The tech giants don’t need to listen to your conversations.

They have so much other data to work with.

When I stumbled across the Twitter thread above, it reminded me of all those anecdotes I have heard over the years about adverts being targeted at people after they have (seemingly) related conversations.

Essentially, the big companies aren’t listening to your conversations (broadly speaking), they’re doing something else.

The tech giants don’t need to listen to our conversations because they have so much other data to work with.

It’s all about the social graph.

I had figured this out for myself a year or two back when I mulled it over and it came up in some classes I taught.

But it was great to see the concept outlined so clearly in a concise format (the Twitter thread) with a compelling and mildly humorous example attached.

Is Facebook snooping on your WhatsApp messages?

Let’s consider a different example: WhatsApp, owned by Facebook.

The messages are encrypted. That means only the sender and the recipient can read the contents of the messages. Great.

But WhatsApp (Facebook) has meta data on you. They know who you’re talking to.

They can analyse communication habits (regularity, duration, time of day, etc..) and make inferences from that.

As an example, if one of your friends has searched for new Nike trainers and they happen to message you about them, and then you start seeing Nike trainer ads, does that mean your messages were read by an intermediary?


It just means Facebook knows your friend was searching for Nike trainers.

They’ll start chucking “relevant” ads at them, and heck, why not chuck the same ads at all of their friends?

Those in the same social circles are more likely to have similar interests, so why not exploit that with ad targeting?

So it’s not as sinister as it might appear, but it can be super creepy to experience.

The tech giants may not be snooping on your conversations, but boy do they have data on you!

Want to disrupt the social graph?

If you want to disrupt the tech giants’ signals, you can try using messaging apps like Signal and search engines like DuckDuckGo.

That will make a dent, and you should start to see less obviously creepy ads around the place.

As always, stay safe!