The other day, I was checking my e-mail from the B&B I was staying in during a short visit to the Ft. Meyers, Florida area—and what do I see but a spam mail with the headline, “Sanibel Vacations.”
Normally, I’d delete this unread. But as it happens, Sanibel was about fifteen minutes’ drive from where I was, and I was planning to go there the following day. I actually opened up the e-mail, to discover that it was about lodging options. Not of interest; I was very happy with the B&B.
In the same batch, there was quite a bit of other travel spam: Hawaii, Italy, and I forget what else. These show up every day. But I don’t remember seeing spam about Sanibel more than once or twice in the past. Could this ad actually have been triggered by my logon from so close by the previous day, or was it actually random? It didn’t occur to me to check the sent time or other clues before hitting delete.
I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to get a popup or banner ad; that’s old news. For years, for instance, Facebook thinks I live in Alaska part of the time, because my virtual assistant sometimes logs in for me, and that’s where she lives. I regularly see ads from both Alaska- and Massachusetts-based advertisers. And I’ve noticed that my son the oboist will get classical music ads, while I get business and environmental messages, even though we log on through the same wi-fi network.
But this wasn’t a popup; it was an e-mail. Which means if it wasn’t an accident, someone has developed a rather scary system that matches a network’s IP address, an offer the robot thinks is relevant (which didn’t happen to be true this time—but would have been if the ad had been for restaurants or attractions)—and the address I was checking in Mail2Web, which doesn’t happen to run through my Gmail account and is not the dominant address associated with my iPad (I don’t expect any privacy when Google is involved).
To make it even more spooky, I’m writing this on the airplane back homeward, and this month’s Southwest Spirit has an article on predictive marketing, of all things, and the coming revolution in targeting enabled by smartphones. I have an old-fashioned dumb cell phone that never goes online, and I don’t have the phone features enabled on my iPad. Yet I got that particular ad.
Just a coincidence? I really don’t know. What do YOU think?