back to article Web ads are reading my keystrokes and I can’t even spel propperlie

A friend has the willies. He even went on Facebook to tell us about his willies. He’s not normally the kind to get the willies, but willies is what he has. American readers of this column may be disappointed to learn that my friend is neither a fellow of loose morals nor is he, as far as I am aware, multitudinally …

  1. Yugguy

    Experiment away!

    I'm off to type random crap into Farcebook and see what happens. "HAIRY LLAMAS"

    Disappointing lack of ads!

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Experiment away!

      You should have tried SHAVEN LLAMAS.

      Don't ask me how I know this.

      1. Rich 11

        Re: Experiment away!

        You're a Tibetan monk with a penchant for unfortunate typos?

        1. NoneSuch Silver badge

          Anyone who does not think the government will have the capability soon is already under psychiatric care.

          The thought police are very good at jailing people for "suspicion" and punishments over what you are thinking will increase over time.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Experiment away!

      Whenever I send a message from my gmail account to a friend's gmail account I add random phrases (I like "nude dwarf jello wrestling"). One of these days I will ask him to send me the ads he's probably getting :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Experiment away!

        Whenever I send a message from my gmail account to a friend's gmail account I add random phrases (I like "nude dwarf jello wrestling")

        If sending and receiving is in HTML, you could append all manner of indiscrete words with a text colour the same as the background. That will work beautifully, and make their targeted adverts very interesting indeed.

        Although if the recipient does ever view your emails as plain text then you may have some explaining to do.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Experiment away!

          "It really whips the llama's ass"

        2. Number6

          Re: Experiment away!

          Although if the recipient does ever view your emails as plain text then you may have some explaining to do.

          I have the misfortune to have my work email hosted by Google, although they do at least let me access it using Thunderbird, which I have set up for plain text display. So don't try this on me, not that I'd see any ads it produced anyway.

          1. Danny 14

            Re: Experiment away!

            Im going to trst it on the next unattended phone in the breakroom. Wonder if the ads are persistent? Im sure he wouldnt mind ads for anal bleach and buttock enlargement.

  2. Mystic Megabyte

    news just in

    Don't send anything back to Amazon or you'll be banned!

    1. VinceH

      Re: news just in

      I'm getting a strong sense of deja vu reading that - I feel sure I've read something like that earlier this year, but I'm not sure where.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: news just in

        You did, done to death on BBCs "Watchdog" last year.

        The Graun aren't even prompt with their plagiarism.......

    2. pAnoNymous

      Re: news just in

      Never had any problems. Great customer service. Certainly to the likes of PC World. Every one has a dodgy experience. I had one with John Lewis and a lot of people seem to think they are great.

  3. David Webb

    Ads suck

    The best part is, you go to Very and purchase item X, for the next 2 weeks all the adverts from Very list the product you purchased with "buy this!". I did buy it, why are you advertising something I already own, why are you eating into your advertising budget for something that has a 0.00% chance that I will purchase? Muppets.

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Ads suck

      True. A month ago I bought a new keyboard for my wife's laptop.I ordered a very precise spare part for that laptop from Aliexpress.

      Now any time I go to their website I am bombarded with ads for laptop keyboards of every make and design. "Based on your shopping history you might be interested in these".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ads suck - Aliexpress

        Aliexpress is aimed more at importers and distributors, so it assumes if you order a keybaord it's a sample, and you might want to look at others.

        Amazon has no such justification.

      2. e^iπ+1=0

        "Based on your shopping history you might be interested in these".

        Works for some types of store:

        I bought a carton of milk; next time I visit the store I get offered milk again, even if its just a few days later.

        Problem is they seem to think it's fine to apply the same logic to inappropriate classes of product.

        1. MrT

          "Here's Johnny...!"

          Amazon is a classic case in point - I bought a couple of Fiskar axes and for weeks "My Amazon" was full of things like log 'grenades', chainsaws, checked shirts, sturdy steel-capped boots, high heels and a book about hanging around in bars...

          Netflix is the same, though. A few months back, fifth along under the category "Because you watched Captain America: The First Avenger..." was Peppa Pig. I'm still waiting to see what crops up after watching 'Space Station 76' last week, but that's either been forgotten about or is so odd it's broken the algorithm...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "Here's Johnny...!"

            Imagine if a Netflix of porn comes to pass.

            Lessay you and the missus subscribe to it. 'Couples Channel' or '69 Shades of Grey' being the wholesome intent. And documentaries.

            How will you explain "because you watched Barely Legal Shaved Lamas BBC 9", eh?

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Ads suck


      You need to realise that the advertising industry contains a lot of people who really shouldn't be allowed outdoors without a responsible adult, preferably keeping them in leading reins. Such individuals have two characteristics. One is that they're completely self-obsessed and convinced that the entire world is waiting eagerly for their every fart, brain or otherwise. The other is that they're completely technically clueless so the fact that this ability to regurgitate something that you've just bought appears to be a miracle that they feel they have to share with the world; the fact that it's quite irrelevant hasn't yet dawned on them and available evidence suggests it probably never will.

