Are you watching cable TV or is your cable box watching you? If you thought the days were gone of sitting on the couch and not worrying about your parents catching you doing something, think again.
It’s not your parents who are watching; it’s Verizon (News - Alert).
Verizon filed a patent application that would allow its cable box to keep an eye on the TV room. The detection system would use various sensors to determine what is going on in the room. Verizon said its system would use “a depth sensor, an image sensor, an audio sensor and a thermal sensor” to detect a viewer’s activity.
CNet reported that Verizon is already offering reports to marketers on information that is collected from cell phone usage. Bill Diggins, the U.S. chief for the Verizon Wireless (News - Alert) marketing initiative, said, “We’re able to view just everything that they do, and that’s really where data is going today. Data is the new oil.”
There is some question as to whether this practice can be considered wiretapping. Verizon is taking information that is discussed in private conversations and offered to third-party marketers and advertisers.
It would seem that the next step is to see what everyone is doing at home. According to Verizon, it would be able to know exactly what a person or group of people is doing. The sensors would be able to determine if a user is laughing, singing, eating or even playing with a pet.
In its patent application, Verizon states, “If detection facility detects that a user is playing with a dog, advertising facility may select an advertisement associated with dogs (e.g., a dog food commercial, a flea treatment commercial, etc.).”
“If detection facility detects that the user is holding a mobile device, advertising facility may be configured to communicate with the mobile device to direct the mobile device to present the selected advertisement,” the company continued. “Accordingly, not only may the selected advertisement be specifically targeted to the user, but it may also be delivered right to the user’s hands.”
It’s a scary thought – you could be sitting on the couch kissing and the next couple of advertisements that you see are for breath fresheners. If you’re eating in front of the TV, the advertisements could all be food-related.
It’s not surprising that this “gathering of private information” has not had a positive, but a negative reaction from subscribers. They feel that it’s an invasion of privacy. There’s no word as to whether Verizon would allow its subscribers the ability to opt out.
Verizon is not the first to use devices to gather information for marketers. Comcast, Microsoft (News - Alert) and Google TV have each filed or proposed similar patents. Verizon filed their patent on November 29, 2012.
Edited by Braden Becker