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> Had merely typing seduction into a search engine marked me as a rascal? Or was the formula more sophisticated? Could it be that my online choices in recent weeks—the travel guide to Berlin that I’d perused, the Porsche convertible I’d priced, the old girlfriend to whom I’d sent a virtual birthday card—indicated longings and frustrations that I was too deep in denial to acknowledge?

While a lot of those examples are true instances of tracking and inference, in some cases I think author is imagining things. People have a scary capability to see patterns and intelligent agents where none exists. It's incredibly easy to cause this.

I'm running a simple IRC bot that "pretends to be human" by means of hand-tailored regular expressions matching input and some witty responses. I can't count the times I tricked people into believing they were talking to human. It's like, write out some simple regexes and you're 90% way to passing a Turing test. People prime and then fool themselves.

So yeah, I'm betting those results in the part I quoted were caused just by "seduction techniques" search. And if he clicked on that Ashley Madison banner, he basically sealed his fate.

The classic story is how Target figures out when women are pregnant by their buying habits. I honestly don't know how true it is but it gets repeated quite often. Sounds fishy to me. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2012/02/16/how-targe...

That actually sounds perfectly realistic to me. Those are results you expect to have if you did your job right (knowing the girl was pregnant, not pissing off her father in the process).

The fishy part is where the dad goes to Target and demands and apology. I also was unaware that Target sent out targeted coupons.

Yeah, that is probably the least plausible part of the story, but then again, not everyone is a technology-conscious person. My SO used to deal with "general population" on the phone and after hearing weird stories almost every day, I stopped being surprised about people anymore.

There's a discussion of why the story seems iffy here http://www.kdnuggets.com/2014/05/target-predict-teen-pregnan...

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