      I'm sure some advertising industry lurker will complain this characterisation is incorrect. If so, please provide evidence for your thinking so but if you do please bear in mind that it will be contrary to the experience of the rest of us.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ads suck

        Speaking as an ad industry lurker, I would say that the issue does lie with the algorithms currently though - the way these campaigns work in Google for example is that we bid on people who have abandoned or viewed (as well as converted) and then Google's algorithms decide which product is most relevant. I'm proud to say that I've never had one of our clients remarket towards me with something I've already bought, but have definitely noticed the trend of being pushed to by the things I've already bought online from the retailer I bought it from.

        Similar principles include youtube ads that have no impression limit set so you keep getting bludgeoned by the same damn advert every damn time you try to watch a damn video. The tools are in place to solve the issue but aren't being used by agencies who want to spend to budget instead of generating value.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Ads suck

          > remarket towards me

          Speak English dammit!

          1. Sir Runcible Spoon

            Re: Ads suck

            This is a techie site, we techies use terms that others would consider non-English.

            In light of this, and the bravery shown (albeit behind an AC skirt) in posting, I think we should cut the bloodsucker some slack* :)

            *for now.

            1. Alistair

              Re: Ads suck

              Sir Runcible:

              Patrick V would agree to cut him something, but not slack.

              Oddly, for bravery shown, I'll cut him a pint.

        2. Dr Scrum Master

          Re: Ads suck

          Similar principles include youtube ads

          Ah, I remember those. There I'd be listening to Mozart or the sound of waves crashing against the shore and, BAM! DO NOT IGNORE THIS ADVERT! BAM! BAM! BAM! Then I'd rip my headphones off as I desperately waited for the Skip button to appear...

    3. pAnoNymous

      Re: Ads suck

      Get this all the time. Spent 5 minutes buying something and then weeks getting it advertised to me. A bit of a waste of time someone I would think.

  4. Franco

    With me it's watches rather than wallets. Admittedly I do have 2 wrists, but I feel no need to have a watch on each. Nor do I subscribe to the theory that different occasions require different watches, it's not like the time isn't consistent whether I'm at the Gym, in the car or skiving at work reading SFTWS.

    Leaving the evils of advertising aside, I've never had a Facebook account and never will. And I am perfectly happy with that, even more so after reading about mutating adverts.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "With me it's watches rather than wallets."


      After buying a new car a couple of years ago within a couple of weeks or so the dealer started texting invites to sales events. How quickly did the idiots think I replaced cars? Or how many did they think I wanted to buy?

      It only stopped after I managed to find the MD's direct email address & made it clear that as I very much resent being pestered I would never buy another car from his company. Even so it got through in a muddled version; when the car was due for service they called on the landline & I discovered their paperwork had a note saying the mobile was not to be used.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "With me it's watches rather than wallets."

        "With me it's cars!."

        Well, I moved to a new house (after selling my old one) some years ago, and somehow all the real estate agents decided I want to do it again every few days. I got tired of all the "exciting new, can't-miss, once-in-a-lifetime offers" and the LinkedIn invitations...

        1. 9Rune5

          "somehow all the real estate agents decided I want to do it again every few days"

          Are those agents as useless there as they are here in Norway?

          I sold my old apartment a little over a year ago. I am ashamed to say that I chose one of those bastards who had been filling up my mailbox with stupid post cards over the years. "I just sold a flat in your neighbourhood and the idiot buying it paid well in excess of the market value!"

          I naturally assumed, based on those post cards (I googled my little heart out and found no good statistics to verify one way or another), that this agent had a nack for finding any number of fools that would happily fork over a bundle for apartments such as mine.

          "Do we need old-fashioned advertising in print?" I asked. "No way! Your apartment will be easy to sell!".

          He then talked me into "apartment makeup". Some consultant puts in €1000 worth of IKEA furnishing in your apartment while charging you €1500. You naturally return the furniture after a month (or continue paying "rent") or so. Fine... so it sold then?

          Well, lets hold another open house during the automn vacation ("aren't people away on, well, vacation then?" "No worries, the ones interested in your apartment stay home in the city!"), would I be interested in putting in a printed ad. I rejected this offer, but his assistant had already pulled the trigger. No-one showed (vacation... remember?).

          It struck me that it is a brilliant occupation. You hang around waiting for a prospective buyer to show up, and if that fails you simply ask the client to pay for some more advertising. There is virtually no risk.

          He did manage in the end. I got an offer that matched the assessment, but that was of course well under what the sleezebag hinted at to begin with. I was willing to go another round, but he had obviously lost interest by then and so I surrendered.

          But what a completely meaningless occupation.

      2. Stoneshop

        How quickly did the idiots think I replaced cars?

        Every time the ashtray is full?

        1. The Boojum

          Re: How quickly did the idiots think I replaced cars?

          Nah. When the windscreen needs cleaning. I got fed up smashing them and getting them replaced.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Have an upvote

      From a fellow Facetart refusenik.

      Mutating adverts! Wonderful.

  5. WaveyDavey

    Very good, Mr D

    I find myself liking Mr Dabbs' Friday Funnies more and more. Not quite as ranty as usual this week, but very good indeed. Keep Marcus Brigstocke-level ranting as a target.

    1. brotherelf

      Re: Very good, Mr D

      Is that the official El Reg measurement of rantitude?

