Do you ever get that uncomfortable feeling that there’s somebody watching you? You can feel their eyes travelling the length of your body, even in your most vulnerable moments of intimacy. You’re uneasy, claustrophobic. The most ordinary of sounds become intimidating.
Unless you’ve been the ill-fated victim of a calculated stalking manoeuvre, you’ll probably wonder what on earth I’m talking about. But in truth, we are all victims. We just don’t realise.
Recently, I got a new HTC smart phone from o2. I had made this purchase online.
At first, I thought it a rather amusing coincidence that various adverts for smart phones were cropping up everywhere I went. On occasion, I found myself pursuing these ads, out of a morbid curiosity to see if that sales adviser, Gavin, on o2 chat had indeed got me the “best deal” as he so eagerly insisted he had. Gavin, that charlatan, had been lying all along! Tesco mobile offered an infinitely superior tariff for the HTC I, and they had the black model, and they threw a flippy-case in to boot. And what’s this now? There’s 20% off at Tesco on my first online shop? It’d be rude not to…
So it was that Tesco oriented adverts stormed my browsing experience. Finally, I got my head out of my ass and thought about it. This was not a coincidence. Who had been surveying my movements in the virtual world? In the words of Regina George, why were they so obsessed with me?!
Ironically, I used Google to discover that it was Google that was selling my browsing habits to third party advertising corporations. Great! I immediately locked all the doors and drew all the curtains in my flat, as though Google himself were outside behind a bush, binoculars out, hands down his pants.
I felt incredibly stupid for not realising the glaringly obvious beforehand. Of course there was no such thing as privacy on the web. As soon as you type something into the search bar, and click enter, that information is stored; nothing can disappear, even information, that’s physics.
Once I had calmed down, I had fun typing generic phrase headings into the Google search bar such as “why is everyone so…?” and “how do you…?” I was tickled to discover that “why is everyone so mean to me?” and “how do you ask out a girl?” were some of the most popular terms web users had Googled. But then again, I find it unsettling that Google is privy to our secret emotional insecurities. Perhaps I’ll think twice next time before Googling “how to draw your eyebrows back in.”
The appearance of personalised ads and suggested search terms is relatively harmless to most of us. I haven’t incurred any massive psychological damage from my ad incentivised Tesco order. However, I think we need to ask ourselves how vulnerable people could be so easily influenced by personalised ads and suggested search terms. With the recent controversy, pay day loans spring to mind.
Thankfully, there is the option to limit Google’s access to your information. Click on “settings” and adjust as you see fit.
If you don’t believe in God, you better think again. There is a God. He’s all seeing and he’s all knowing, and his name is Google.