There was a time when the people who complained that they were being 'listened in on' by the 'corporations' or the 'government' were a crazed and deranged bunch. We typically imagine them as being some tragic soul hunkered under the bed in their parents house with a shoddily made tinfoil hat clamped tightly to their head, protecting their precious thoughts, destined to end up alone.
However, there is growing evidence that there may actually be some truth in it these days. We've probably all had a similar experience where we've been talking to someone about some random product like buying some new shoes or just what your favourite brand of verruca socks are and you suddenly notice when you go onto Facebook an ad for exactly what you'd just been talking about?
One Twitter user has been trying to prove that various apps on our phones are listening to us, particularly Facebook. He's been compiling a list of all these supposed coincidences where a conversation he'd been having led to him being presented with an ad on Facebook relating to his exact topic of conversation.
10 mins ago I had an in-person conversation about tea. Not a common topic for me. Computer and phone were on standby. Then this appeared. pic.twitter.com/bGpGhtde3P
— Youssef Sarhan ? (@YS) January 25, 2017
Had a conversation about massage therapy last night.
This morning: pic.twitter.com/rSHOa5BSaP
— Youssef Sarhan ? (@YS) March 30, 2017
I had an in-person conversation about work/life balance last night. Then this appears in my feed today. pic.twitter.com/1PeCTZTlUo
— Youssef Sarhan ? (@YS) November 14, 2016
You can check out the full Twitter thread here.
All this said, I just went onto my own Facebook to see if there were any targeted ads pertaining to anything I'd talked about recently. The only ad that cropped up was relating to 'The Ministry Of Tourism Of Cuba'. Even at my lowest conversational ebb the state of Cuban tourism is not a topic I've ever plumbed for chat material.
It's worth noting that Facebook, Twitter and essentially any other app on your phone are supposedly not allowed access or your microphone or geo-locater without you giving them your express permission. So let us know, do you think you're being listened in on, or can it all just be chalked up to the Baader-Meinhof complex.