Why It's Starting to Get Creepy
This is heavily on my mind after seeing a few discussions of the new Google Ad Preferences service. Instead of openly saying "we want more money and this is an easy way to do it," Google claims that it's all done in order to improve user experiences. And it makes perfect sense. That's why everyone freely lets their cable company spy on them, since they really want good commercials.
Petty annoyances of corporate speak aside, the latest twist came when they made it possible to view your ad preferences. You may choose to opt-out of the service through this panel, or you can specify your interests to better target your own ads and remove any incorrect interests. Really think about what this means. They have built fairly massive sets of data around their users, and they now are asking us to help them improve it. It's absurd, at least to me.
To be fair, these aren't at a CIA level. It's fairly easy to royally confuse the program and end up with some genuinely funny interests. And in the interest of fairness, I should mention it is still limited. For a quick example, a fair number of gamers reported that they were listed as being interested in video games, agricultural goods and mining equipment after some searches for titles like Minecraft and Dwarf Fortress. That's about the only reason that I'd recommend checking yours. It can get scary though. Your ad preferences for your account will try to determine things like your age and gender, and it can often do so with decent accuracy. There's the same issue with interests. It seems to be fairly good at noting specific things, like whether you have pets or gravitate toward any specific hobbies.
But, it's not like we can't trust Google.