Students discomforted by personalized advertisements


Martha Sanchez

Sophomore Eli Wovcha shows a lacrosse ad that he believes has been specifically targeted to him.

Martha Sanchez, RubicOnline Editor

Advertisements have been a fixture of the internet since its creation but today, advertisements that users see have a more personalized touch. More and more so, social media companies have edged into the profiles of their users, effectively learning who they are so as to target ad content towards them.

The argument of social media companies is that the more information they know about users, the more they can display content and ads that users actually want to see. But the idea of surveillance has long held discomfort to many, and SPA students aren’t exempt to this feeling.

Sophomore Eli Conrod-Wovcha receives personalized ads frequently. He recently searched for information about lacrosse on the internet, and discussed the sport with his friends. Afterward, he received a video ad displaying lacrosse players.

I think it’s kind of weird. I’ll be looking at something and all of a sudden it’ll just pop up on my phone. It’s like someone’s stalking me.”

— John Becker

“It makes me kind of uncertain about the security of my searches because it seems like Instagram is selling that to marketers,” Conrod-Wovcha said in response to the ad.

He continued, “It just makes me uncomfortable.”

Social media companies, in particular, have contributed to the growth of personalized advertisements – ads that are specifically designed for each user who sees them. Social media companies are able to take data from what you like, search, etc. and feed this data into an algorithm of your likes and dislikes, essentially building a profile of you. A similar process seems to have occurred to Conrod-Wovcha.

Yet Conrod-Wovcha is not the only SPA student affected by targeted ads. Sophomore John Becker explained a similar distaste.

“I think it’s kind of weird. I’ll be looking at something and all of a sudden it’ll just pop up on my phone. It’s like someone’s stalking me. I don’t like it,” Becker said.

Given the option between personalized or random ads, Becker remains conflicted.

“I like having ads for me but not if it means they can track what I do on my phone,” he said.

Preventing social media apps from tracking your phone activity may seem impossible, but the task isn’t as daunting as it seems. Many quick fixes include using private browsers such as Firefox Focus and installing ad blockers.

For more tips on how to stop ads from targeting you, click here.