      1. edge_e

        Re: Very good, Mr D

        I'd hope that the official unit was Charlie Brookers

        1. GregC

          Re: Very good, Mr D

          .I'd hope that the official unit was Charlie Brookers

          For me the perfect unit of rant would be the Kermode, as in film critic Mark. He doesn't do it often, but when he does they are magnificent. See his Sex and the City 2 review which brilliantly even starts with the phrase "you're not going to get a rant about this"...

      2. swampdog

        Re: Very good, Mr D

        Someone should contact him & offer him the appointment of ElReg Rantographer-in-chief.

    2. wx666z

      Re: Very good, Mr D

      Thanks for the Marcus Brigstocke reference, quick google and YouTube video appears in the first few hits. Quite funny and I had not previously heard of him, of course I'm on the other side of the pond...

      1. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: Very good, Mr D

        >> Marcus Brigstocke

        He was good as King Arthur when they brought Spamalot to Bromley.

  6. Raumkraut

    Real-time massaging

    now I won’t have the chance to correct it before it gets read. So my friends and family can look forward to real-time messages from me

    Oh, I don't think you have to worry. I'm sure your family will continue to only receive the final - edited - message.

    The only people who will see the initial drafts are Facebook. And by extension; their advertising partners, and *their* advertising partners, and the insurance companies, and the credit checking agencies, and the security services, and the police, and the government, and your local council's bin-watchers.

    But probably not your family, so you'll be okay.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      Re: Real-time massaging

      "and the police"

      You forgot: "The Police Commissioner, the Police Commissioners' wife, his wife's coffee-club friends, the hairdresser that pops in once a month, the dog groomer, the dog groomers mother..."

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Just replaced your TV? Here is a range of other TVs you may like, including the exact model you just bought.

    Or why not subscribe to deliveries of this TV. (Every 6 months recommended).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Amazon

      Here's the same TV you just bought, now on sale, £100 cheaper.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Amazon

        Being the cutthroat bottomfeeders they are, do they have a "If you see it advertised anywhere for less, we'll refund the difference" policy? That'd teach 'em.

        1. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Amazon

          do they have a "If you see it advertised anywhere for less, we'll refund the difference" policy

          Not sure about Amazon, but Richer Sounds does, and they do price match with themselves, as I proved a few months ago buying an amp and speakers, kicking myself when RS was doing them cheaper a week later, sending what I thought was a cheeky email and getting a cheque almost by return of post.


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Amazon

            Barclaycard (credit card) circa the year 2000 had a guarantee scheme. If you could have bought an item cheaper from another supplier within 30? days they would refund the difference. The only proviso was the price had to be over £100.

            I bought the latest Intel cpu costing the best part of GBP300 - only to see the price drop considerably about a week later. To my surprise Barclaycard paid up without any hesitation. They discontinued the scheme fairly quickly..

        2. Ian 55

          Re: Amazon

          They used to have a 'If we price it for less in n (90?) days, we'll give you the difference. If you ask' policy, but quietly abandoned that.

  8. Doctor_Wibble

    Angle grinder, shurely?

    I've not heard heard of an axle grinder, unless that's a typo of a Guns'n'Roses groupies reference that whooshed past me...?

    Even if not, an angle grinder would still be relevant to music as that's part of the backing dancers act - they have metal plates on their crotches and make lots of sparks, how can you not know this? It even featured on the gadget show* once when they were doing some 'make your own stage act' contest between presenters. The other act had lots of lights in it and the guy with the big glasses made some 'I love apple' comment IIRC.

    * sorry

  9. Chris Miller

    Private Eye

    have been running a regular feature called Malgorithms "dedicated to excellence in contextual advertising". Current example:-

    Telegraph online headline: Adam Johnson faces being locked up alongside Ian Huntley and Levi Bellfield at high security prison

    Accompanying ad: Save on JOHNSON'S® baby products with Sign up!

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Re: Private Eye


      Love that word. Sheer brilliance. I will include it in my mandatory reading material for the course "Introduction to Computing Science" I teach immediately

      1. Chris Miller

        Re: Private Eye

        If you consult Mr Orlowski's WikP entry, you will find he was (back in the 90s) the Eye's computing correspondent. Almost all Private Eye contributors use pseudonyms and his was Anna Rack.

    2. Jimbo 6

      Re: Private Eye

      While watching Half Man Half Biscuit vids on Yootoob, I got served with ads exhorting me to "SAVE NOW FOR YOUR FUNERAL EXPENSES !!!".

      It's as if they think all HMHB fans are depressed middle-aged men with unhealthy lifestyles... oh.

      1. small and stupid

        Re: Private Eye

        But you do need to arrange your own funeral properly - you don't want your loved ones tending the wrong grave for 23 years.

      2. Alistair Dabbs

        Re: Private Eye

        >> Half Man Half Biscuit

        At the funeral, they could play God Gave Us Life.

    3. smartypants

      Re: Private Eye

      Malgorithms: May I add another category of examples under this excellent new word?

      A year ago I got hit by a car from behind while on my pushbike. I was luckily alright, but the bike was a write-off and my clothing was quite torn, so I took some photos for the insurance claim and then...

      ...the malgorithms got my photos and delivered me a 'Highlights of the week' video which featured various destroyed bits of clothing soft-panning to some gentle music.

