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TiVo Usage Info Collected For Sale

timothy posted more than 13 years ago | from the more-coneheads-and-daria-please dept.

Privacy 276

therevan writes: "Headline News reports here that TiVo, the digital television recording technology, has been accused by privacy groups of selling user usage info to advertising agencies. Now you're not even safe with your computer unplugged." Though no specific sale is talked about, the article says that TiVO has acknowleged creating an (anonymized) database of viewing information for that purpose. It's not the first time that privacy concerns about TiVO viewing habits have been raised, but the company insist that all such information is separated from personally identifying information.

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I can see it now... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#339654)

Within a year, we'll see someone maintain an organization called 'FreeVO'. FreeVO will include instructions on how to hack your TiVO to work with the FreeVO servers instead. FreeVO will provide all the same services (TV listings, and ?) TiVO does, only without soliciting or collecting private info. The source for FreeVO's servers and clients will be GPL'd, providing further evidence that privacy is not sacrificed.

Just because they say so... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#339655)

Just because TiVo says its "anonymous" dosen't make it so. Of course, corporations are always honest, trust worthy and they always tell the truth. If you believe that.. I've got some land in Florida I want to sell you.

Let Tivo make money and survive! (2)

smartin (942) | more than 13 years ago | (#339661)

I personally don't mind what they do with the data as long as my name is not attached to it. If it helps Tivo be profitable and survive against an increasing field of (more unscrupulous) competators, let them. The Tivo is great and i would be really unhappy if they were not successful and were forced out of the market and I had to go to a vendor such as M$ that really does not give a shit about the customer the way the Tive does.

Big Deal (2)

stripes (3681) | more than 13 years ago | (#339664)

  • Tivo makes this clear in their user manual. It may be close to the back, but it is in fairly large print, and pretty clear about what they do and don't do.
  • You can opt out (800 number call, also covered in the manual).
  • People that have poked around on the TiVo itself (it runs Linux, and makes it trivial to get a shell) have verified that systems set to not report back don't.

Oh, yeah, and I would rather the broadcasters knew what shows I watch so they can put more like them on the air. I would rather they know what commercials I watch, and what I skip over so they can get more entertaining ones. But that's just my opinion, you can always opt-out, it's an 800 number, and I hear it only takes a few minutes.

P.S. slashdot covered this quite a while ago, when they contrasted this with ReplayTV's policy. I didn't own either box at the time, so I didn't pay all that much attention...

Re:opt-in bonus (2)

stripes (3681) | more than 13 years ago | (#339665)

If you opt-out, you pay the $10/month fee or whatever it is.

Two problems:

  • They already decided they need the $10/month from people that opt'ed-in (or really just failed to opt-out), so the "opt-out" payment would have to be on top of that
  • Making people pay for privacy seems to be a bad PR move, so it is generally a good idea to give it away for free.

Re:800# opt-out (5)

stripes (3681) | more than 13 years ago | (#339672)

According to the article on MSNBC concerning this, TiVo claims that there is an 800# subscribers can call to have all data, even anonymous data, removed from their database and have no further data taken. Anyone know what this # is?

Chapter 7 "Privacy and Service" starts on page 71 of my manual, page 73 lists the "1-877-FOR-TIVO (1-877-367-8486)" number as the one to call to review the data TiVo has sent, or to have it all deleted and your TiVo to not send more.

It defanalty isn't hidden. The print isn't even any smaller then the rest of the plain text in the manual.

Re:opt-in bonus (1)

sjf (3790) | more than 13 years ago | (#339673)

There is an opt-in bonus, it's just that everyone gets it even if they have opted out.

The bonus is that TiVo stays in business and we get better quality advertising and a TiVo box that remains useful for the long-term.

-Simon

Always likely to happen (2)

sjf (3790) | more than 13 years ago | (#339674)

TiVo has never made a secret that this happens. You can fairly easily view the logs that are sent to TiVo. They are detailed DOWN to every button press. Yes, TiVo knows that someone (though not a specific person) freeze framed on
Lucy Lawless when she got out of that bath.I know I did) You can opt out of this with a single phone call.

