Thoughts, Opinions, Advice

Tonight on messages I asked my best friend for a film recommendation from the last 3 or so years that is absorbing. The film I took the most interest in within my reply that I hadn’t seen was ‘Joker’.

5 minutes later I visited my YouTube homepage (in Safari) and it proposed the final scene of the film with an obvious title therefore ruining the film for me…

Thoughts, Opinions, Advice?

  1. Apple has a major security problem, or
  2. Google search took your question and using that, along similar queries from others, came up with a logical choice, or
  3. Dumb luck? I have no idea

Google is alarmingly good at what it does and has been looked at by numerous groups and governments. Had you been reviewing movies, etc. since the last time you cleared your browsers cache?

Were you signed into your google account on the device you were using for messages?

Yes, I was on my Mac

Assuming you don’t have the YouTube app on the same device where you have the messages app, my thoughts are…

It’s very easy to get dragged into a tin hat wearing conversation with this. I will attempt to avoid that, but… it might not even be something you’ve done. You could be locked down like a nuclear bunker and speaking to all your friends in code via a cup on a string, but your friend could download every app available, tick yes to everything and never change their privacy settings.

Google (and Facebook) know who you’re friends with. Even if they don’t know specifically what you’re up to, they can infer a lot from your known associates. E.g. Jon and Fred often talk about Batman. Their friend Nick has a Nokia 3210 so is hard to collect data on, but probably likes Batman too. Let’s serve up a Lego Batman ad next time he goes on his computer and see if he clicks it.


Dumb luck is surprisingly common. Not only are human brains terribly wired to understand randomness, they are also wonderfully wired to ignore unusual things that are not relevant and spot unusual things are relevant.

This is only significant if it is consistently repeatable.


Sounds like it would be pretty easy to run 5 or 6 attempts to recreate this – try a few other popular movies, some products, other topics likely to be advertised against.

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Hmmmm, I have NEVER had any privacy issues before and don’t really care either way if I’m being ‘watched’ - however I found it genuinely startling that I am a having a ‘private’ conversation about one of potentially the thousands and thousands and thousands of films out there (understatement) and five minutes later (for the first time EVER) I get a clip of said film in my YouTube app - just to put into context - I can’t remember ever seeing a film on my YouTube account. I am an occasional watcher of films, and normally my YouTube account just shows me music and football based on my previous search entries. Five minutes and a complete match???

also - the only two things I was ‘logged into’ was the Messages App and YouTube on Safari - I don’t use social media…the only reason I posted on this topic is because it was so damm obvious what happened!

The fact you haven’t had this before adds to the idea it’s a coincidence.
An addendum: maybe your friend had knowingly or unknowingly seen that same suggestion because it’s trending? Hence their suggestion was not random either.

They listed 5 films and I asked more about ‘Joker’ - was the Joker trending yesterday???

Were the messages sent via iMessage (blue bubble) or SMS (green bubble)? If your friend is on an android device it might be possible that the information leaked that way. Or it might truly be a coincidence.

@Pupsino is right. Data aggregation is far more likely than “Google reads your Apple Messages”.

My theory:

The internet knows you and your best friend, and they know you are good friends. (How? The internet knows you spend time together physically (device IDs + geolocation, many sets of nearly-simultaneous purchases at a move theater/coffee house/etc.). Or that you DM each other a lot on social media. Or you buy gifts on Amazon and send it to their house. Etc.)

When you asked your friend about movies, they started thinking and gave you a list. When you told them you were most interested in Joker, they began to focus on it. Maybe they did a google search on the cast, the soundtrack, followed a link to its Wikipedia page, rewatched a favorite scene on YouTube….

Google says, “hey, this person is showing interest in the Joker movie, and we know people talk about movies with their friends, so maybe their friend is also interested in it, so let’s show them some clips”.

Data aggregation is more powerful than we like to think.