Email content sharing

I had a Pegasus Airlines flight from Istanbul to Bodrum yesterday. As I was browsing Twitter on the drive to the airport, I came across the in-stream ad below for Pegasus Airlines. The ad prompted me to install the Pegasus app.

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My wife had purchased the tickets on the Pegasus website, and performed our check-in earlier this week, so I wasn’t being retargeted by Pegasus.

One possibility is that the timing of the ad was a pure coincidence. I don’t think that this is the case because I don’t remember seeing Pegasus ads in the past. Seeing one for the first time right before my flight is unlikely to be a coincidence.

The more likely explanation is that Twitter somehow knew about my flight. The flight information is in my Gmail and I wrote about how Google surfaces this information in its search results in an earlier post. Google also has a partnership with Twitter whereby real-time tweets are featured in Google search results. So it could very well be that Google also shares information from Gmail to help Twitter serve up more targeted ads to its users.

However, there are two important differences between Google using information from my email to offer me more relevant search results, and Google using the same information to help a third party offer me more targeted advertisements. First, I want more relevant search results more than I want ads. Second, I don’t want Google sharing the contents of my email with third parties.

The first problem I can ignore, but the second problem is a big concern. I hope that the timing of the ad was just a coincidence. If not, this indicates an important problem with Google’s email content sharing policies.