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Is Big Brother listening?


Amethyst
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I know tracking is a thing. If I go shopping on Amazon looking for a garlic press, then of course ads for garlic presses are going to pop up later in unrelated sites. I understand that.

But have any of you ever had this experience? Dh will start talking about a random subject, like wow this flour sifter is getting rusty maybe we should get a new one. Just talking. Neither of us go looking for one online. But an hour later, there on Amazon or Yahoo or whatever, are ads for flour sifters. Spooky. We have none of those Alexa devices. But we do have Siri on our phone. But I thought he only listened when I say "Hey Siri". Is he listening ALL THE TIME? 

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Doesn't Siri *have* to be listening all the time in order to know when you say "Hey, Siri"?

We've been testing the idea here recently by randomly yelling "Bass fishing! Bass fishing! Bass fishing!" so far no ads....

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Sometimes DH and I are debating a sports star's height or celebrity's age, and then go to search the answer and google fills in the blanks. 

Like, I type "how tall is...." and it fills in the sports player. 

Or I type "how old is..." and the first choice is the celebrity we're discussing. 

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10 minutes ago, SusanC said:

Doesn't Siri *have* to be listening all the time in order to know when you say "Hey, Siri"?

We've been testing the idea here recently by randomly yelling "Bass fishing! Bass fishing! Bass fishing!" so far no ads....

So, if I toggle off "listen for Hey Siri" and leave on Press Home for Siri, do you think it won't hear me anymore and he won't be advising me on four sifters any more?

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Yes, tech is listening. I jokingly said a line from a movie one day and when I picked up my phone it had done a google search for the movie. DS constantly unplugs our Google Home because it doesn't like it listening to us.

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They say that there isn't really enough data capacity to process random conversations with passive listening for things like Siri and Alexa yet. It doesn't mean they don't sometimes get some weird snippets of conversation in their recordings, but supposedly the passive listening only really does anything if it registers the start phrase.

I have heard lots of anecdotes to this effect. But it's likely just big data knowing you way too well. In the case of, say, a flour sifter, you probably looked up other old fashioned kitchen items and got targeted based on that. It knows you way too well. 

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43 minutes ago, Farrar said:

They say that there isn't really enough data capacity to process random conversations with passive listening for things like Siri and Alexa yet. It doesn't mean they don't sometimes get some weird snippets of conversation in their recordings, but supposedly the passive listening only really does anything if it registers the start phrase.

I have heard lots of anecdotes to this effect. But it's likely just big data knowing you way too well. In the case of, say, a flour sifter, you probably looked up other old fashioned kitchen items and got targeted based on that. It knows you way too well. 

I don't know.  Years ago I read somewhere that this dad got really angry when his teenage daughter started getting coupons related to pregnancy in the mail from Target.  He called the, irate. Apparently she'd bought folic acid and cocoa butter lotion and that triggered the coupons. A few months later when she started to show she admitted she was pregnant. Target's data department had figured out that that combination equaled pregnancy and it was worth sending coupons.

I swear they have the best baby department and best shopping cart solely to get mothers used to going there as an escape.

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Just now, Katy said:

I don't know.  Years ago I read somewhere that this dad got really angry when his teenage daughter started getting coupons related to pregnancy in the mail from Target.  He called the, irate. Apparently she'd bought folic acid and cocoa butter lotion and that triggered the coupons. A few months later when she started to show she admitted she was pregnant. Target's data department had figured out that that combination equaled pregnancy and it was worth sending coupons.

I swear they have the best baby department and best shopping cart solely to get mothers used to going there as an escape.

Yes, I thought of that story too. I think that's the thing though. Nothing was listening in. Instead, algorithms made a guess based on what to the outside would seem like limited data (just a few purchases) but in the context of all the other data they have was actually a really good predictive model.

So basically, they don't need to passively listen to your conversations to make a good guess that you might want a flour sifter. They know from a million other little things.

