Time to Start Lying About My Age

Yesterday just before I left work, my friend Alison sent me a link to the Google Ads Preferences page – where our Googlian overlords reveal the demographic information they use to serve us customized ads. I don’t know if this was previously hidden, or if the release of Google’s new privacy policy just got people looking at it, but its wacky inaccuracies were taking the Internet by storm. (The Washington Post has details on their, uh, blogPOST blog.)

It took a moment of perusing my own see why. The interests listed were fairly accurate: cooking and recipes, specifically soups, stews, and Asian; team sports, notably hockey; and assorted interests around technology and social media. Yup, sounds like me. Primary geographic area: Washington, DC – also true. And then I got to the basic demographics, where they took me for a 25-34 male. Wrong, and really wrong.

Currently, this stuff is tracked by web browsers – that’s the change that’s got people up in arms. Google’s new plan is to merge browsing data into our account information to make the results more accurate, and therefore be able to serve more creepily-specific ads.

But because everything is still handled at the browser level I have a somewhat different profile at home. Still have cooking and recipes among my interests, but for meat, seafood, and Middle Eastern cuisine. I also like hockey, but apparently not technology/social media, so at home I’m a 25-34 year old female.

I have two thoughts on this.

First: holy gender-norming, Google! Technology AND hockey? Must just be a dude who likes to cook, but when tech’s not in play, clearly hockey is the outlier interest and cooking means I’m a chick. Oof.

Second: Though Google gave me mixed marks on my girlieness, I did land squarely in the age group that’s between six and 15 years younger than I actually am. Combined with the fact that offline me is often similarly mistaken, I think it’s clear that I’m meant to be lying about my age.

So all that stuff I said last spring about turning 40? Disregard. It was a typo. I meant 30 – the numbers are just so close together.

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About Sarah Heffern

Writer. Editor. Preservationist. Social media enthusiast. Caps/Nats fan. Knitter. Reader. Traveler. Beer drinker. WDC via STNY.

11 thoughts on “Time to Start Lying About My Age

  1. Whoever is doing the data gathering at Google has me all mixed up too. Based on my “cookies”, I am 54-64 years old (that part is ok by me, albeit wrong) and based on shopping websites frequented, I am “male”. Double wrong!! I don’t think Lands End, L.L. Bean, Amazon, Chef’s, etc. are necessarily utilized just by men!! Crazy!

  2. I showed up as a 35-44 yr old female because I shop online for “toys.” Funny thing is, with our kids, I’m not exactly shopping for American Girl accessories. So shopping must be what got my gender correct?

  3. A-HA! I can blame Google for the fact that Evita and One King’s Lane ads have been following me EVERYWHERE on the Internet. Yeeesh.

  4. I am a 35-44 yr old male. Which was completely crazy because the only thing that wasn’t about education and educational resources was football. Football= boy. I don’t get easily irritated by the whole gender stereotype thing, but seriously….

  5. They were fairly accurate with their “guesses” about me, but I’ve heard Google is having a much more difficult time with women. Looks like it’s true!

    … Oh data oh data…

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