Our phones are listening to us and it’s a problem

Targeted cell phone ads are malicious and morally wrong


Steven Curto, JagWire assistant editor

A few weeks ago, after putting the final touches on the foreign exchange page for the second issue of the JagWire, I decided to take a break and scroll through Facebook. While I was scrolling through my feed, I noticed that a peculiar ad had popped up. It advertised enrollment in a high school foreign exchange program. I wondered to myself: “was this an odd coincidence or perhaps a targeted occurrence?”

I quickly texted a fellow JagWire staffer, senior Elizabeth Joseph, and we got to researching and discussing targeted advertising together. After finding information on this topic and talking  with each other, I 100 percent believe my phone is listening to me, and using what it hears to give me targeted ads.

I learned very quickly through research that I was not alone in this belief. To put the internet’s claims that apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are listening to consumers to the test, in October of 2017, Facebook’s Vice President of advertisements, Rob Goldman, tweeted asking users to recount instances where they felt that their phone was listening to them.

A flood of Twitter users recounted their experiences. Goldman later denounced that Facebook had ever used user information to provide targeted ads. Vice reporter Sam Nichols decided to investigate the growing debate of whether companies are using targeted advertising. He used advertising trigger words like  “I’m thinking about going back to…” and “I need some cheap shirts for work.” He then monitored his advertisements on Facebook and noticed that almost overnight all of his advertisements were individual to the topics he purposefully talked about the night before.

With all this information, I am convinced that tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook are listening to my conversations to target what to advertise for me personally. The fact that companies collect our information without consumer consent scares me, and it should scare you too. Our information should be private unless consumers specifically allow information to be shared with others.

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