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YouTube is stalking me. I think I know why...

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Black and white image of a gumshoe private eye lighting a cigarette in a Film Noir style

I keep a Chinese Wall between my personal and business use of YouTube. The latter is used only on my MacBook through a Chrome profile and a specific business Google account. The former is linked to a personal Google account, generally set to run on my TV and only occasionally accessed through Safari on my MacBook.

Over the past few weeks, I noticed recommended videos on my business account that I'd already watched on the TV. This happens so often that I wondered whether some post-cookie experiment was taking place. Is Google using an IP address to identify me? If that's the case, what are the privacy issues? Could an innocent search for health information by a child prompt a flurry of recommended videos on the home TV that cause no end of family feuds?

Or was there a better answer?

YouTube uses a location guessed from the IP address within its recommendation engine. According to the privacy policy you didn't read, it looks for what other people in a 1-mile radius (ish) are viewing and feeds that into the mix. For extra value, it also restricts the recommendations to your preferred language.

Visit Athens and content from Greek influencers is recommended.

Be the only English-as-a-first-language Gaijin in the village, and you'll find your TV driving the recommendations on your Mac. Hence the cross-over. At least that's my theory.

Of course, there is a privacy issue at play. Were another Brit to rock up next door, we'd quickly find out what the other is into. Given that some of the stuff I research is officially classified as "a bit fruity," this might make for some awkward conversations. Or not, depending on your point of view.

But Ross, I hear you cry. Doesn't that mean your business account recommends content to your personal one? Apparently not, as I don't get much traffic going back the other way. My working hypothesis is turning off location settings in my business account has blocked the bounce-back. 

Stress working theory because I'm not going to test it. I could end up with political and commercial content floating around my Mac and spill into my evening chillax with a YouTube diet of music, architecture, and history.

And I wouldn't want to miss the latest Chiitan upload.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction.

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