Jan. 26, 2012 at 11:19 AM ET
Aerosmith's Steven Tyler might've sung about a "dude [who] looks like a lady," but Google's convinced that a lady — yours truly — has the Internet browsing habits of a dude.
Seems odd, no? But here's a screenshot showing my Google Ad Preferences Manager and all the things Google has inferred about me based on the websites I visit. Please note that I have not edited or removed any of the categories and demographics.
The categories Google believes I'm interested in are accurate for the most part, though my interest in make-up is — much to my girlier friends' disdain — certainly not as significant as Google would have one believe. The demographics on the other hand are quite a bit off. While Google almost nailed my age range, it most definitely did not guess my gender correctly.
Thankfully there's a decent explanation for this quirky inaccuracy.
Many websites are part of the Google Display Network, a service which enables Google to show ads on those websites. Now since Google wants to show you ads that are relevant to you and your interests, it doesn't want to select them just based on the content of the sites you visit. So it quietly keeps track of the types of sites you visit in the Google Display Network and on partner sites in order to discover what appears to interest you the most.
Now before you panic, you should know that — according to Google — no personal information is recorded during this tracking process.
Here's how the company says the whole thing works:
Suddenly the information Google inferred about me makes a lot more sense.
Many of the websites I visit on a regular basis have predominantly male audiences. So Google assumes it's fairly likely I must be a manly man as well.
A manly man who is obsessed with make-up, that is.
If you'd like to know what Google has inferred about you and your interests, just peek at the Google Ads Preference Manager while logged into your Google Account. If you're more concerned about how to opt out of the interest-tracking cookies, then you should scroll to the very bottom of the page to find the necessary links and plug-ins.
Want more tech news, silly puns or amusing links? You'll get plenty of all three if you keep up with Rosa Golijan, the writer of this post, by following her on Twitter, subscribing to her Facebook posts, or circling her on Google+.