But, hell, I want TiVo to be a success. I want them to still be around in the future, this means they have to make money, and this information is GOLD to advertisers. TiVo can easily work out which adverts people REALLY watch - this is a good thing.

-Simon

Re:David Letterman had some gripes about this (1)

cdipierr (4045) | more than 13 years ago | (#339675)

Sigh...Letterman's humorous gripes were just that, humor. And in any event they were about TiVo's (sometimes less than perfect) suggestions which can be turned off easily, not about privacy.

This surprises you??? (3)

Manuka (4415) | more than 13 years ago | (#339680)

I would imagine much of TiVo was designed with this capability ultimately in mind. I wouldn't mind getting the service for a discount if I consented to my viewing habits being sold, or for free if they actually attached my name to it.

Re:So what? (2)

luge (4808) | more than 13 years ago | (#339681)

and the provider of the information should be compensated.
Um... maybe Tivo will continue to exist as an independent company? TV producers will (maybe) sell more relevant ads and therefore continue producing shows? Shouldn't those things be compensation enough? Right now, unless TV advertising becomes much more effective, TV channels are facing the same long term situation as web sites- they have a lot of ads that aren't relevant and that people ignore. If Tivo can help make those ads more relevant before the ad people figure out they are wasting their money then more power to them.
~luge

They collect data, but interpret it wrong (2)

JeffL (5070) | more than 13 years ago | (#339682)

I have a Tivo, and I know they collect button press and viewing data on me, and I am fine with that (mostly because they told me up front they are doing it).

I was very amused when I read about how they interpreted the button press data: They think if I always fastforward through the commercials on the Simpsons (for example) then the commercials on the Simpsons must really suck, but if I rarely fastforward through the commercials on Friends, then those must be really good, well targeted commercials. In reality it is completely the opposite. If I am actually paying attention to a show (like the Simpsons) then I will always fastforward through the commercials, but if the show is nearly meaningless to me (like Friends) then I don't fastforward through the commercials because I am probably in the kitchen washing dishes or something where I can't even see the TV.

I wish the best to Tivo, and I hope they can pull huge amounts of money from the networks and advertisers for all of my "data", but I reserve the right to laugh at their interpretation.

Re:the latest 2.0 update and wasted disk space (3)

JeffL (5070) | more than 13 years ago | (#339683)

No, the hours are taken from people who have increased their recording time beyond a certain limit, whether by increasing the A or B drive size. A Tivo purchased with 60 hours is "really" a 72 hour Tivo with 12 hours reserved, so when 2.0 gets installed on a hacked 96 hour Tivo it notices that it isn't reserving 12 hours, so it grabs them and turns the Tivo into an 84 hour Tivo. The max number of hours it takes is 12, but the amount scales down with smaller sized units. If you haven't hacked your Tivo, it won't take any time from you.

They have not specified what the extra hours are for, but I am pretty convinced it is for some type of targetted ads. 12 hours could never be filled over the phone line, so it has to be something sucked down from the airwaves, which is either pay-per-view or targeted ads, and ads seems more realistic.

Tivo has been told, and I hope they understand, that the users won't mind targetted ads as long as they in no way impact our viewing, as soon as we are forced to watch ads then all "well behaved" hacking stops, and we all learn how to hack the guide data and cancel our subscriptions.

If we lived life like we act online (2)

IRNI (5906) | more than 13 years ago | (#339685)

At a restaurant we would go to the back with our credit card to swipe it, create our own ticket, sign it and put it in the deposit slip of the restaurant. Instead of handing the waiter our card. He could be buying stuff with it in between the time he left the table and comes back. We would walk around with paper bags on our heads. We would sue friends for using our names in conversations.

These privacy groups are a little bit too radical. Do we really want to go so far with privacy that the net is completely useless? I don't mind the slight invasion of privacy if I can use such a great tool as the internet to make life easier.

