Do online advertisers have access to telephone records?

Discussion in 'privacy problems' started by Des101, Oct 13, 2012.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Des101

    Des101 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2012
    Posts:
    3
    Location:
    UK
    Can anyone shed any light on the following?

    My brother in-law phoned me yesterday; his first call to me in probably about 3 years.

    Today I clicked on an ebay listing and was slightly surpised to see a big inset advert for his plumbing business, one of the big, boxed ads with graphics that usually advertise big business. eg Vodafone, Tesco etc. I didn't think too much of it at first, but then I noticed that his advert kept popping up about 50% of the time, pretty much regardless of the item I was looking at. I was now starting to think that this was pretty strange, his plumbing business is pretty small (just immediate family) and none of the ebay items it was matched to had anything remotely to do with plumbing. Also, nobody in our household has had any need to search for anything plumbing related recently.

    Then I remembered that he called me yesterday (Android to Android call) and stated to wonder if that had any relevence. It just seems to much of a coincidence otherwise.

    Can anyone shed any light of what has happened? Do online advertisers have access to mobile telephone logs? or am I just overly paranoid?

    I'm based in the UK if that is of relevence.

    Cheers.
     
  2. Cudni

    Cudni Global Moderator

    Joined:
    May 24, 2009
    Posts:
    6,956
    Location:
    Somethingshire
    In their dreams but otherwise no
     
  3. TheWindBringeth

    TheWindBringeth Registered Member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2012
    Posts:
    2,084
    What do you mean Android to Android call? Were you both using Android phones to carry out a regular cell phone conversation or were you using an app? If an app, which one?

    Did the word "plumbing" appear in caller-id? Do you have a phone-book entry for him with the word "plumbing" in it?

    Is this ad you speak of (only) being displayed on the Android device you used to receive that call or some other device? If the same Android device, are you using mobile service or Wi-Fi to access the Internet?
     
  4. Des101

    Des101 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2012
    Posts:
    3
    Location:
    UK
    It was a normal cell phone conversation, both phones run Android OS and are linked to Google accounts.

    No

    The ad was displayed on a Windows pc with a Firefox browser.
     
  5. TheWindBringeth

    TheWindBringeth Registered Member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2012
    Posts:
    2,084
    How does that Windows PC connect to the net? Is your broadband ISP the same company as your mobile provider?

    Can you make it happen again and inspect things with the objective of determining how the ad is being served and by which entity? If you are familiar with web technologies (http, html, javascript, ...) you can look over the source and requests. If not, can you at least determine the source (and destination) URL for the ad? If an image, note the right click context menu items Copy Image Location and Copy Link Location. The hostnames would be important, possibly user specific stuff could be X'd out.

    Have you checked your phone apps for something that might be backing up or uploading call history to someone? Checked your Firefox addons looking for something that might be related or otherwise messing with ads?

    Are there any solid links between your brother-in-laws cell phone and his company? Is the phone in company name or listed at its website or something like that?

    As you likely realize, this is trying to explore 1) how the cell phone call could have been correlated with a or that plumbing company and that datapoint made its way to an ad server, 2) how that ad server might have recognized your PC's browser and/or IP Address as being related to the datapoint and decided to show you a or that plumbing ad.

    Did you by any chance search for his website during or after the phone call, just to check something out? Do something else that could have connected your PC or its IP Address with the company?

    Oh the other hand, if for example your brother-in-law's company just started running the ads (in your area) perhaps there is nothing much to it.

    BTW, are you using any Firefox addons to protect yourself against tracking/profiling? Adblock Plus for example?
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2012
  6. Keyboard_Commando

    Keyboard_Commando Registered Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2009
    Posts:
    690
    Google is probably the answer here.

    I have just recently changed phones, an Android phone, Google+ and other accounts to do with them are synching *enabled* by default. Look in your phones Accounts and Sync settings. You can disable these manually. Under the each account there. If you don't want this happening you could try tapping on the default Google email account on the phone, Android uses this for logging into android Play Store (will have a blue box with Google's G) there you can untick the setting to sync internet. I presume this could mean browsing history, etc - which is possibly the cross over from your phone call with him, to then logging into a Google account (could be Youtube, Google+, etc) with your PC - you receiving target advertising

    Does your brother in law pay for Google advertising? or for enhanced search results. If so, means he's at least getting his moneys worth lol cos it's working. I would ring him and ask just out of curiosity.
     
  7. Des101

    Des101 Registered Member

    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2012
    Posts:
    3
    Location:
    UK
    Hi TheWindBringeth.

    After the initial flurry of ads, typically they died down when I was looking for one to analyse. Eventually I did get one and its source looks fairly legit. It's displayed within an iframe on the ebay page and seems to be using doubleclick.net as the ad broker, with the ad itself being served by yell.com which is a well known uk directory service (yellow pages) which I know my brother in law uses. The ad itself is an embedded shockwave file.

    This looks fairly straightforward and probably rules out any browser hijacking on my side. Interestingly when examining the source it shows some keywords associated with the ad:-

    The following are keywords for the item I was currently viewing
    kw=cisco,linksys,spa3102,sip,voice,gateway,phone,adapters,unlocked,1fxo,1fxs;
    The following shows something relating to 2 very old searches (several months ago)
    lkw=crabtree+rcbo+crabtree+rcbo+raspberry+pi+starbreaker+busbar;"
    Nothing plumbing related.

    When I check my browser logs I see that I last visited my brother in laws website just over a month ago.

    My phone is a fairly vanilla Android phone with no added apps.
    His phone is his business phone so his number is obviously tied to his business. Not sure what other apps he has running.

    I think I'll give it a couple of weeks and ask him to call me again and see if that has any noticable effect.

    Cheers for your input
     
  8. TheWindBringeth

    TheWindBringeth Registered Member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2012
    Posts:
    2,084
    Hi Des101, thanks for the update. As you likely know, Google acquired DoubleClick some years ago so the Google hypothesis may still fit. I've seen very many people express concern that Google would somehow datamine Android phone call information, but off the top of my head I can't remember ever encountering strong evidence that it has been done. I suppose Google's relatively new unified privacy policy could possibly have changed that. It would need to be acquiring call history though, and I don't know enough about Android phones to be able to identify whether that is a routine or special scenario.

    At least you ruled out some nasty app/extension.

    I like your idea to test things again in the future. In addition to receiving another call from him, you could also try calling a few different types of businesses. I think you bring up an interesting point when you mention your brother-in-law's apps. With so many different way to collect and correlate information, it could be(come) difficult to know which side's activity triggered things.
     
Loading...
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.