Imagine the gall it takes to sit in a meeting where community members are sharing their personal stories of racism and scroll through an online store on your computer. Now imagine the gall it takes to not just be in that meeting, but to be one of the people running it and decide your new clothing needs are more important that the concerns of Black community members.

Gary Chambers, Jr. caught East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Connie Bernard on camera shopping online during a hearing on changing the name of Lee High School—as in Robert E. Lee— on June 18. As community members shared their feelings about having a school named for the general of the confederate army—the one who fought for the South's "right" to enslave Black people—Bernard appeared to be pondering what color dress she was going to buy.

When Chambers' turn came up to speak, he said he had intended to get up and talk about how racist Robert E. Lee was, but instead was going to talk about Connie Bernard, who was "sitting over there shopping while we're talking about Robert E. Lee." Holding up his phone, he said, "This is a picture of you shopping, while we're talking about racism and history in this country."

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When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

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