Someone pointed out that you can see what data Google uses to decide which ads to show to you. I’m presuming that the data they collect from your browsing habits overwrites the data you yourself entered when signing up for anything: despite listing myself as male on my google accounts (which I am, incidentally), Google thinks through my browsing habits, I must be female. (I am okay with this.)
It makes sense that they’d want to base all this information – your age, gender, and interests – on your browsing habits rather than the information you put in, for two reasons. It all comes back to effective marketing. First, you could have deliberately been false. Maybe you don’t want to be harassed online, so instead of saying you’re a 20-year-old-woman, you enter in that you’re a 50-year-old-man. Obviously, they don’t want to be marketing 50-year-old-man-products to you; you’d be (arguably) less likely to buy them than, say, 20-year-old-woman-products. Second, even if you are a 50-year-old-man, but your interests and browsing habits are more like those of a 20-year-old-woman, you’re still probably more likely to buy 20-year-old-women-products. So they’d want to market those to you anyway.
(In a weird and kind of backwards way, it’s surprisingly progressive. Google doesn’t care if you’re a man with traditionally feminine interests and habits, or the other way around, they’ll still happily advertise to you all equally based on yourselves rather than your socially-designated boxes.)
It broke down a bit for me and Robert in the “interests” section, though. Sure, it got a lot of them right, such as sci-fi, comics, and action figures. But it also presupposed some odd ones. We both got sports and parenting. I got athletic shoes, air travel, and the city of greater Toronto. Apparently I want to fly to Toronto to run a marathon with with my imaginary son?
When I write it out like that, it actually sounds like fun. Maybe Google is just cleverer than we thought.
In other news: my computer is broken, and had to go off to be fixed. So I can’t connect my Cintiq to anything to draw! I’m gonna do hand-drawn comics for the next week, and hopefully my computer will be back and fixed by then.