It’s hard to be truly evil when you’re just stupid.

I was concerned last week when I heard about Google’s plan to share information across all Google accounts.  But then prompted by this story on NPR last night, I dialed up my “Ads Preferences Mananger Page,” and this was the extent of the personal information I found:

Your demographics:
We infer your age and gender based on the websites you’ve visited. You can remove or edit these at any time.
Age: 55-64
Gender: Male
I wonder how many middle-aged or elderly men do their online shopping at (for example) American Girl Place, the Discovery Channel store, Zappos, Garnet Hill, Title Nine, and Athleta?  Seriously:  who else but women 30-60 shop at those last three places?  Maybe science geek transvestite grandfathers?  So by my lights, I don’t think I have a lot to worry about from the Google at this point.  I think they’ll have a hard time being truly evil when their guesses as to who I am are so completely wrong.  (I’ve been wondering why the Google ads I get are all asking me if I want to meet single women 40-50 in Greeley, Colorado.  Now I know!)  What links am I reading that make Google think I’m 15-20 years older and the opposite sex?  (What kinds of crazzy gendered assumptions do their algorhythms make?  That’s maybe the question that really interests me.)

Just for fun, please follow click this link to go to your own Ads Preferences Manager page, and report the results–and your assessment of their accuracy–in the comments below.

67 thoughts on “It’s hard to be truly evil when you’re just stupid.

  1. well, I scored as a 65+ year old male which is very exciting because it means I can go golfing today, rather than prepare my lecture for this evening and read graduate admission files [my real life as a female in her late 40s].


  2. Pingback: Tuesday Teasers: Stuff I’ve Been Reading [#4] - The Pursuit of Harpyness

  3. @Emma – Facebook keeps giving me ads for becoming an ultrasound technician. They are really creepy ads (a giant hand holding six tiny babies in it, for example). I have no idea what this mean.


  4. Oh, and I just checked my categories that made them assume I was female: fashion and cooking/baking, before higher ed stuff. Girls = clothes and food, boys = ideas and stuff.


  5. Google thinks I am a 65 year old male who likes Football. Two out of three ain’t bad. I’m curious, however, how bad the info on my children is since they often log in as them, and then I kick them off my computer to do work. I suspect it’s something like 6 year old male who likes Phineas and Ferb, football, and politics. 9 year old girl who likes Fantage, football and politics. (I’m assuming it got the football from my reading of Gregg Easterbrook’s football column at the ESPN site – where I have an account, as do my kids since ESPN is owned by Disney and I discovered that if I kick the 3 year old off Toontown to check a score, ESPN thinks I am the three year old.) And btw, I like football, but I love baseball.


  6. Female gender is correct but age is 2 categories too low. Would that my chin also appeared 2 decades younger in photographs! Teh google correctly identifies my interests in computer software, shoes, and the Rocky Mountains but these are not in fact the types of sites I look at most from this machine. So it appears to be picking up only activity on commercial sites and (like H’Ann) ski hill snow reports, while ignoring blogs, news, and academic sites. I clear the browser cookies every few weeks just to keep it confused; sometimes I just search and delete the ones with the phrase ‘ad’ in them.


  7. Gender correct on home desktop and on office desktop. Home has me one demographic too young; work has me one demographic too high. Laptop has gender correct, but apparently it can’t infer an age from what it’s picked up on that computer–music & audio, multimedia software, mac OS, casual online games.


  8. At least on this computer (which was relatively recently pressed back into service after another one developed serious problems which I’m still in the process of fixing), it’s got my gender (female) correct on the account associated with both my real name and my pseudonym. It thinks I’m still 35-44, which is only a few years out of date. I’ll be interested to check my work computer, where Cassandra never logs in, and (more relevant) where the browser is set to clear the history each time I close it. Theoretically, if the preferences are associated with the account, you’d think the result would be the same.

    My interests, too, include “Business and Industrial” (huh?) as well as “Computers and Electronics” (for reasons mentioned above, I have been looking a lot for solutions to computer problems, and shopping for hard drives and other equipment) as well “Finance–Credit & Lending — College Financing” (no thank you; no more degrees or debts for me), and a couple of higher ed jobs categories (makes more sense).


  9. Yeah, boring as this is: hooray for tossing cookies once a week (e-bulimia?) and AdBlock Pro — they had no data on me. I’m so accustomed to AdBlock at this point that I’m completely shocked whenever I use a different browser. However, I am only hurting myself, because browsing the internet with ads enabled would be unpleasant enough to keep me from doing it 800 hours a day. That’s how they win anyway, I guess.


  10. Male 18-24. Which is funny, because other than the basics (gmail, facebook, wikipedia) I pretty much only visit feminist sites and my guilty pleasure, healthy living blogs. Both seriously female-dominated. They’re close on my age, though. I’m just one age group up.


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