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The Kresge Foundation

14 days after finishing a 20-year sentence in prison, Bilal Coleman appeared on video in an unlikely setting: a garden full of fresh herbs.

With this, Coleman kicked off his video diary project called "The Freedom Chronicles," which documented his first year out of prison.

He doesn’t say much in that first video, which was filmed in December 2015. His mentor, another formerly incarcerated man named Anthony Forrest, shares the names of various plants around them. He encourages Coleman to break off pieces and smell the rosemary and basil — the scent of which, Coleman says, reminds him of his grandma.

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Mozilla
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Firefox

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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