Who (or What) Is Listening to Us?

Several months ago a couple we know bought an Alexa. They used it all the time, listening to music and asking it questions. It was a new hobby for them.

But after using it, they said they also started noticing something strange. Occasionally when they would talk about buying a new item, while Alexa was on, ads for that specific item would start showing up when they later browsed the internet.

“Is Alexa listening to our conversations?” they wondered.

They have no idea if that’s actually happening. But the thought alone is enough to make anyone long for the pre-internet days. After all, we’ve gained an enormous amount of exposure, knowledge and inter-connectedness from the internet and our addiction to social media. But we’ve also traded away quite a bit, too. Privacy not being the last item on the list.

That’s what made a podcast I listened to this week even more relevant. The tech and people podcast, “Reply All” tackled the topic — “Is Facebook Spying on You?” You can find the podcast here –https://gimletmedia.com/episode/109-facebook-spying/ The podcast posits a question about whether Facebook’s technology allows it to use the microphone on our smartphones to eavesdrop on our conversations and turn the information it gleans into targeted ads directed at us. The podcast actually reveals something else. It doesn’t answer the question about the microphone but it does show that Facebook not only tracks our information while we’re on Facebook but it also follows us on our sites after we leave Facebook, allowing it to see which pages we visit, what we buy or shop for, among other information. It’s sophisticated and it’s scary.

Look, we’ve got enough to worry about in our daily lives without freaking out over whether a fun social media app that we use to connect with family, joke with friends and keep tabs on our world is gathering up intel on us like we’re a wartime spy. But these are important concerns because, 1. many of us are not fully aware of the level of information gathering being done on us and, 2. we’re handing over our vital information willingly and without even thinking about it. Make no mistake, this information is a gold mine for advertisers and retailers who are able to micro-target us to a minuscule degree as they design ad campaigns and try to sell products.

With the podcast’s help, I even took a tour of Facebook’s ad section on my settings page to see how I’m viewed by the social media giant and what types of ads are directed at me.

The podcast educated me quite a bit about the topic and I encourage you to listen to it as you discover who knows what about you and what they might be doing with that important information they’re learning about you keystroke after keystroke.

(Photo credit: yum9me via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND)


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About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I’m one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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