Tuesday 24 April 2012

A layman's guide to Internet Privacy

Okay, so as part of my crusade to expose internet frauds, I wrote an article about a spellcaster I found online. As part of my research on the subject, I utilised Google as my main source of information (obviously, who doesn't?)

As part of it, I'm entering terms into Google like "spells" and "spell casting". For those of you who are not familiar with how Google plugs into and utilises payload data, I'm about to give you an important demonstration. A lot of people consider these tactics insidious in some way, however I personally disagree; It's the age we live in. In any case, form your own opinion about what I'm about to show you.

While researching, I noticed an advertisement on the website Spells of Magic below.

I'm on a spell website, there's an ad for spells. Makes sense, right?

As you can see, it seems innocuous, right? Advertising spells on a magic website, that's harmless enough. But, as I navigate the web, I notice this ad is coming up in places I didn't expect it.

Click to embiggen

I'm spotting this same ad, again and again. Even as so far as turning up on my own brother's Game Review blog, kungfu reviews. Which is totally awesome, by the way. Please stop by; Even if you don't enjoy video games, his commentary is quite funny.

www.kungfucolin.com - Uniquely the only place on the internet that is called www.kungfucolin.com

"Why is this, Cloaker Josh?"
Well, only one person can register a domain name, so it's unique because...
"No, not that. Why is this spell ad appearing everywhere you turn your head?"
Well, if you'd just be quiet for a minute, I'll tell you! Quit jumping ahead, all of your questions will be answered.

When I go to Google, I'm signed into my Google account (which handles my Gmail, my YouTube account, my Blogger, Google Docs, Google Calender etc. You get the idea).

That's correct; That's my email address. Go on, spam me. I dare you.

When I type phrases in Google like "spell casting", Google caches that data in their Data Warehouse, which is tapped into for a plethora of reasons. In this example, their AdSense API taps into it, finds users and references what it knows about that person. This includes, but is most certainly not limited to: Name, address, email address, phone number, age, demographic, interests, search habits, marital status... the list goes on.

They collect this data by using several delivery systems, even going so far as to scouring your emails for frequent terms. This is all public knowledge, most people simply choose to be ignorant to this practise. I say "choose to be ignorant" loosely; It means you didn't read your Terms and Conditions (but, who does amirite?)

The process in layman's terms is pretty much this:

Google markets itself to companies as an Advertising medium, but it goes a lot deeper than simply promoting page ranks on it's search engine. They basically say:

"Okay, spell casting company, here's the deal. By ad space with us, and not only will we promote your content to people who search for "spells", but we will remember who they are, and continue to market to them whenever they're on a site with AdSense."
The spell casting company is all like, "Omg lol shut up and take my money."

(@Rakuli thanks for the expression :)

Make sense? Okay, so I hear you saying to yourselves, "Google is evil man, I'm gonna move my accounts to OtherCompanyWhoDoesTheSameThing.com." Don't be hasty there, internet. Calm down and think about this for a second. Everybody does it.

You think you've got them beaten. "Okay then, Cloaker Josh. I'll just sign out of my Google accounts if I'm going to use search." Well, go ahead then. See if they care. They'll just scour your internet history instead. No joke, they both can and are doing this... right now. 

They can see everything, and you agreed to all of it.

"But, what about my privacy?!" Okay, so I've got you all excited about privacy and liberties and whatnot, but I need to point out that you allowed them to do this. You agreed to all of this. You all need to accept a simple fact; The internet is not a private place. Acknowledge, accept, move on.

So, I've laid out this seemly horrific practise, but let's actually think about this.

Is it a bad thing, really? I mean, if Google figures out I love Metallica because I talk about them all the time in my emails... why shouldn't they allow a company like JB Hifi to try to sell me a Metallica CD? It's called Targeted Marketing: The practise of marketing directly to the demographic of people that is most likely to buy your product.

I, for one, think it's great.

Why should the internet show me ads about getting a breast job if my man-boobs are already sizeable?
Why should they try to show me ads for retirement funds, when they know I'm in my twenties?

I'd prefer them to show me a new video game, or study choices as it's more relevant to my demographic.'

I use Google as an example, simply based on their popularity... but others do it, too.

Ever notice on Facebook when you changed your status from Single to In a Relationship, they stopped showing you dating sites, and instead started to show you jewellers and real estate? Think about it.

So, tell me below: What do you think about Targeted Advertising? For, or against... and most importantly why.


  1. "Why should the internet show me ads about getting a breast job if my man-boobs are already sizeable?"

    You made me blurt out my coffee onto my keyboard.

    Ever notice on Facebook when you changed your status from Single to In a Relationship.



  2. I agree completely. Advertising is at its worst when it's not targeted correctly. I love seeing shit I like, that's why I enjoy picking up the Dick Smith catalogue and reading through it -- I get angry when I get tonnes of catalogues from Hitchcock Jewellers though, I want nothing to do with it.

    Sucks if you happened to be doing research for a blog post and all of a sudden you started getting ads for something you were taking the piss out of though ...

    1. To this day, I still see that infernal ad on every website I go to. It's laughable.

    2. Hello every body i have the happy life now just because i was contacted this man,one day that was on 23 of february i was watch the television when i saw a man give he testimony how this man help him to bring back is wife and my husband left me with two kids i now say that i should give a try when i now contected him he say that every thing is going to be alright at first i was doubt him after he have done every thing my husband who have left me for four years for another woman came back to my house cry like a kid i was surprise that this man who i was cry for to stay with me and the kids was now asking for forgiveness i now forgive him now we are happy well i want to thank the man that make me to no this great spell caster dr ogogodu if you are intrested contact him on this email ogogodutempleofsolution@gmail.com or call him with this number +2348078999655 well i am happy now my kids are in the best school in USA now thanks the great ogogodu there is no spell caster like you thanks


      NAME:Rita smith