      Having read this article, I feel lucky not to have been spammed by adverts for dodgy lawyers, plastic surgeons and pre-torn jeans.

      Oh shit. I've just written those words into the internet.... Here they come!

  10. TheProf


    "Back in the stone age when the music industry could support weekly printed papers such as Melody Maker, Sounds and NME (before it became awful),"

    Before it became awful? The NME or the music industry in general? I'm going for both.

    I looked at 40 year old Taylors Port on Amazon and the items other customers bought after looking at the same were:

    Grahams 40 y.o. Tawny Port,

    Taylors 20 y.o. Port

    Rubis Chocolate Wine

    Star Wars Annual.

    Star Wars annual? Why yes, after a hard day as the head of a multi-national company there's nothing I enjoy more than to sit before a roaring fire with a glass of Port and a good Star Wars annual.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Awful

      Rubis Chocolate Wine

      Is farkin lovely....

      Didint know amazon sold it.

      You advert slinger!!!!

      1. TheProf

        Re: Awful

        Glad to be of service.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Awful

      That's what happens when you combine a failure to understand the perils of small samples with someone's Christmas present list.

  11. Elmer Phud


    What am I doing wrong?

    Still no sign of adverts in FB.

    (whatever people say about FB, Ghostery reports 'no trackers')

    1. RyokuMas

      Re: Damn

      "What am I doing wrong?"

      Running FB Purity?

    2. cosymart

      Re: Damn

      Running an Ad-blocker?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Damn

      > (whatever people say about FB, Ghostery reports 'no trackers')

      Sounds like ABP. Uninstall and rate it 1 star, then. FB is a tracker.

  12. AndrueC Silver badge

    Google's search engine has me a bit puzzled. I like to do a bit of gardening and grow my own fruit or vegetables. Not on an industrial scale but it's nice to have a patch in the garden. Anyway with spring approaching I decided to search for some advice on some new seedlings I am trying that seem to be struggling.

    Almost every page Google offered me for "seedling wilting" related to marijuana.

    I don't do drugs (excluding alcohol) and I certainly have no interest in growing the stuff.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      You could try using the exclusion filters..



      -"chocolate frenzy"


      etc. etc.

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Is there a filter for 'I is an innocent old codger wot is trying to grow some cabbages?'



        1. swampdog

          "Is there a filter for 'I is an innocent old codger wot is trying to grow some cabbages?"

          Nope. Not even in real life. Oh, not cabbages but as I've got the link in my paste buffer, sod it..

          Extra protein, gratis! Bring back amusing shaped produce is what I say!

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: "Is there a filter for 'I is an innocent old codger wot is trying to grow some cabbages?"

            "Bring back amusing shaped produce is what I say!"


            Morrisons now sell bags labelled Wonky Carrots. They are usually half the price of the "normal" carrots, bagged or loose. Once peeled and chopped they look the same.


            Having said that, the other week both the Wonky and loose carrots were more highly priced than the bagged ones. Bagged ones on offer, 50p/Kg

            What I want know is where are the huge turnips? (the yellow Swede ones) When I was a kid there were no pumkins. You cut the top off a turnip, hollowed it out, cut a face and stuck a candle in then poked holes for the string and to hold the lid on. You can't do that with the tiny little ones they sell these days,

          2. Anonymous C0ward

            Re: "Is there a filter for 'I is an innocent old codger wot is trying to grow some cabbages?"

            > Bring back amusing shaped produce is what I say!

            A turnip shaped like a thingie?

  13. Anonymous Custard
    Big Brother

    Text speak

    So now text speak, emoj's and other such similar unreadable stuff for anyone out of their teens suddenly becomes much more useful in bamboozling the keyreaders. And there was us thinking it was just laziness and poor spelling.

    That said it could also be fun to screw around with other peoples auto-correct and see what you can turn various common words into and what ads can be induced.

    But then I'm a cynical old fart, so get off my lawn!

  14. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    I'm probably on a watchlist

    Work for a medical device company and had to buy a bunch of stuff for a US trade show on - to be delivered to my hotel. Latex Gloves, surgical masks, cable ties, duct tape, garbage bags, a 110-220V transformer....

    I'm tempted to add copies of "Silence of the Lambs" and Manhunter and a few serial killer biogs just to freak out any FBI algorithms.

    1. Andy Non Silver badge

      Re: I'm probably on a watchlist

      Is your name Dexter?

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: I'm probably on a watchlist

      The quick and easy way onto the NSA shit list is to do a web search for "tails linux".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm probably on a watchlist

      So long as you don't buy rubber tubing, gas, saw, gloves, cuffs, razor wire, hatchet, Gladys, and ... mitts.

  15. Novex

    Surely to be able to check what you're typing there would have to be some Javascript running? If so, get something like NoScript installed and most of that shop* gets nuked...

    *as against 'shit'...

    1. Whitter

      Auto fill etc.

      Some browsers will "helpfully" auto-fill and/or pre-cache as you are typing. Not too unlikely that such data gets sent off to the ad-men (or ladies).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Correct. NoScript will block the realtime trackers. FB will say JS is required - unless you use their mobile site. It's fugly but at least it behaves like a normal website.

      Of course they can still track your clicks... but a lot of sites rely on JS tracking exclusively now.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        in theory they could track your hovers too. And if they ever develop eye tracking using the front facing camera...

