Mining My Data? Good Luck With That.

“Of all the sites, on all the web, I had to click on his” – Homer Simpson  Homer-Simpson-Computer



Ever wonder why, when you’ve finished some on-line window shopping, or making actual purchases, you’re suddenly seeing very similar ads on your Facebook or Google pages?

Data mining. It’s all the rage. In non-techno-babble terms, data mining is the art of compiling information about you via all the information you provide through your internet and social media usage.  That info is then used to bombard you with advertisements, spam, and in more nefarious ways, it’s used to track, surveil and spy on your every keystroke.

One of Mrs. Lawrence’s Christmas presents was ordered online at an outfit called New York Lingerie. (What was purchased is not really relevant to this story, nor any of your business.)  I make purchases like that online because once when my daughter was very young, I took her to a department store for new school clothes and while hanging around outside the dressing room in the young girl’s department, I was challenged by store security who took me for a perv. Also, I’ve always felt that men shopping in women’s lingerie stores were kinda creepy. But since making that purchase, my Facebook page has been inundated with lingerie ads, which I find even creepier.

Everyone’s doing it.  Facebook has recently been hit with a class action suit alleging that they’ve gone so far as to data mine those “private messages” you send to friends.  Click into an online retail site such as Zappos and you’ll find shoe ads all over your internet.  Do a Google search for, well just about anything, and you’re sure to see ads for it in your GMail. And unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve no doubt heard of what’s been going on at the NSA.

Speaking of the NSA, I’m always amused when I check the stats of likes on my Facebook business page.  Over half of the approximately 3,950 likes, are from places like India, Pakistan and numerous Middle East countries, including more than a handful from Iraq and <gasp> Iran!  Seems people in those locales are starved for knowledge and will jump on just about any tech related site on Facebook.  But I often wonder, and secretly hope, if I’ve sent up some red flags with the SIGINT folks at Fort Meade.

For me, it has become simultaneously humorous and disconcerting.  Given my late life career choice, I can’t very well give up the “internets”, so I’ve decided to have as much fun as possible with these corporations, agencies and people who seem to be so very interested in every facet of my life.  I don’t have a lot of free time these days, so it makes more sense to direct my full assault on just one.  Accordingly, I’ve been scouring news sites and tech journals in order to find an applicable target of my follies.  (For obvious reasons, I long since discounted “playing” with the NSA).

But now, courtesy of an article in the January 4th edition of the NY Times, I believe I’ve found my target…..Pandora.

For years, the premier radio internet service has customized playlists to listeners by analyzing components of the songs they like, then playing them tracks with similar traits.  However, they’ve recently begun to data mine user’s musical tastes for clues about the kinds of ads most likely to engage them.  Their assertion is that “ someone who’s in an adventurous musical mood on a weekend afternoon may be more likely to click on an ad for, say, adventure travel in Costa Rica than a person in an office on a Monday morning listening to familiar tunes. And that person at the office may be more inclined to respond to a more conservative travel ad for a restaurant-and-museum tour of Paris.”

If you’ve ever spent more than a few minutes in my office, or my car, you’ve heard quite a diverse mixture of music.  A typical hour’s worth would include Al Jolson, Sinatra, Whitney Houston, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, Bobby Darin, Wagner, R.E.M., ELO, The Eagles, Kings of Leon, Adele, Radiohead, a few show tunes (that’s right, get over it), and lots of Pink Floyd.  Spend another hour and you’ll hear much more of Jolson & Floyd.

Several years ago, I actually used Pandora as a music source in my office.  Ironically, I got sick of the ads and frequent service interruptions and went exclusively with my vast library of iTunes.  But, Pandora’s claim, or attempt, to target specific ads just for me, based on my choices of music, has the potential to be very entertaining. Challenge accepted!

I plan on resubscribing to Pandora and submitting a typical (for me) playlist.  I can’t begin to fathom the ads they’ll direct at me based on my musical whimsies.

I know I’ll have won when I see an ad featuring an aging, LSD tripping, metalhead, transvestite crooner wearing a fedora and black face, romping through to Alps to the score from the Sound of Music.


I’ll keep you posted.


2 thoughts on “Mining My Data? Good Luck With That.

  1. Pingback: Amazon.Com: Get Ready For “Psychic” Shipping… | Dark Acts Bible: Glass Half Empty, Base Cracked...

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