If you think that companies such as Google and Facebook have a Big Brother feel

because of the data they collect, get ready to raise the paranoia levels:

Verizon wants to bug your conversations while you sit in front of the TV.

In a patent

application, titled “Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement

Associated with an Ambient Action of a User” the company has a diagram of a

typical living room, with the TV in front. The patent application says,

essentially, that by using a variety of methods – infrared sensors, cameras,

and microphones – it’s possible to track consumers’ moods and actions and

tailor advertisements to that.

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The application isn’t specific about the

technology. But it does note the possibility of linking smartphones and other

devices to a “detection facility.” The point made in the patent application is

that traditional targeted ads don’t account for what people actually do when

watching television. That is, are you watching the program or did you fall

asleep? And are you talking about the cool gadget James Bond just used or did

you just say that you dig his fashion choices?


Phones are already equipped with cameras, as are

tablets, and a Kinect or Wii already has motion detectors and if you are a

Comcast Xfinity customer there’s a web cam (for Skype calls) on top of your TV

already. Computers can be pretty good at picking out certain words and do so

every time a customer calls a bank.

Microsoft, in fact, said in 2010 that it wanted to target ads to people using the Kinect system in a way that isn’t very different from what Verizon is proposing. The company eventually said it would not use the Kinect’s camera for monitoring — but only after media outlets asked.  

Verizon’s patent may also be a pre-emptive strike of sorts, to block Apple or Google from trying the same thing. The phone giant hasn’t made any announcements about this technology.

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The idea that Verizon – or any other company –

could just turn on the web cam in your living room without the user’s knowledge

is sure to give many people pause. Even if the data is anonymized it’s been

demonstrated that the process is far

from perfect.

It’s just a patent application, and many ideas that

reach the USPTO never see the light of day. Or maybe the ghosts of George

Orwell and Jeremy Bentham are

sharing a laugh. 

via Dvice, Fierce Cable

Credit: Szeling/Floresco/Corbis