It’s time to bust a myth that’s always bugged me. At first it was just people who didn’t understand the basics of how website cookies worked that believed it, but now as tech has evolved, smart people are saying it too.
Is your phone listening to you, and then using this information to send you adverts?
Before I get into this though I need to be very clear about something: this blog is not in response to the article in the Sun newspaper last week. At no point should you think when I said ‘smart people’ was I referring to readers of The Sun.
Anyway to answer the question. The short answer is we're not sure. But the truth is, it doesn’t need to listen to you. Let me explain.
Firstly the technology in question is something called programmatic. In its infancy it was used for re-targeting. So if you ever went to buy something online but didn’t complete the purchase, they would keep showing you the advert until you hopefully changed your mind. Sound familiar? It’s pretty common, and we do it all the time with job seekers who don’t complete the application form.
Like all things in marketing because of demand, the technology has evolved. Companies don’t just want to retarget people who have already visited their website, they want new customers to visit. This is where audience mapping comes in, and things start to get a bit scary.
We can now look at the digital footprint of people who buy companies products or respond to job adverts, and send that advert to other people who might be interested too, but your digital footprint is now scarily accurate. It’s not just your age, sex and location anymore.
Here’s an example. If I want to design an advert and then show it to men called John who live within fifty feet of a fire station, spend between £100-£105 a week on food, smoke less than twenty cigarettes each month and like dubstep - I can do that.
And if you’re thinking how does this answer the question, well, first of all you’re not that unique and the way you act isn’t even remotely individual.
Programmatic companies say they can even predict when a man is most likely to feel like proposing, and when a woman is ready to consider a baby, long before they tell anyone. All from monitoring your online habits and comparing you to others.
So there it is, your phone isn’t listening to you because it knows more about what you might want to buy long before you ever even think about it.