May 14, 2010

Has Google Really Gotten This Smart?

I use Gmail quite a lot, and almost never pay attention to any of the targeted ads. Usually the ads are totally in line with my email content, including technology and marketing news, website design and SEO etc.

Something this morning really surprised me. I received some emails from my dad with photos about his recent vacation to Hawaii. These were packaged in multiple empty emails with just photos and no text. In one of the emails, there was a photo of the bathroom in their hotel, which contained a rather large hot tub.

After a few seconds, I got this targeted ad:

4Seater Hot Tub R8 РJacuzzi Hot Tub Spa Buy Now Buy Now Direct From Manufacturer
The words hot tub or spa were not mentioned in any recent email at all, nor did I navigate to any sites about this. My only conclusion is that Google now employs image recognition techniques to serve targeted ads! This isn’t actually such a far out idea with Google Goggles now firmly in place, but to be honest it scares the crap out of me.
Have they really gotten this smart?
I have checked the metadata for the photos, and there are no relevant keywords in them – only the manufacter and camera model. The image filenames are also as generic as they come.
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  1. pookleblinky May 14, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Check the exim metadata on the photos, and their filenames.

    Google may not be using advanced image recognition, so much as parsing the filename “amazing-bathtub.jpg”

    If there’s no interesting metadata, and the filenames are generic “dsc666” stuff, then we can get creeped/awed.

  2. Mike May 14, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Good point, and I did check this myself. No metadata at all, except for the camera vendor which is canon.

    As for filenames, they are as generic as “IMG_0286.jpg”.

    I’m definitely creeped out!

  3. Sonika May 14, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    @.@ cool

  4. Jon May 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Wow – this is pretty intense. And yes, a little creepy.


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