IRNI

Tivo Web Project (1)

Lightn (6014) | more than 13 years ago | (#339686)

Just wanted to plug my Tivo Web Project [lightn.org] . It is designed to give you a web interface to you TiVo that is more powerful than the native interface. And look for a release supporting 2.0 soon.

Re:They said the info is *separated* (1)

Lightn (6014) | more than 13 years ago | (#339687)

TiVo has actually gone to lengths to make sure they CAN'T associate the data. The uploaded logs include a randomized number instead of the serial number and is stripped of all identifying information. About the only way they could, would be to get the call logs from the UUNet dialups and associate them to the uploaded data. And hopefully those logs aren't kept around very long.

This is a NON-ISSUE (2)

Synn (6288) | more than 13 years ago | (#339689)

The information gathered is completely seperate from your identity and Tivo has always been up front about this.

In fact during beta I had to sign a release to allow Tivo to connect certain uploaded information to my account so they could debug a potential problem.

These guys are pro-privacy, they're not about to become Big Brother anytime soon.

Good for TiVo (3)

PD (9577) | more than 13 years ago | (#339692)

I've got a TiVo and one can only HOPE that they are selling my usage information. They will see that I never ever watch "The Golden Girls" but I do watch "Babylon 5". Maybe the networks will get a clue.

Re:the latest 2.0 update and wasted disk space (3)

alhaz (11039) | more than 13 years ago | (#339698)

The "stolen" hours you refer to are a bogeyman of the 2.0 upgrade that's been blown way out of proportion.

What TiVo SAID was that uses who have upgraded their A drive (not the B drive) will lose a portion of the space when they get 2.0 due to the way they did it. They were just giving people some fair warning.

Since upgrading the A drive is really difficult, I doubt this will affect many people.

The Problem with Tivo Selling Data (5)

Caballero (11938) | more than 13 years ago | (#339701)

The biggest problem with Tivo selling the data is that the television networks are going to figure out that Tivo users never watch commercials! I watch almost nothing in real-time and always skip the commercials. It's great, but not what television executives want to hear. There was a piece on 60 minutes recently about PVRs. This was one of their main points, if people don't watch ads then they lose the revenue to sustain the shows. They suggested in-program product placements (the hero holds up a pepsi) and pay-per-view for normal TV as alternatives. They are expecting PVRs to be the biggest commercial electonics product launch in history. (faster then CDs, DVDs, etc) We're already seeing the problems web sites are having with being advertiser driven. The only thing stopping people from doing that with TV was that it was difficult. Now PVRs make it really easy. It'l be interesting to see how it works out.

I don't think this is a big deal (1)

pivo (11957) | more than 13 years ago | (#339702)

For one, it's anonymous. Second, cable boxes have been doing this sort of thing for many years, admittedly not as accurately. That's how the Neilson ratings work, mostly cable box stats.

If I can skip commercials, maybe this will somehow help keep mainstream TV free. Actually, maybe it'd be better if advertisers abandoned TV and we had to pay for it, 'cause then I wouldn't watch it at all.

Seriously (2)

Ravenscall (12240) | more than 13 years ago | (#339704)

Is it any surprise that a large corporation uses your demographic info to target ads, make money, etc?

I do not agree with it, but it is so present in our (american) society, most people don't even care anymore.

But there is a way we can fight back.

Have as many people as possible use your grocery card, TiVO, pet club card, and whatnot. Give them such a random sampling of as many people as possible, give them fake info when you sign up for thier incentives. It may not do much, but tell your friends, have them tell thier friends.

Eventually they will be getting so much bad data, they may just quit.

And? (3)

samael (12612) | more than 13 years ago | (#339705)

How does this hurt me? Nobody got my name. Nobody got my phone number. I lost nothing. My privacy wasn't even invaded, because all they know is that some people like watching certain shows in certain proportions.

I really don't see the problem. I want them to know what shows I watch. That way they might make more of them.
_____

Re:So what? (2)

lordsutch (14777) | more than 13 years ago | (#339709)

And tell me how is this supposed to make your television viewing better, huh? This will just result in TV program being adjusted to the lowest common denominator (not that it's not already) and quality programs that are targeted at a bit more discerning viewers will disappear altogether.

