Stop us if you've heard this one before.
You're talking about something random like, say, pensions or a new jacket you bought in a particular shop. You then open up Instagram or Facebook and see an advert relating specifically to what you were just talking about appear in your timeline. You're then utterly freaked out, resolve to delete your app, destroy your phone, and live in the wilderness - or you shrug, chalk it up to the Baader-Meinhof complex (it's a thing, look it up), and move on with your day.
Youssef Sarhan noticed that this very thing was happening way too often for it to be coincidence, so he set out to document - via Twitter - the amount of times it happened and what he or friends of his were talking about near their phone, or even in a phone conversation.
As it turns out, there were a lot of coincidences. So many that it couldn't be reasonably considered coincidence.
Facebook are without a doubt passively listening to our conversations. Twitter too, I believe. pic.twitter.com/bGfa6bHyzS
— Youssef Sarhan ðŸŒ´ (@YS) June 3, 2016
I briefly used the word "flashdrive" in an in-person conversation yesterday, then this appears. Probably haven't said that word in years. pic.twitter.com/VffjsjaU3z
— Youssef Sarhan ðŸŒ´ (@YS) October 13, 2016
Just had a Skype call where I was talking about logging business receipts. Facebook was not open on my phone. This appears an hour later. pic.twitter.com/UnVzz1EqQl
— Youssef Sarhan ðŸŒ´ (@YS) November 5, 2016
I had an in-person conversation about work/life balance last night. Then this appears in my feed today. pic.twitter.com/1PeCTZTlUo
— Youssef Sarhan ðŸŒ´ (@YS) November 14, 2016
I was in a pharmacy a few days ago, and I asked if they sold toothbrushes.
Today, this appears: pic.twitter.com/RUjF0jglJc
— Youssef Sarhan ðŸŒ´ (@YS) April 12, 2017
I had an in-person conversation last night about investments & retirement funds. Got this ad today. IG is my only app w/ microphone access. pic.twitter.com/gk8oYW4pa6
— Youssef Sarhan ðŸŒ´ (@YS) July 24, 2017
This is only just a few tweets, but you can check out the full Twitter thread here and see for yourself. It's also worth pointing out that Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Twitter can't use your microphone or geo-location without your express permission - so it's really a question of what apps you allow to track or listen in on conversations, and what they're listening in on.
Either way, this is definitely unsettling.