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "Surely to be able to check what you're typing there would have to be some Javascript running? If so, get something like NoScript installed and most of that shop* gets nuked..."

      Some forms won't auto clear the "Type info here..." bit in the text box AND won't respond to your text when you click the button with scripting disabled, it just puts you back at the empty box again.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One of every butane-burning device sold by Amazon

    I work for a consultancy, and some years ago, for "research" on a project someone had the job of buying one of every butane-burning product that Amazon sold...

    I never did find out what subsequent ads, or secret-service following, that order may have resulted in.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So what did I buy...

    ... to trigger the constant stream of (almost certainly) malicious "WinZip driver update (recommended)" "ads" on YouTube this week?

    (And how do you get through to Google to tell them? Given the nature of the ad I'm not inclined to try to find the few pixels on the ad where the click-through goes to the AdChoices feedback page rather than the presumably exploit-laden ad-destination page)

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: So what did I buy...

      "And how do you get through to Google to tell them?"

      Hah. Good one.

      It's like in numerous spy movies - you won't find us, we'll find you.

    2. Suburban Inmate

      Re: So what did I buy...

      Use AdBlock Plus. You can bet your arse the stats for that are a number they pay attention to. ;)

      I'm tempted to disable it to let a few play, see what tat it tries to flog me. I won't be buying as I'm lucky to have a pot to piss in at the moment. That and the fact that, being 33 years old and not 3, I can distinguish my needs, wants, and 'just browsings', so advertising has little effect beyond depressing and/or irritating me.

  18. myhandler

    This is old news though.. years ago, long before ad blockers arrived, I was on some coding forum or other and "international talk like a pirate day" happened ..and all the side bar ads turned to ads for Parrot food.

  19. DropBear

    To be fair, Google has been offering up suggestions _while you are still typing_ for ages now - so anyone still surprised by this kind of tech is a bit out of sync; the facts that ads are now doing it too on the other hand _is_ rather unsettling but in all honesty it's hardly surprising.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The danger was immediately obvious to anyone with a healthy paranoia level. And that's why I turn all that shit off in my browsers, install NoScript, and use a search engine like DuckDuckGo (plain HTML version). It's like Google in 1999....

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        "install NoScript, and use a search engine like DuckDuckGo (plain HTML version). It's like Google in 1999...."

        Yes it was. But for a week or two, their plain HTML hasn't been so plain anymore. And turning Javascript off gives a messy result page. Welcome to 2001.

  20. Fehu

    Ahh, targeted marketing...

    I noticed on several sites when I clicked on links to read about the latest escapades of some of the escapees from the Republican clown car, an add for a medication targeting clinical depression would come up along with an admonition that I needed to tell my physician about my suicidal thoughts. Sorry, wrong party. I'm just reading for the laughs.

  21. John Lilburne

    If I want to buy something I look for it. I'll have a specific item in mind and when I find it I buy it. Recently I bought a monitor, SATA hard disk, SSD disk, and sound card. I don't need any more for quite some time. So any one paying money to some ad network for dump any of those items on my screen is wasting their money (though the ad blockers will most likely filter them out anyway). Similarly I recently bought some photographic filters, I don't need any more. I don't need a draw full of wallets containing Cokin ND filters.

    Yes I did also look at some remote controlled off camera flash guns, but I decided not to buy one now, maybe a couple of months just before I go photographing wild flowers in French woodland. If and when I do need one I'll find one I like within a couple of hours, it will be bought before any of these networks can react, and I won't want another one.

    Online ads are not only intrusive and creepy they are also always irrelevant.

    1. swampdog

      If I want to buy something I look for it.

      Pretty much sums it up for me. I've always done my research. When I walk into a car dealers I say "I want that one". Not so long ago I could drive off in that "want" in under half an hour.

      Now, if I pick up a bargain & drive that motorbike home, it ain't taxed is it?

    2. swampdog

      French woodland


  22. Nigel222

    Google retarded

    Google ads are retarded.

    When I start researching something like a fridge, A few relevant ads might even be welcome. I don't get those ads. Then I buy a fridge and stop searching for fridge info. Then and only then do I get those fridge ads.

    Retarded. That's the right word isn't it?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Google retarded

      Oddly it doesn't seem to happen when I shop for ad blockers.

  23. IvorTE

    Loved the article - your are right online advertising is so poor. I only seem to get adverts for things I have just bought.... literally things I have just bought down to the make and model!

    Maybe they think I want to buy Lezyne Micro Drive bike lights for all my friends and family too, or that I have a fleet of bikes that all need lights.

    Who are the software engineers that write these broken, useless algorithms and who are the advertising execs who think it is a great idea to release this broken technology into their customer base?

    Mind you... long may they be crap at their job :)

    1. jimmyj

      long may they sit in their own offal

  24. Nifty Silver badge

    ABI button?

    I remember before in these forums suggesting that ads have an 'Already Bought It' button but nobody listens to me.

    Now, I just happen to be looking for a 'wallet in tiny compact format' but previous searches failed to turn up a decent product.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: ABI button?

      It's been a while, but I seem to recall that Amazon has, or had, such a button when it pops up 'you may also like this' internal adverts. I never cared to push it - I envisaged them sending the boys round if I didn't buy it from them!

