Besides a few outliers, the ads that Facebook targeted towards me really did not surprise me greatly. The group of tags that they thought I was interested in consisted mostly of music, movies, and other art related topics. I frequently use Facebook to keep up with these musical artists and movies so it makes a lot of sense that they would target this type of content towards me. I also saw a lot of sports related topics, which I also keep up with on Facebook. I was also targeted for location specific ads such as ads for businesses in Milwaukee, where I’m from, and obviously Madison. Nothing really surprised me about most of the tags except for a few stragglers such as the “Los Angeles International Airport” and “Werner Heisenberg”. But for the most part each of the tags reflected my interest pretty accurately.
It was a slightly unsettling to see the massive amount of information that they have cultivated about my life such as all of my social contents and publicized events that I am involved in. I was surprised that they literally had a printout of all of my text conversations via Facebook dating back all the way to 2010. It’s a little creepy but it was also kind of cool to go back and see who I was talking to in high school and what I was talking to them about. It also contained a huge list of all of my active sessions as well as everything that was posted on my wall by me or any of my friends dating back a few years. The amount of primarily useless information that they can amass on Facebook is creepy but, in my case, pretty harmless and I can’t see any of it coming back to haunt me in the future.
As for what Google thought I was interested in, most was also fairly unsurprising. The only categories that really surprised me were make-up and cosmetics, East Asian Music, and Toyota. They seemed to think that I was mostly interested in business news, entertainment, music, films, and humor. This pretty accurately reflects what I use to search on google. It didn’t have any history of what ads I have clicked through to in google because I use a program called adblock in my browser which prevents ads from showing up on my window. Overall I thought the information that Google had about me was relevant to my interests and internet activity, but I did not think it was a very complete picture of who I am. I read a lot of news about international affairs and politics and it had nothing about that. I often go on random search streams about historical figures and events which the servers don’t seem to pick up on. At the same time historical interests might have relatively little salience in prescribing ad targeting. The account of my interests was significantly less comprehensive than the list that Facebook had managed to collect. However, it is still conflicting to know that a website knows more about you than some of your friends may know, and definitely something to consider when using the internet.