A Case To Prove Facebook is Listening

2019, Jul 31    

Preface

I typically don’t write about things like this, but I think I finally got a case where I nor anyone with my IP address looked up the subject matter in question. I’ve been trying to isolate an incident like this, but every time I’ve had the chance someone with the same IP typically causes these types of scenarios, that I’m about to describe, to happen.

Situation

My family and I went to the Japanese steak house in our hometown for dinner last Tuesday night. While we were waiting on our drinks my daughter was watching one of the TVs on the wall. I saw that it was a cartoon and the “Boomerang” logo in the corner. She seemed to be enjoying the cartoon and I said, “That’s the Boomerang channel and you don’t get the Boomerang channel at home, Kido.” I turned and finished talking to my wife. I didn’t think anything about it, nor did my wife or child for that matter.

The Outcome

Not 24 hours later I’m staring at this Instagram ad on my phone.

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I want to believe

The easy way out is to jump to conclusions and say the phone is listening. But I’ve been doing IT a long time and yes I have to work with marketing on occasion, and yes typically it’s usually a coincident.

How this usually goes down

Typically person A and person B talk about a subject that person A googled or saw on Facebook. Person A even engaged with the post on Facebook.

Later, person B sees an ad on their mobile phone closely related to the subject they just spoke of with person A. At this point the Facebook ad service is now targeting anyone that has an interest in the topic from that IP address they are sharing.

This will happen at work a lot. Typically person C and D who just overheard the conversation are now seeing ads and finding it odd they just spoke or heard about the subject matter that is now manifesting itself as an ad on their mobile devices.

Location, Location, Location

Is it my location that I’m sharing that is giving me away? I’ve checked my Location Services on my iphone and Yes, I have location-based Apple Ads turned off. Location-Based Suggestions are also turned off. I do have Significant Locations turned on, but I don’t know how Instagram/Facebook would have access to this info unless it was an Apple/Facebook collaboration.

Drop the Mic

Before any of this happened, I had already removed the Facebook app, and the LinkedIn app. I still need the Instagram, FB Ads, FB Pages, and Twitter for work. Siri and the microphone are turned off on the Instagram app, but not the FB ads and FB pages apps.

In Closing

I think this is a reverse location re-targeting. I wasn’t sharing the same IP as I was on my carrier’s network the entire time. Someone at the restaurant probably looked up boomerang while waiting on their food and thanks to the location services the Instagram app was able to serve me up some ads based on what others were searching for in that area. I need to go run some of these scenario through FB ads to see how I can accomplish.