Well, for one thing it will help networks determine the viewing habits of people who timeshift TV. Neilsen can't do that reliably (only with the diaries). What does that mean in practice? It means that people who actually are discerning viewers will get more weight in the process, and quality shows will look better than just the crap that happens to be on after Friends this month.

I own 2 TiVos. God knows I can't make any money selling my viewing info (who the hell cares what I watch on TV, anyway?), but if TiVo can do it by aggregating my data with that of a quarter million other people, more power to them!

Re:the latest 2.0 update and wasted disk space (1)

jamesneal (15488) | more than 13 years ago | (#339711)

Actually, it's not true. If you bought a 30 hour TiVo, you'll still have a 30 hour TiVo. This is true because a 30 hour TiVo is actually a 42 hour TiVo. You still have exactly what they sold to you.

-James

Re:So what? (1)

PieceMaker (16268) | more than 13 years ago | (#339712)

We (the TiVo using community) knew they were collecting anonymous information. What did you *think* they were going to use it for?

Does it really matter what we think? I mean, this is Slashdot, for crisakes! Hysteria is the order of the day! :)

So how do you opt out? (1)

raygundan (16760) | more than 13 years ago | (#339713)

I must have missed the bit where they go out of their way to make sure I can opt out. Do I need to send them a letter, or what? Not that I really care as long as its anonymous, but what if the company gets sold? Then they'll find out just how many cartoons I watch. Oh, the shame.

1-877-FOR-TIVO (2)

Otto (17870) | more than 13 years ago | (#339715)

1-877-FOR-TIVO. Same number as it says in the manual. Call up and request to opt-out.
---

Re:the latest 2.0 update and wasted disk space (2)

Otto (17870) | more than 13 years ago | (#339716)

It is not said what the extra space is set aside for, however, it is not "stolen" from you, it's more like a side effect of changes to the software in 2.0.

And I doubt it's for "targeted ads" as that seems a bit silly.

---

Re:This is NOTHING ground breaking... (1)

heinzkeinz (18262) | more than 13 years ago | (#339723)

To play devil's advocate for a second:

The issue of the "Privacy Foundation" is not that Tivo has been collecting data unbeknownst to its users. Moreover, they are concerned that the manual is misleading about what info it collects. They also feel that Tivo does not provide an easy way for users to opt-out of data collection.

I agree with you, on the whole, but you missed their point. However, they do have one legitimate concern, in my opinion:

When an online company closes, its database often becomes a potential asset for sale.

This problem is, of course, not unique to Tivo. The same argument could even apply to Slashdot. Hey, Taco! You'd better keep my long and illustrious history of first posts, hot grits and goatse.cx posts secret from my future employers!

Worthless data? (1)

heinzkeinz (18262) | more than 13 years ago | (#339724)

It seems to me that one of the bigger benefits of Tivo is a truly easy way to skip over advertising in TV programs. Therefore, wouldn't the viewing habits of a large group of people who never see your advertising be rather worthless? I mean, of course, there are other means of advertising, but am I missing something here?

So what? (5)

Scutter (18425) | more than 13 years ago | (#339725)

We (the TiVo using community) knew they were collecting anonymous information. What did you *think* they were going to use it for? TiVo has also gone out of their way to make sure you can opt out as well.

If it makes my television viewing better, then I'm all for *anonymous* tracking.

FP

popularity contests (1)

bliss (21836) | more than 13 years ago | (#339728)

"How does this hurt me? Nobody got my name. Nobody got my phone number. I lost nothing. My privacy wasn't even invaded, because all they know is that some people like watching certain shows in certain proportions. "

*shudders* I seriously doubt you want the viewing habits of the majority making moves on the minority. I will seriously stop watching almost anything on fox if they decide to put one of these stupid little voyeuristic "reality" shows on again or "World's Scarriest Enemas" or whatever

"I really don't see the problem. I want them to know what shows I watch. That way they might make more of them."