  25. Howard Hanek


    ....have been with us since the Neolithic Age and probably accounts for those cave paintings in France.

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Ads

      Interesting you should say that. Recently on BBC4 there has been a short series about renaissance art. Mrs IP and I have had a theory for a while that a lot of paintings across the years have been adverts for goods and services, and this series (though it wasn't mentioned by the presenter) really underlined it. The positioning of all sorts of things that just happened to be made in that town or city was almost identical to what we see in ads these days (eye drawn to the item, positioned or held unnaturally, lighting effects different around it etc).

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Ads

        Let them eat Mr Kipling?

  26. captain veg Silver badge

    keep that to yourself, Dabbsy

    "I don’t mind at all being sold to, and often I am very appreciative, if the ads are relevant"

    I think you are in a very small minority there, and I'd thank you to keep quiet about it. They keep rolling that one out as an excuse for harvesting personal data.


  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Facebook does capture everything you type...

    ...even if you cancel the post.

    If something is free, YOU are the product being sold.

    1. Suburban Inmate
      Big Brother

      Re: Facebook does capture everything you type...

      Yup, been going on for effing years too. Years back I was temporarily reduced to using a Celeron box with, iirc, 1.5GB RAM that alerted me to the hidden surveillance by being barely able to keep up with my (slowish) typing, even in the dinky little FB chat popup.

      The sheer page swapping effort it had to make any time I switched tab made the LOHAN permit approval paperwork look positively swift in comparison.

  28. Palpy

    Advertising in general --

    -- should not be equated with information about a product or service.

    IIRC, many years ago a Chinese academic was visiting New York. After observing television for a week or two, he said, "In China, everyone recognizes propaganda. We also know that the propaganda is false, but unfortunately if it is repeated often enough the mind accepts it anyway. In China, the government is the biggest source of this propaganda. In America, corporations are the source. You call it advertising, but it is really just propaganda."

    Perhaps the greatest coup of the advertising industry is in convincing the general public that the content of ads is useful to the consumer. Repeat the phrase, "It's not a pack of waffle-words, doublespeak, and lies, it's really useful information that helps the consumer" often enough, and the general public begins to believe it.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Advertising in general --

      'Repeat the phrase, "It's not a pack of waffle-words, doublespeak, and lies, it's really useful information that helps the consumer" often enough, and the general public begins to believe it.'

      No they don't. It's the advertisers themselves, those with stuff to advertise, that come to believe it. The advertising industry's true success is selling themselves to advertisers.

      1. Palpy

        Re: "advertising industry's true success"

        Yes, the ad industry's greatest success is indeed casting themselves as the One True Path to market success. That's the real propaganda coup. I stand corrected.

        Perhaps a better point re consumers is that some people actually listen to ads and act on them -- even when the ads in question has no meaning (see "natural", "best", "superior", "all new" etc).

        And now this, just in from Devil's Advocate: There are edge cases where news about a genuinely innovative but relatively unknown product can benefit consumers. That new lawnmower that cuts grass with lasers -- LAZORS!! -- for instance. (Note to the gullible: all lies.)

        And some ads are very clever. Some are flash fiction for the small screen, instant classics of witty 15-second entertainment. The old Japp advertisements, for example: There's no obvious attempt to sell anything, and the only "claim" about the candy bar (that it makes you strong enough to push cars off cliffs) is self-satire.

        Not very many ad writers are light enough on their feet -- or in their minds -- to do that, though. Most ads are just a dull ache in the viewer's aesthetic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "advertising industry's true success"

          Classic FM radios adverts are usually dire. The Direct Line ones make me change channels immediately. I suspect their badly enunciated punchline is meant to make you keep re-listening until you finally work out what was said.

          However once in a while an advert is sufficiently entertaining as to bring a smile to my face every time I hear it. There was one that started with a young girl's voice wheedling her dad for something. After a few parental wrong guesses it turned out to be a plea to buy a car "big enough for the pony's gear". "What pony?". "The one you are going to buy for me."

          Thought that summed up modern consumerism perfectly - mixed with the humour of an incongruous twist.

    2. swampdog

      Re: Advertising in general --

      When 1/3rd of a programme is advertising that's enough. 22 mins. Fuck off.

  29. rhydian

    Buying car parts is always fun...

    Amazon, for some reason, stock genuine Ford car parts, and usually at a bit of a discount compared to Ford dealers.

    The problem is that the malgorithm (copyright the commentard from earlier) doesn't quite understand that your average person will only need (for example) one thermostat housing, and only for the car they own at the time, so there's no point trying to sell me either

    A: Another, identical thermostat housing to the one I've just bought


    B: The thermostat housing for another, totally different Ford because I happened to buy one for the car I own

    Ebay's junk email is just as bad. Subject lines like "Are you inspired by LUCAS 6A256 TRACTOR IGNITION SWITCH..." don't really work...

    1. cordwainer 1

      Re: Buying car parts is always fun...

      Well of course that subject line doesn't really work. Tsk. It should be, "Are you turned on by LUCAS 6A256 TRACTOR IGNITION SWITCH?"