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Some"one" is listening. My searches online have nothing to do with farming or crop insurance. 
My dad passed away last April, but due to inclement weather the previous fall, many of the area farmers still had crops in the field last spring, including my dad. 
So, my brother, mother, and I were discussing getting the crop off and having the insurance adjuster out to assess the difference of the loss and what the crop "should" have yielded.

 Long story short, I got ads for crop insurance, fertilizer, and farm equipment for about a week after that in-person conversation at my mom's kitchen table. 

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9 minutes ago, Katy said:

I don't know.  Years ago I read somewhere that this dad got really angry when his teenage daughter started getting coupons related to pregnancy in the mail from Target.  He called the, irate. Apparently she'd bought folic acid and cocoa butter lotion and that triggered the coupons. A few months later when she started to show she admitted she was pregnant. Target's data department had figured out that that combination equaled pregnancy and it was worth sending coupons.

I swear they have the best baby department and best shopping cart solely to get mothers used to going there as an escape.

This story was on an old thread I remember, someone kept going around the house saying frog legs trying to get ads 🤣

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4 minutes ago, saraha said:

This story was on an old thread I remember, someone kept going around the house saying frog legs trying to get ads 🤣

We tried saying,  "Hellman's mayonnaise" numerous times a day one week as an experiment. But we never got any ads.😄

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1 hour ago, SusanC said:

Doesn't Siri *have* to be listening all the time in order to know when you say "Hey, Siri"?

We've been testing the idea here recently by randomly yelling "Bass fishing! Bass fishing! Bass fishing!" so far no ads....

It knows you're baiting it! Or it might think one of your kids is named "Bass fishing" and is getting in trouble a lot. Instead, try having whispered conversations about fishing, and asks question about fishing like, "I wonder what the best fishing rod for bass fishing is these days?" "I can't find my bass fishing hat!" "Where are the closest lakes for bass fishing?" Just as the technology is wily, you have to be wilier.

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Posted (edited)
46 minutes ago, Farrar said:

Nothing was listening in. Instead, algorithms made a guess based on what to the outside would seem like limited data (just a few purchases) but in the context of all the other data they have was actually a really good predictive model.

It’s especially weird when I don’t actually say something out loud. But I THINK about something...totally random, unrelated to teaching or dentistry or my hobbies... but they guess it any way

Edited by Amethyst
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2 hours ago, Amethyst said:

So, if I toggle off "listen for Hey Siri" and leave on Press Home for Siri, do you think it won't hear me anymore and he won't be advising me on four sifters any more?

I think he won't hear you, but i can't promise he will stop making eerily accurate guesses based on seemingly random tidbits of information. The whole concept is creepy, isn't it?

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We've had this experience. A few weeks ago, DH and were discussing how Target created a "men's beauty" section. It cracks me up because it's the same products as in the "women's beauty" section but they have masculine looking decor. DH mentioned Harry's (I think it's Harry's?) which he claimed is most of the products in that section. 

I opened my laptop and then my email and there is an email that had just come from Harry's. I'd never received anything from them before. Very weird. 

 

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1 hour ago, Indigo Blue said:

This wouldn’t help avoid Siri’s eavesdropping, but for general privacy you could use a VPN. 

ok, so help me out here. I understand that VPN means a different network that would add a level of privacy, but how do I even do that? or buy that? or get that? Not sure at all what that entails. Would it be for my laptop rather than for my phone? 

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Well, someone who lives in the house my parents used to live in got a letter addressed to me. I haven’t lived in that state or had my maiden name for 16 years. They wanted me for jury duty. If the people living there now didn’t know our family, I never would have known. They gave the letter to my sister, who opened it, took a picture and texted it to me. (I told her to) The letter stated that not receiving the letter was not a good enough reason to not respond?!?!? Google, Apple, and Target may know me pretty well- but the government is not keeping up very well.