Dumbing down television and it's associated programming is a war crime.

declining value (1)

bliss (21836) | more than 13 years ago | (#339729)

"Can somebody please tell me how anonymous tracking data can possibly be considered a privacy violation to anyone other than black-helicopter conspiracy nuts? "

getting to it

"Does it really hurt anybody if advertisers know that 35% of Simpsons viewers also watch ER (or whatever)?"

it psychologically profiles people to determine how to create majority oriented programming which decreases the value of television.

opt-in bonus (2)

austad (22163) | more than 13 years ago | (#339731)

They should just have an opt-in bonus where you get the listing service for free if you allow them to sell your viewing habits to advertisers, or collect it for ratings. Who gives a shit if they can target you better for ads, you have a Tivo, which means you can just skip all the commercials.

If you opt-out, you pay the $10/month fee or whatever it is.

Re:And? (2)

bgarcia (33222) | more than 13 years ago | (#339738)

How does this hurt me? Nobody got my name. Nobody got my phone number...
You know that phone line you have plugged into your Tivo?

Do you have caller id blocked?

I'm not saying they would do it, but the potential is there to correlate your phone number and your viewing preferences.

No big deal (1)

wiredog (43288) | more than 13 years ago | (#339746)

See my post at kuro5hin [kuro5hin.org] for more.

Ironicly... (2)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 13 years ago | (#339748)


... you just provided information, your opinion, for free.

800# opt-out (2)

bravehamster (44836) | more than 13 years ago | (#339749)

According to the article on MSNBC concerning this, TiVo claims that there is an 800# subscribers can call to have all data, even anonymous data, removed from their database and have no further data taken. Anyone know what this # is?

Re:So what? (1)

ncc74656 (45571) | more than 13 years ago | (#339750)

It depends if you consider the following data "personally identifying information."

Anonymous Coward turns on his TV around 5:15 every weekday evening. He then watches the cooking channel for about 45 minutes, then turns his TV off.
On Tuesday, he watches ABC religiously from 6 to 9 PM.
Also, he watches the Cartoon Network every Sunday morning from 3 AM to 4 AM.
(add a few more tidbits, possibly some demographic information such as age and gender to clinch it).

Actually, I'm not even sure they can figure out when you're watching with any degree of accuracy, other than when you're watching the stuff it's recorded. While the remote can be set up to switch your TV on and off, I doubt that the TiVo box picks up your TV's on/off code. Even if it did, what would happen if you went up to the TV and hit the power button on the TV? (Since I have to get up to switch the stereo on/off anyway, I usually switch the TV at the same time.) Maybe this would work if the TiVo box controlled power to your TV, but unless you have an ancient 60s/70s model with twin knobs for tuning VHF and UHF, that wouldn't be too practical (newer TVs with digital controls typically lose all their settings when you unplug them)...and who's going to use a 25-year-old store-brand TV from Sears, JCPenney, or whoever with a TiVo?

Re:And? (1)

cetan (61150) | more than 13 years ago | (#339757)

It's a slippery slope. Once you start down that path, companies don't like turning back. They may not be selling your personal info to companies, but there's no reason to believe that they won't if things "get tough."

Question about TiVo (2)

walnut (78312) | more than 13 years ago | (#339759)

I'm not a TiVo owner, but a friend of mine is. I believe he said one of the selling points for him was that it allowed you to edit out your commercial content.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if TiVo allows you to skip advertising, then selling your consumer data without your name makes it dificult for advertisers to reach you. Yes, they can still phone you but, you can always get your phone *77ed (anonymous caller reject - stops about 70% of it). I guess junk snail-mail would still be a bit of a problem.

This is NOTHING ground breaking... (5)

Controlio (78666) | more than 13 years ago | (#339760)

This information is not secret, and in fact is well documented. It is even freely discussed in the AVS TiVo Forums. As a matter of fact, here is exactly what is sent out to TiVo headquarters, as reported by moderator Otto:

For the record, the Tivo sends back two files.


