Home > Uncategorized > They want to watch you watch them!

They want to watch you watch them!

Privacy is something that many users are fighting to keep some of these days. The more technology advances, the more people have to learn to keep up with it and maintain their privacy and security. Mobile devices have become tools where users can share their location through apps like Foursquare, and share their thoughts through Facebook status updates and tweets. When done carelessly, users can lose control of their security. But at least then they have themselves to blame.

Unlike mobile devices, televisions are usually a one-way communication tool. Viewers do not have to worry about privacy and security. Well they don’t now but that might not be the case in the future.

Verizon recently filed patents for a television set-top box with cameras, motion sensors and microphones like the Xbox Kinect system. Verizon hopes to be able to track viewers movements in a particular room. This “media content presentation system” as Verizon calls it will select ads based on “ambient action” in the room. Meaning commercials will be targeted to the viewer’s activities and moods. Irrelevant messages will no longer overwhelm viewers, instead they will be creped out by how specifically they are being targeted. An example used by Mashable was that a couple could start to get a little closer while watching a movie and suddenly start to get condom commercials.


Verizon is not the only company seeking to capitalize on this technology. In 2008, Comcast filed a similar patent. So has Google, the online advertising giant.

Microsoft also has plans to use its Kinect camera to control who can play it’s games and access video content. The camera can monitor users and restrict underage viewers.


Microsoft filed the patent for “Content Distribution Regulation by Viewing User” in 2011.  In short, Microsoft wants to be able to make more money off licensed products like movies by having this technology on TV, cell phones, set-top boxes, and other display devices, to monitor things like how many people view the product. If the number of viewers exceeds the number of licensees, then the viewer will be interrupted and asked to purchase more licenses.

This takes the spy camera effect one step further. Not only will viewers have no more privacy since the technology can identify users and change offerings based on their profiles, they will now have to pay for every bit of entertainment they want. The public is highly disturbed by this new trend and growing desperation to earn those marketing dollars by offering the best target segments. I suppose we will have to wait to find out if all these patents are approved and how receptive the public really is to losing their privacy.

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