Monday, March 9, 2009

Google Knows I'm Bald

As you've probably noticed, I've been experimenting with advertising on my blog.

It's not making much money, but that wasn't the point. I wanted to experiment and educate myself on this business of online advertising since I believe that's where the web and the world is headed.

The ads that interest me the most are the Google AdWords. The premise is that it reads your blog and then presents the most appropriate ads based on your content. That idea fascinates me. If I write a blog entry about two-headed zebras, then AdWords will pick ads for people who are interested in two-headed zebras (if there are any).

I've been monitoring the ads and so far it's been pretty cool. It's not always perfectly accurate though. Sometimes I might write an article about how the lawyers involved in the Dickie Scruggs scandal all suck, and AdWords will serve ads for people looking for cheap lawyers in Mississippi or I'll write about the president dealing with the economic crisis and it'll serve ads for schemes on how you can get in on all this stimulus money.

A couple of weeks ago, I started noticing AdWords serving more and more ads about hair loss and baldness cures. Now, I am bald, but I've never actually written about being bald. I looked over my old posts just to make sure.

Where were these ads coming from? At first it was a real mystery, then I started to look over the whole site and I noticed that, even though I've never written about being bald, on every page was my little profile picture that, sure enough, showed my shiny head in all its glory.

I can't find any confirmation that google is using images to gather information for their AdWords program, but it's the only way I can figure they would serve these ads. Google does have technology where computers can read images though. If you use google image search, it has a program that can look at pictures and filter out the ones that might be nude or depicting sex acts, so maybe they can read my picture and tell I'm bald.

It's a little intimidating to think computers might be that sophisticated, but it's pretty cool too. It's not artificial intelligence yet, but it gives you an idea of how people might use artificial intelligence in the future.


Una Malachica said...

do you have any theories about the ads that appear on the first page on facebook? sometimes, the ones on my page are too relevant to be only coincidental, but not always

A. Boyd C. said...

A lot of people have complained about the ads on facebook. They go through your whole profile and pick out key words and sell their ads based on those keywords.

Some people say it's an invasion of privacy, but I don't think they realize how common it is. At least it's not like grocery store club cards who not only sell your shopping profile but your name and address as well.

Where facebook gets in trouble is they'll pull one of your friend's profile pictures and put it on an ad saying "Joe Smith Likes Movies, Watchmen Opens March Sixth!" or Rocky Part 12 or whatever.

I suppose the next step will be my picture showing up as an ad on your facebook page saying "Boyd is Bald! You should talk to him about joining HairClub For men!"

Una Malachica said...

i have had a friend's photo on an ad on fb, but not yours, so far

Nicole Bradshaw said...

Facebook shows me ads about bands I like, stuff about parenting, etc., all pulled (I imagine) from my profile info.

Haven't seen the personalized ones yet, but I'll look for those!