Should you be paranoid about data privacy on the Internet, or even on your smartphone?

AFP file photo

It did not come slowly.

A random search for a random thing on a random site for some reason, just a minute after closing the tab and refreshing another, an ad for the site appears on Facebook.

This is what it’s like using the Internet in the United States. This is one of the reasons to wonder if the National Security Agency (NSA) really does take data from social media.

Hair dryers I looked at Amazon just a few moments ago suddenly appear on the ads part of my Facebook timeline. Shopping sites and food delivery services pop up between updates of friends. Suddenly Tumblr has sponsored pages you don’t remember ever seeing before.

I first noticed these ads creeping its way into all of my social media a few days into my stay in New York. I had finally gotten a phone and opened the Twitter app to check my feed. A few swipes down there it was: an ad for a store in Manhattan complete with a picture of the Empire State Building.

It seemed weird to notice it at first but I barely saw ads in my Twitter feed when I was in Manila.

Oh sure there are ads on Facebook and your email, I see those all the time. But the speed at which these ads come on to your social media here is just unbelievable. And it isn’t just Google ads. These are ads tailored for you; based on where you are. I was on vacation in California over Christmas and I got ads for In-N-Out, in New York I get ads about Bank of America and the New York City Ballet (and not Shake Shack oddly).

A friend who is doing his concentration (in my school each student chooses a concentration, kind of like a major) on health and science wrote an article about privacy and phones. He told me that because I kept my location services on and that I check my social media, there is a lot of data that my phone is giving away about me.

Data, like — I get lost most of the time so my location services are always on or I keep searching for cheap hair dryers and Macbook chargers on Amazon.

Companies pay a lot for that information. Well maybe not the getting lost part, maybe, I hope.

This kind of advertising is just so common in the United States that so many companies do this kind of thing.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say some companies in the Philippines aren’t that sold on the idea yet. But I’m not going to be surprised if pretty soon you open up your Twitter in Manila and see the same exact thing happening.

Just imagine a tweet from Jollibee on your feed at 3PM even if no one retweeted them and you don’t follow them. And you notice it because you tweeted just seconds ago about palabok.

It’s not a wonder why Americans become so paranoid about their privacy over the Internet.

I can’t say I’m paranoid about my data being analyzed by companies or worse the NSA. I’m still at the point where I find it amazing that I suddenly get location-based tweets.

But the moment I get an ad about beer just as I walk past a random bar on a random street then I think that’s when I’ll double check my privacy settings on my phone.

So NSA if you ever read this, I do like beer and hair dryers and cheap chargers. Also
Shake Shack. Build my profile based on that.