  30. Mike 16


    Nice coinage. Some years ago I was momentarily bemused that gmail was offering up, next to an email thread on Functional Programming, ads for kilts and bagpipe lessons. Then I realized that Google's ad-brain had apparently made the connections FP->Haskell->Glasgow->Scotland. There was also a stretch where mention of FP would bring up job listings for financial firms, so I still wonder why the Scottish connection didn't bring up more ads for Single Malts and McClarens.

    As for spelling "help", a friend recently told me of his experience which tops anything that ever happened to me. He was on a "live chat" or whatever "conference call without the call" is called these days. Working for at an antipodean outpost, he was asked if the timezone difference was a problem. "No, I'm just a bit tired. Haven't been sleeping that well. Probably time for a new mistress". Yes, he was trying to type "mattress", but to this day his coworkers occasionally ask how the search is going.

    1. Chris G

      Re: Malgorithms

      Another example of Malgorithms is when you type a google search, no matter how weird Aliexpres and others copy your words and throw them back to you to 'compare prices, like this; .

      Three of the top 5 are two Aliexpres Compare dog saliva prices and Compare cat saliva prices, one other DHgate compare cat saliva prices.

      It took me a couple of minutes laughing before I could even type this.

      Now I'm off out to buy some Chinese manufactured dog and cat saliva at very attractive prices.

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: Malgorithms

        Yeah. They also claim to have large stocks of Error 1852, or what have you. Naturally with best prices and fast delivery.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Malgorithms

        My 3rd result was...

        Dogs- what does Islam say about dogs - Muslim Converts - En caché - Similares

        A dogs Saliva touching a person or a persons cloths does not invalidate his wudhu ... be upon him) forbade the price of dogs and cats, except for hunting dogs.

        Anyone else? I'm not religious, but I'm under 'enhanced scrutiny' and my usual online pseudonym includes "Ali".

    2. swampdog

      Re: Malgorithms

      "As for spelling "help"

      Firefox 3.5.7 was 'brill. Right click on Zuckerberg for "Cocksucker". Today's suggestions are lame by comparison.

    3. The Boojum

      Re: Malgorithms

      Then Google's (m)algorithm© needs to take on board the 'six degrees of separation' theory. If they're doing that kind of linking then they could end up with anything!

      All trademarks and other IPR are the properties of their respective owners (or whatever the proper BS is)

    4. oiseau

      Re: Malgorithms

      > Probably time for a new mistress". Yes, he was trying to type "mattress", but ...

      No, no mistake there.

      He just went full lapsus typeae.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Or lets go back 15 years in time...

    and negotiate with companies who are relevant to our websites and get them to take fixed banner ads.

    That's what I do with my website which relates to a niche hobby. I currently have seven main manufacturers and suppliers of equipment for this hobby holding banner ad positions on various key points around the site. A few phonecalls, a few emails with some figures and statistics and a very busy community board and they were more than happy to go for it. I make more (goes back to the site costs and improvements) this way than I ever would with standard ad platforms.

    I actually studied Advertising & PR at Uni (then joined the army?) and the lasting memory I take from it, was of a documentary we watched following an advertising agency trying to come up with a campaign for a charity for special needs.

    Their genius idea was to have the service users (mentally handicapped persons) bungee jump off of a bridge up in, I think, Pitlochry.

    Need I say more.

    "Okay, ready Steve?"




    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Or lets go back 15 years in time...

      "(then joined the army?)"

      Did you or didn't you?

    2. Alistair

      Re: Or lets go back 15 years in time...

      Did that turn into a barroom blitz?

    3. Suburban Inmate

      Re: Or lets go back 15 years in time...

      AC Have an upvote and a pint for the "genius idea" mental images that I've just been enjoying for the last few minutes!

      (yeah, I know, inferno awaits me)

  32. Mark 85

    Willy vs. The Willies

    Sorry Dabs. I think even we uncivilized, uneducated Americans know the difference. Ok... maybe not all of us.

    Have one on me anyway for an excellent rant.

  33. BebopWeBop

    My man-purses and my friend’s willies probably go together well.

    Don't worry, it's legal (at least in the UK) now.

  34. TeeCee Gold badge

    Sometimes you just have to be awed.

    Best bit of weird contextual ad shit I've ever seen was courtesy of Messrs Google[1].

    A colleague sent a meeting invite out which he'd done in Google calendar. The location was set to "conference call" and came with a google maps link.........WTF?

    After that WTF? I clicked on it to see what would happen and was moved to polite applause at the result. A map of nowhere in particular accompanied by reams of sponsored links to conferencing services......they really don't miss a trick.

    [1] Purveyors of internet search functionality, advertising and miscellaneous cruft to the gentry.

  35. Headlock19

    I use metiix blockade. It stops all tracking, ads, and malware on your entire network and it's free.

  36. MachDiamond Silver badge


    I am continually surprised that people are surprised when this sort of thing happens on FB.

    M. Zuckerberg stated in public (and I'd love to find a copy the video I watched) way back before the company's IPO that "the reason for FaceBook's existence is to collect and sell personal information". Ads make money too and the more technically interesting they can make the targeting, the more they will sell and for better prices.

    If you are subscribed to FB, the kool-aid is being administered intravenously.

  37. Runilwzlb

    'Personalized' ads? Yes, as weird as you describe. Using draft text b4 its even submitted? Creepy, weird, AND obnoxious.

