Verizon's creepy spy-cam idea
The company wants to patent technology that watches you while you're watching television -- and shows you ads based on what you're doing.
Or maybe your young daughter is in the room watching a program with you. What if the TV saw this and started showing Barbie commercials?
That's exactly what Verizon (VZ) is proposing in a patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The application describes a system that uses infrared cameras and microphones to watch what people are doing in front of a TV.
If two people are cuddling on a couch watching TV, the system might show them a commercial for a romantic vacation, flowers, and yes, even condoms, according to the application. The system could even figure out what pets are in the room and start showing dog food commercials or flea treatment ads.
Verizon declined to comment on the issue to FierceCable, the site that first uncovered the patent application. But the company later released a statement that said it "has a well-established track record of respecting its customers' privacy and protecting their personal information." Verizon said that such futuristic patent filings are routine, and anything it did in the future would be in line with its track record of protecting customer privacy.
Companies often file patents as a defensive move to protect an idea from competitors. Verizon likely wanted to cover this ground to keep anyone else from getting there first. And as shockingly invasive as the idea might seem, someone is going to go down this road eventually.
The problem with traditional TV advertising is that it can't account for what users are doing, the patent says. This limits the effectiveness of the ads.
Some observers have likened the idea to Google's (GOOG) Gmail service, which scans a users email and shows them ads based on messages they have sent or received. This practice has raised quite a few privacy alarms in the past, even though Google claims the entire process is automated and no human is actually reading your email. Now, Gmail users don't seem to care much at all.
Google is one of several companies interested in what Verizon is doing. In fact, Google filed a patent years ago for an "image capture device" that could measure how many viewers are watching a particular broadcast, Ars Technica reports. Comcast (CMCSA) has already patented an idea to recommend TV shows based on who it sees in the living room.
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George Orwell's book "1984":
The telescreens (in every public area, and in the quarters of the people), have hidden microphones and cameras. These devices, alongside informers, permit the Thought Police to spy upon everyone and so identify anyone who might endanger the Party's régime.
Is 'Consume or Die" the next mantra...
okay hackers - please tell us how to disconnect the spy devices.
I don't think so. The world is coming closer to George Orwells 1984 every year.
TV is designed for commercial applications, not for your entertainment. The commercialism in TV creates an artificial need. Avoiding or limiting television especially for younger viewers will create a healthier environment. Get them a book to read, not a tv.
It's a damn shame that, now that the audio and video are primo, TV content sucks and the providers are becoming intrusive. Other than a game here and there, there's not much that can't be gotten on the radio, online, or from Netflix. So why do I need a DVR or even a TV provider? When this happens, the cord will be cut.
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