The Lion King/Disney

California ranks 41st in the total value of its economy invested in K-12 education, and California's per pupil spending is below the national average. Fundraisers are usually a way to help struggling schools make ends meet – except for when they're not. Elementary School in Berkley, California held a "parent's night out" fundraiser to benefit the school. The parents played the live-action remake of The Lion King to keep the kids busy while the parents were raising money for the school, thinking it would be a more affordable alternative to babysitting. It wasn't.

Over two months after the fundraiser, they received a notice from Email Licensing USA, a firm representing Disney, claiming they held an illegal screening of the film and had to pay a fine of $250. The school has no idea how the screening got flagged – or why. "One of the dads bought the movie at Best Buy," PTA president David Rose told CNN. "He owned it. We literally had no idea we were breaking any rules."

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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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