The Internet did something last night that really creeped me out, and I’m still a little shaken by it. It was a Big Brother moment that any conspiracy theory lover worth his salt would cry out, “I told you so”! I have to ask, how much of our information is being shared?
Honestly, it wasn’t a big deal. I don’t exactly feel violated but yet I can’t help but feel a little helpless, knowing one site immediately had information from another site I had just visited. Could it have been a coincident? Possibly, but I don’t think so.
By now we are all used to ads showing us items we’ve just recently researched. We’ve almost come to expect that once we’ve “Googled” something, it will show up in a sidebar ad. We get it; this is how companies have learned to direct consumers to their sites. Sometimes I even find this amusing. Just yesterday I bought two gifts from JC Penny online and today I am inundated with ads from Penny for the same two items! What, they want me to buy them again? So yes, I get that Google and Bing have placed algorithms in their coding designed expressly for companies wishing to cash in on the consumer’s desires. But what happened last night was a little more complicated and indicates a deeper connection between what we do and who knows it.
It happened innocently enough. A friend of mine shared this Buzzfeed article on Facebook, 27 Seriously Underrated Books Every Book Lover Should Read. Not usually one for lists, I went ahead and looked at it because of who shared it. To my surprise it was a fairly decent list. One of the books caught my eye. “The Testament of Giden Mack” by James Robertson looked interesting, so I jumped over to Amazon to learn more about it. Seeing that it was a little more than I was willing to spend right now, I put it on my wish list. For some unknown reason I looked down (habit?) at the Amazon “Customers who bought this also bought” list. To my utter amazement this is what I saw.
These are books from the Buzzfeed article! Somehow in the span of two minutes Amazon had learned of my visit to the Buzzfeed article and arranged the books in a listing in the hopes that I would be enticed to buy them. WTF? It was creepy to say the least. Here I had just read an article and now I’m faced with the very books from that article. I am fully aware this was no paranormal event, but it was spooky nonetheless.
I know there is a logical explanation for this, but it doesn’t diminish the feeling of being watched, of being spied on. Conspiracy theorists will go on and on about how the government is watching us, but after last night, I think I’m more concerned with how much Amazon knows what we are doing.
So now it’s your turn, dear Readers, tell me your creepiest Big Brother moment. What made you wonder who is watching what we do?
3 thoughts on “My Big Brother Moment with Amazon & BuzzFeed”
Every so often I clear my cookies (usually because I typed in my password as part of my account name instead of the password). I’m always amused at how suddenly all the ads and the videos YouTube assumes I want to watch become completely random. Though I’m still wondering why Skype thinks I’m dating women in the area where my mother lives.
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I think my antivirus software must deal with all those tracking cookies as I rarely note correspondences between sites I might visit. Having said which I’ve just updated to Windows 10 and it offers to “use your advertising ID” (what, I have one?!) “to personalise your experiences” etc etc. I shall be switching on Do Not Track on my browser settings, as they belatedly suggest — but why make it an option? (Yes, I know, they want to make more money …)
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Both of you make good points. I had completely forgotten about cookies and how they track our internet use. Whenever possible (when I am asked) I always opt out of being tracked by a site but I don’t actively avoid cookies like you two do. Having a Mac means I do not use anti-virus software but, like Brian, I should make a point of clearing my cookies every few months.
Thank you to both of you; I now have a better understanding of what happened Friday night.