    I use Firefox on Ubuntu w/script and ad blockers. I didn't even know FB HAD ads until I read this.

  38. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Black Helicopters


    Used to know someone who used to deliberately use phrases like "I was bombing along the Queen's highway" on emails.

    1. Allan George Dyer
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Spooks

      And we'll probably loose contact with you now, too...

      1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Spooks

        And we'll probably loose contact with you now, too...

        Who's that knocking on the door at this hour?

  39. Potemkine Silver badge

    Going back where the problem lays

    "There's something wrong with mass consumption

    Why do we want what we don't need

    Invasive advertisment is an epiphenomenon of our greed for things supposed to give us happiness, confidence, self satisfaction.

  40. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Hip flasks

    You can't have too many hip flasks. The problem is lack of pockets.

    1. jimmyj

      Re: Hip flasks


      worked at an ad agency (doing electronic stuff) & was amused by the obvious use of 'white powders' by the over-active 'writers' who personify the pox of 'ad-follow-up'. "said 'X' so let's suggest 'U,V & Y,Z'

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Netflix recommendations engine

    I got fed up with the Netflix recommendation engine suggesting movies based on our sons viewing - he's got very different taste and watches a lot more. So, I started marking everything he watched as "I hate it".

    The recommendations were still based on his viewing but every one had the predicted star rating at one star - meaning it was recommending movies it knew I wouldn't like.

    1. jimmyj

      Re: Netflix recommendations engine

      as if anyone actually followed the 'recommendations'...

      rather like the definition of insanity:

      "repeating the same thing & expecting a different outcome"

    2. Vira

      Re: Netflix recommendations engine

      You know you can set up profiles within Netflix now? Assign one to each family member so the recommendations are tailored to what each individual actually watches. I also got fed up of the stuff my kids watched polluting my suggestions :)

  42. oiseau
    Big Brother

    Well ...

    > The source of his concern is Facebook.

    Well ...

    That what you get for going there.

    Isn't it?

  43. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    A couple of points. - firstly, it's not Google that tracks you, it's the cookies that allow advertisers to track you.

    Secondly, inappropriately targeted ads exist everywhere. Like when you buy a laptoolaptop, and the idiot manufacturer decides to make the browser homepage their own page.... advertising more laptops. I just bought a laptop, do they really think I'd think "oh damn, I forgot to buy a second laptop" on seeing the ads?

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fuck it.

    I cannot trust advertising services any more, if they haven't been compromised to carry malware then the advertisers themselves are playing dirty.

    As of now, if adverts are not wholly local to the site I'm looking at then I'm blocking the buggers, ads hosted on the website and which the website accepts total responsibility for serving to the people who visit the site will get through.

    No cross site scripting will be allowed, if that breaks your site then I'm not going to use your site and you can fix it or go under.

    Websites have a responsibility to the people who visit their site to keep them safe, using third party advertisers who spy on their visitors or serve compromised ads is not keeping them safe and as websites have singularly failed to address this problem on my behalf, I'm going to address the problem and if that means websites lose revenue then tough, they had their chance.

  45. project-2501

    I'm surprised this is a surprise, especially here:

  46. montersj

    I don't know what you're complaing about... wife was sitting in front of her laptop the other day, while talking to my son about his upcoming marriage, and she asked him where he was planning on buying the engagement ring. And ever since then she has had non stop advertisements for engagement rings coming up wherever she browses.

    And you're worried about spelling mistakes...!

  47. W4YBO

    Disqus de facto keylogger

    So try this...

    Type anything into a Disqus comment box. Hit backspace until everything you typed is gone. Reload/refresh the page. Your comment has reappeared!

    1. Thomas Allen

      Re: Disqus de facto keylogger

      Obvious DISCUS does this because the little hint pops up - "Someone is typing." So I quickly stopped editing my comments in the textbox, and I never type anything that I might not choose to post.

  48. kroche

    I was really freaked out recently when the ads began to include pictures of one of my friends.

  49. Cynic_999

    The TLAs could save money

    Instead of spending £billions on intercepting every communication, they could simply tap into the ad agency databases. The ad agencies have already done the profiling without costing the taxpayer a penny. Just find out who is getting targeted adverts for, say, thermonuclear ballistic missiles, and you can make a perfectly reasonable list of suspects ...

  50. This post has been deleted by its author

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the inheritance of thievery

    s-u-r-p-r-i-s-e.... know that suckerthief is reading keys is no surprise at all. Perfectly predictable. But it will get much worse. His cream-in-all company will profile everyone and have reports and scores (like credit scores but more sinister) ready for the alfabetters. NO JOKE. Already doing that? sure.

    wanna mess with these jerks? sdrowkcab gnihtyreve lleps

  52. Someone_Somewhere


    People who like the idea of bamboozling the privacy-invading element of email SPs might like to try putting their communications through first - the putative recipient(s) may never see your missive buried in their (never opened) spam folder(s), however, so your mileage may vary. *

    * can't vouch for the good sense of letting some unknown third party (spammimic) read your communications first either, but it could be a giggle if you don't say anything revealing.

  53. Mr_Lucas_Brice

    It has long been known that Facebook tracks and stores text you type into your status and comments, even if you don't click "Post."

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