The first one is a debug logfile for the software. It contains the serial number, a bunch of good identifying info, but no viewing data or remote keypresses or anything like that.

The second file contains *only* viewing info and remote keypresses. It is time-stamped, but it has no serial number.

They are both sent back to an FTP server (in 1.3) or an HTTP server (in 2.0). The command to send them back in 2.0 includes the serial in the debug file send request, but not in the anonymous viewing data request. While it would be possible to sync them via http logfiles, it's not worth the trouble.

Face it, your individual viewing data is WORTHLESS. You're just not that important of a person. Viewing data is only worthwhile as an aggregate, despite what everyone seems to think.

Your viewing data combined with 150,000 other people's viewing data, sorted by region (zipcode is included), might have some value to it after all. Nobody cares that you watch ER, but they might care that Everybody in your zipcode watches ER. Or that everybody in your zipcode doesn't watch ER. They might try to increase advertising in that region because it does so poorly there. Or some other such thing. This is not an invasion of your privacy.

...

One more thing, while the data was sent unencrypted in 1.3, it definitely is encrypted in 2.0. Ever notice that the lights on the front of the tivo blink a few times just before the call? That's the Tivo accessing the crypto chip to encrypt the anonymous information and the debugging log.


So you need not worry about the dark black circle in the middle of your TiVo glowing red or the machine referring to you as "Dave". It's all just anonymous viewing data harvested by area, and has no ties with you whatsoever. For more info on this sort of thing, go do a search over at the AVS TiVo Forum [avsforum.com] .

Oh yeah, and STOP BEING SO PARANOID!!! :)

TiVo has been up front about this (3)

Hollins (83264) | more than 13 years ago | (#339764)

This sounds like a bunch of chicken little nonsense by an organization looking to leverage TiVo's popularity for some publicity.

I own a TiVo and the documentation and onscreen setup information made clear from the start that aggregate info will be released to outside parties unless you opt-out. In the article, The Privacy Foundation takes issue with the statement that "no one outside your home, not even the TiVo staff or any of TiVo's computer systems, will ever have access to any of your personal viewing information without your prior consent. Your preferences are personal." This is completely true. I am a twenty eight year old male and my viewing habits are only being used to make generalizations about people in my demographic.

I have real concerns about the way corporations are treating privacy, especially when they exchange information without consent, but TiVo has behaved admirably with respect to this issue, and I have been very satisfied with their service.

And...? (2)

Wind_Walker (83965) | more than 13 years ago | (#339765)

What did you all expect? Whenever you pay for a service and give anybody information about you, they are going to collect that information. I can't believe that people would be astonished by this being made public.

Companies have a business to run; collecting our information is part of that business. How do you expect a company to be competitive if they cannot know exactly who is using their products and when those products are being used?

People are going to be outraged by this "invasion of privacy". I just see it as smart business, plain and simple.

------
That's just the way it is

Links (1)

dave-fu (86011) | more than 13 years ago | (#339770)

The Privacy Foundation's statement [privacyfoundation.org] .
TiVo's response [tivo.com] .
The goat [goatse.cx] .
For what it's worth, they're the same folks that brought the Javascript e-mail bug issue to light, so whoever was proffering the idea that they might be in bed with Microsoft, seeing as how the timing of this (hot air blowing) coincides with Ultimate TV's release, well... I wouldn't be so sure of that.

What is TiVo? (2)

FattMattP (86246) | more than 13 years ago | (#339771)

Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is TiVo? I went to their site and read up on it, but it seemed to be marketing speak rather than just telling me what the hell it does. It looks like it records shows digitally. If that's the case, how would it send information back to the company? My VCR doesn't do that.

Re:And? (2)

GreyyGuy (91753) | more than 13 years ago | (#339773)

Slippery slope to what? This is different to selling info about things that matter, its just what tv you watch, isnt it?

