few people have, we can’t be confident that it’s not due to targeting. We simply don’t know, and need to get comfortable with uncertainty. Unless you’re willing to make the effort to do an in-depth scientific investigation, basically the only thing you can do is shrug.

    Asking deep questions of autocomplete is sort of like using a tarot deck, or going to a fortune teller. The reason fortune telling works is that people aren’t as unusual as they think, and they want to believe. Given randomness, we fill in the gaps with meaning.

    I don’t think the author of this article really believes that Google is being all that intelligent here. It seems like they are just messing around with song lyrics. But it’s only a matter of time before credulous people attribute intelligence to the mysterious workings of the Internet gods. Some of the discussion of the GPT-3 algorithm borders on this.

    3 votes