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Amazon can't be listening as well as all that. If they were, they'd give me better ads on my kindle splash page. I mean, Jeff Bezos literally has more data about my reading habits than I do - so why am I getting ads for books about oil derricks!?

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Yes I have had that experience as well.  I don’t believe it’s the phenomena where you see things more when you’re thinking about them because Facebook doesn’t actually show that many ads.  I’ve also had friend suggestions that were weird.  Like we saw someone who was a very distant acquaintance at our parents and the next day their kid was in the friend suggestion list.  The only ways I can see that happening is location tracking and knowing we were in the same place or if they Facebook searched us after the connection.

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1 hour ago, Ausmumof3 said:

Yes I have had that experience as well.  I don’t believe it’s the phenomena where you see things more when you’re thinking about them because Facebook doesn’t actually show that many ads.  I’ve also had friend suggestions that were weird.  Like we saw someone who was a very distant acquaintance at our parents and the next day their kid was in the friend suggestion list.  The only ways I can see that happening is location tracking and knowing we were in the same place or if they Facebook searched us after the connection.

That’s most likely what happened.  Why listen in when location services works so well? 

 

2 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

We've had this experience. A few weeks ago, DH and were discussing how Target created a "men's beauty" section. It cracks me up because it's the same products as in the "women's beauty" section but they have masculine looking decor. DH mentioned Harry's (I think it's Harry's?) which he claimed is most of the products in that section. 

I opened my laptop and then my email and there is an email that had just come from Harry's. I'd never received anything from them before. Very weird. 

 

Do you have the cartwheel app?  It know what section you are in at Target.  So “they” knew you or someone in your family had just seen their new Harry’s display at target, what better time to hit you with an ad and maybe a coupon? 

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Not long ago, I was in the teacher's lounge lamenting that the Keurig wasn't working. When I got back to my classroom and opened up Facebook,  there was an ad for a Keurig. The weird thing is that I didn't have my phone with me in the lounge.

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We don't have any of the voice thingies active. Not on our phones, mics are off on our computers, and we don't have any of the echo, Alexa, whatever things, nor do we have the Ring doorbell or the indoor cameras. By 'we" I'm talking five different households in the family.

Each household has had enough of the "hey we talked about this and then the computer showed it" stuff that we are all now very careful when speaking about sensitive subjects in our own homes. Like, none of us spell out passwords (we will write them down and show them to the other person) or mention specific financial amounts. Things like that. We have not figured it out yet and has been going on for at least four years.

Now, I did read a couple of years ago that some routers (or was it modems?) had hidden microphones in them but I'm not techy enough to know what went on from there or if it was found to be false, but that made me sit up and take note. I do know that there have been reports (I don't know how true) of some wi-fi thermostats and some of the wi-fi light bulbs supposedly have microphones as a "we're ready for the whole-house voice activated" thing, so it does make one wonder just what else is in our homes that have these hidden microphones? (we don't have the wifi lightbulbs or thermostat, but who *doesn't* have a router/modem?!  It has been known for a while now that many/some of the smart TVs have cameras in them to monitor the people watching to see how they respond to ads, so it's not much of a stretch of belief to think other things in our homes might have microphones in them.

When one person says to the other "hey we're running low on TP" and then the computer suddenly shows TP ads even though the mic on the computer is supposedly turned off and the phone is 'sleeping' it makes you wonder if this stuff is really off. 

So, whether or not it's Big Brother or Big Data, my vote is yes.... "they" are listening and it's horrifying.

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4 hours ago, Amethyst said:

ok, so help me out here. I understand that VPN means a different network that would add a level of privacy, but how do I even do that? or buy that? or get that? Not sure at all what that entails. Would it be for my laptop rather than for my phone? 

