Facebook Creepiness

Yesterday I browsed for a utility sink at Lowes for my hobby room.  Today, I open Facebook for the first time in weeks (on a different computer) and find an advertisement for that exact same sink at Lowes in my feed.


You are being watched.


  1. Christopher Udy:

    When something is free (Facebook, google, twitter), you're not the customer - you're the product...

  2. marque2:

    I think it is being traced through your google account. Sign out of Google on all your browsers and don't allow cookies, then this problem goes away.

    Android stopped doing this, but I found it helpful and creepy, when I looked up a restaurant on Internet Explorer on my work computer, about a minute later, I would hear a BING! from the phone, and see that the phone was trying to give me directions to the restaurant.

    I have also been driving and the phone used to ask if I wanted to visit a location, based on internet searches I made from many months prior I was looking up a church from a Dave Barry column to see if it existed, and when I got within 20 miles of Fresno, on a family vacation drive to Kings Canyon, Google/Android decided to alert me and ask if I wanted directions. I twas an Oh yea, I remember looking that up moment.

    Even though this feature was quite useful, it helped me find places in San Francisco I looked up, because my daughter had a dance competition up there, for instance, but I think folks found it way too creepy so Google discontinued it.

  3. Orion Henderson:

    It's simple retargeting ads based on cookies. Disable cookies to avoid.

  4. Richard Arrett:

    It is when the ads follow you home from your work computer that you really feel cheeped out.

  5. BobSykes:

    The truly funny thing is they keep sending me ads for things I bought.

  6. John O.:

    If they're using Google AdSense, yes that would be true. However Facebook does not use Google AdSense for ads, they use a custom system that likely is reading cookies left from having browsed other sites. Its not uncommon for me to look up something just to know what it is and then suddenly get spammed by it on every ad service. I generally turn off tracking when I can to avoid this problem, but it can't be completely eliminated without disabling cookies and with it the ability to stay logged in to a website.

    Google only links its AdSense ads with its own products and services so if you use Google Maps to find a business, they're going to load up stuff on your phone to use more of Google's services as they think you're interested. While this isn't all terrible, it can be annoying when it comes to your attention at random times. I don't know how many times I've been asked to post photos about visiting the grocery store because I had a Google service running on my phone and it happened to get a GPS signal or a IP trace from in-store WiFi to ask if I wanted to check in with a photo.

  7. DaveK:

    An then there's the story about the dad, who was absolutely livid that his teen-aged daughter was being targeted with maternity product ads. It turned out that she was indeed pregnant, and had been doing online research quite related to her condition.

  8. Rich R:

    I have had a few similar incidents over the years. The creepiest was the time I had a conversation at a coffee shop with a random stranger about kayaking of all things. I have never been kayaking nor have I ever searched for kayaking related items on ANY computer or phone. That evening, kayak related ads showed up on my Facebook feed. Coincidence? Probably. Still creepy though.

  9. marque2:

    I did also mention removing cookies. You sign out of your Google accounts and disable cookies and most of the tracking goes away.

  10. Scott:

    I wouldn't mind this if the ads were actually useful. Maybe I decided not to buy that sink, so they show me ads for better or cheaper ones. But invariably, they show me ads for EXACTLY the same product I was already looking at. Whether I already bought it or already decided not to buy it, I don't need to see it again.

  11. Milo Minderbinder:

    At first I read this as you were browsing sinks at a physical Lowes store and then the ads appeared on your PC.

    Only a matter of time.

  12. John O.:

    Not all tracking goes away. If you've ever used Facebook, logging out doesn't disable tracking as they will use IP addresses and web browser identification information to continue to track you. Any website with a Facebook like button runs a script that can allow them to continue to track you even logged out and with cookies disabled. The only way I know of ending that is by deliberately running a script blocker and blacklisting all known Facebook scripts.

    Google isn't as bad but they can do the same but they usually just anonymize those who aren't logged in to Google so that they only link things that have happened while you're logged in your account so as not mix searches or uses by other people.