This is going to be a brief post, and based purely on my own experience. I don’t have any actual evidence, yet it seems too purposely to be coincidental. I don’t even know if the technology exist that would be this possible.

We have all heard the theories that your keywords have lead to being shown targeted ads. My understanding of this, had always been based on your browsing or search history. So if I searched on Google the words “Car Parts”, and have started visiting websites that are about “Car Parts”, then I start to see ads for “Car Parts”.

This has never bothered me. In fact, I’m actually fine to have my browsing history monitored, and be shown ads that can actually relate to me – rather than being shown random ads that mean nothing to me.

However recently, I’ve come to notice a more unsettling pattern emerging, that is showing long duration ads, during times I would not be actively engaged with my devices.

Scenario 1 – Desktop w/ Chrome

As with many people, I often have YouTube playing in the background on my computer, usually a talk radio show channel. Weirdly, when I walk away from the computer, usually when I start to cook lunch, I get shown longer duration ads, and often unrelated to my lifestyle.

Scenario 2 – Mobile w/ Android

As with many people, I play music or background sound on YouTube when I head to bed. I’d then put the phone aside and try to get to sleep. Weirdly, I’d start to get shown longer duration ads, and often unrelated to my lifestyle.

They are a 2 layers of concern in this pattern. We have accepted that google monitors our behaviour to show targeted ads. My main concern, is what aspects of our behaviour is actually monitored.

Both my scenarios can easily be explained as “this time of day” is ideal for showing this kind of ads. This wouldn’t worry me. However, my behaviour and timings are not quite set. I sometimes have lunch much earlier, or go to bed much later.

Concern 1

So what if the behaviour being monitored, are my mouse movements, and keyboard input (words I actually type in messaging websites). The reason I feel this is a strong probability, is often before I start preparing for lunch, I would type a message to my friends, on my desktop chrome browser that “I’m going to cook“, or “I’m going to make lunch“. Before going to sleep, I would type a message to my friends, on an android messaging app, “I’m off to bed, goodnight“.

So now imagine if the behaviour being monitored is:

  1. When the keywords “lunch” or “cook” is typed, and there is no input from the keyboard or mouse, then a long duration ad gets shown.
  2. When the keywords “sleep” or “goodnight” is type, and there is no movement on the phone, then a long duration ad gets shown.

If this is true, it means not just what you actually send over the internet (searches, websites) are being monitored, but your actual physical activities are being monitored.

Concern 2

This one is far more unsettling to me, and it relates to the reason these long duration ads are being shown, and a time you would not skip them.

It could be perfectly innocent, where their simple algorithm has just learnt that with certain keywords and lack of activity, those ads are seen favourable – since they are viewed in full.

Another possibility, which is far more deceptive, is that those ads are intentionally shown, for monetisation. Since advertisers are also charged by impressions, showing a full ad to someone, Google earns by charging that advertiser. So by showing those ads at a time you are not active on your computer or phone, it would appear as having been viewed 100% to the advertisers. While in reality, you weren’t even looking at the screen.

Another reason I feel this as a possibility, is the sequence of ads that get played when I’m away. There are sometimes 2 ads, the first one is more related to me, and the second one becomes the unrelated long one. So the first one could be a “feeler”, to see if it’s skipped, which means you are still “active”. If it doesn’t get skipped, then the second one gets shown.

If the second ad being shown is unrelated to you, it would be even worse if they intentional chose the ones that have a high budget, but not performing well to active users.

I have no actual way to test this, but I would be interested to know if anyone else have felt the same correlation between their physical behaviours and having an unrelatable ad being shown on YouTube.


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