You can get them from the App Store or Play Store. You can also go directly to their website. Express VPN and Nord are two good ones, with Nord being more affordable. When you purchase one, usually there are tiers you can choose from to get the extras you need or the number of devices you need covered. It’s usually a one or two year purchase plan. Some have monthly payments. Tunnel Bear is one of the user friendly ones. There are some free ones, but in my opinion, only Proton VPN is the decent one. But I tend to stay with the ones that are paid. Free VPN.....seems like there’s a hidden catch somewhere. I got a Nord VPN two year plan and paid it all at once. That makes it really reasonably priced. I use it on my iPhone, iPad, and PC.

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Location services are primary sources for marketers. Even if you think you have location services turned off, you’re probably running apps that show your location (maps, weather, Life360, etc.). A company I worked for sent ads to customers when they were within a certain distance of our competitor. And those ads worked. Crazy. 

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My computer began showing me ads for those muscle electrical stimulation units immediately after my son’s physical therapist spoke with me about possibly buying one for home use for him.  We had certainly never searched anything related online, or seen anything similar, but   the ads were popping up a couple hours after she mentioned it to me when we got home from therapy.  The only possible link was my phone and iPad were in my bag in the room during our conversation.  I have Siri turned off, so was particularly shocked at the idea they could be listening to me.

ETA: And while the location services that were supposed to be off could have supplied the information that we were at a neuro physical therapist, and so maybe a link there, that really doesn’t explain the ads showing up right then.  We had been basically living with the therapists for a while by then, but the ads didn’t show up until that conversation.

Edited by Condessa
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The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Harvard Business School professor emerita Shoshona Zuboff is a foundational text for naming and defining what we are experiencing.  She doesn't have an especially profound conclusion for the future, but she narrates the development and arrival of the system.  She and others will have more to work with as the future unfolds.  She's a humanist and an excellent researcher.  It took me weeks to get through the book (and I read very quickly.)  Highly recommend - and yes, she explains why you can have your phone turned off and still be surveilled.

In a tiny nutshell: data mining is ultimately about reducing risk for investors.  Controlling behavior is about reducing risk for investors.  Human nature is a secondary concern in the system which has been created to reduce risk for investors.

Podcast interview with Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/podcast/2019/06/surveillance-capitalism

Edited by Harpymom
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21 hours ago, Amethyst said:

I know tracking is a thing. If I go shopping on Amazon looking for a garlic press, then of course ads for garlic presses are going to pop up later in unrelated sites. I understand that.

But have any of you ever had this experience? Dh will start talking about a random subject, like wow this flour sifter is getting rusty maybe we should get a new one. Just talking. Neither of us go looking for one online. But an hour later, there on Amazon or Yahoo or whatever, are ads for flour sifters. Spooky. We have none of those Alexa devices. But we do have Siri on our phone. But I thought he only listened when I say "Hey Siri". Is he listening ALL THE TIME? 

I had where I was at the ice-skating rink with my children and the lady sitting next to me was talking with her friend about a specific vacation that she was taking. The short bit later I open up my phone and there was a whole bunch of ads for that vacation. my phone just overheard her talking about it. 
it was a very specific vacation to a very specific place so yeah my phone overheard her. I think it was Disney cruise or something. I don’t even go to Disney or subscribe to the Disney Channel or anything. And I have never done a search for Disney cruise. Or any other kind of cruises as it’s something I seriously am not interested in.

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10 minutes ago, Janeway said:

I had where I was at the ice-skating rink with my children and the lady sitting next to me was talking with her friend about a specific vacation that she was taking. The short bit later I open up my phone and there was a whole bunch of ads for that vacation. my phone just overheard her talking about it. 
it was a very specific vacation to a very specific place so yeah my phone overheard her. I think it was Disney cruise or something. I don’t even go to Disney or subscribe to the Disney Channel or anything. And I have never done a search for Disney cruise. Or any other kind of cruises as it’s something I seriously am not interested in.

It may not have "heard" the conversation, but (again) due to location apps, "they" may have assumed Disney vacations came up in conversation because the other person is an avid Disney fan.

The amount of information Big Tech has on both individual habits and general human nature can easily lead to this kind of ad targeting. 

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