This month, my email inbox is full of messages just for me. So many stores and websites are sending me special notifications of special deals that they thought I would like. It’s like they know me. Each one refers to items that I have researched or purchased in the past several weeks. Depending on the day or the ad, this can be funny, or pretty creepy. I have a habit of looking up things online as I am watching a movie or reading a book. Usually, I’m just curious what something is used for, or where a city is located that is mentioned in the news. Since I allow cookies to be placed on my computer by websites I visit (and it is difficult to do many things online without this feature enabled), many companies are collecting information about me.
Just in case any actual people are looking at this information, I’d like to explain a few things.
1. I read an article about truckers who sleep in Walmart parking lots, then checked the website to see what the store policy is. This does not mean I am homeless.
2. I watched a movie about a woman who was on the run from her abusive husband and wondered if it was based on a true story. I am not a fugitive from the law, or looking to hide any mugshots.
3. I bought copies of Goodnight Moon and Stellaluna as gifts. I am not in need of pregnancy services.
4. I was reading the funny reviews of How to Avoid Huge Ships and sugar-free gummy bears with a friend. I am not currently having a tummy ache on a cruise.
Just as an experiment (I do this for fun AND at work!), I did a comparison of two queries on Google and Duckduckgo.com (a search engine that does not do targeted advertising). Here were the queries:
- Does Wikipedia collect information about me (I often throw questions about life out to the universe), and
Ironically, the top response on the first Google search (after the targeted ads) was a Wikipedia article about privacy rights and how to protect personal information online. The Duckduckgo top return was another Wikipedia article on how the website works.
Two surprises: Duckduckgo looked strange to me without the ads ubiquitous on other search engines. A simpler page, and nice look, if you ask me.
Wikipedia has a request for donations to support their site this time of year. That is an ad I am happy to respond to.