The problem comes when people can search through the data. Say that you watch a pornographic movie. Now I know this is purely hypothetical since no one on /. would do something like that :) Now say your boss or prospective employer manages to get this information in some sort of standard report, presents it to you and points out the morals clause in your employment contract.

It isn't such a small detail now, is it?

Or think of an even more stupid senario: Think of the most conservative, narrow-minded person you know. Now think of the silliest, stupidest show you really enjoy (we all have one or a dozen of those). now imagine that the narrowminded one is using your viewing data to make a decision about you (job, loan, college, whatever). Do you still feel comfortable?

Tivo gets a slashdot effect (1)

Paradise_Pete (95412) | more than 13 years ago | (#339776)

I imagine at this point in time slashdot readers are more likely than the average person to own a tivo. This means that the data will be skewed, and that the future of network television could have a heavy slashdot influence.

This is really good. Or maybe it's worst thing that could possibly happen.

Re:So what? (3)

Keelor (95571) | more than 13 years ago | (#339777)

It depends if you consider the following data "personally identifying information."

Anonymous Coward turns on his TV around 5:15 every weekday evening. He then watches the cooking channel for about 45 minutes, then turns his TV off.
On Tuesday, he watches ABC religiously from 6 to 9 PM.
Also, he watches the Cartoon Network every Sunday morning from 3 AM to 4 AM.
(add a few more tidbits, possibly some demographic information such as age and gender to clinch it).

Now, I realize that this information is still not linked to your name, but when you consider that various companies (*cough* DoubleClick *cough*) probably have enough information on you to know many of your habits already, it wouldn't be terribly hard to say that down the road, that information could be linked to "real" personal information, such as your name.

~=Keelor

Re:This surprises you??? (2)

cworley (96911) | more than 13 years ago | (#339779)

>"I wouldn't mind getting the service for a discount if I consented to my viewing habits being sold, or for free if they actually attached my name to it."

Since Tivo is not making a profit (and is well under water, except for the AOL bail-out), you can assume that all Tivo users are currently "getting the service at a discount".

Re:This is NOTHING ground breaking... (2)

dingbat_hp (98241) | more than 13 years ago | (#339784)

Face it, your individual viewing data is WORTHLESS. You're just not that important of a person.

I disagree. Suppose I claimed "Your doubleclick cookies are worthless". This is true, provided there's no way to aggregate them further, but becomes very suspect information once there's a way to aggregate them further.

Suppose the TiVo starts collecting data about narrow-target pay-per-view cable channels that I subscribe to ? Mining the data that many late-night subscribers to "Dwarves in Very Large Boots" are also watching the religious guilt flagellation show at family prime time is exactly the sort of data synthesis that raises issues here.

What happens with an expansion of interactive TV a few years hence (as is very likely here in the UK) ? It's almost certain that TiVo's here will soon be in a position to see that I watch the interactive home shopping channels for hours a day, and which items I watched the most, and that I watch the all-state tractor pulls on the sport channel. The extra opportunities for not only synthesis, but for identifying me from my purchases are very close to the problems with DoubleClick (the ability to dis-anonymise many sites as soon as they've tracked me on a single non-anonymous one).

I trust TiVo (meaning literally what it says - I believe their honesty and intention to not sell the data). I have no problem with what TiVo have done. OTOH, I will remain receptive to news of them changing policy (Toysmart ?) and I'm certainly suspicious in the general case of other companies with similar tech.

Yup, tivo confirms that I am whipped... (3)

Dman33 (110217) | more than 13 years ago | (#339796)

They will notice that for every hour of Sopranos and NHL hockey that I watch there is 5 hours of Dawson's Creek, Sex and the City, and ER.

Yup, this anonymous tivo user is remote-whipped. :)

Re:So what? (1)

GPierce (123599) | more than 13 years ago | (#339808)

It will definitely make your life better - until the FBI/CIA/??? subpoena the records and built a database of everyone who has watched The Matrix more than 10 times.

Ok, maybe that one is a stretch, but when you are under suspicion of thinking without a permit, do you really want the investigator to have a list of every movie you have ever watched ??

Re:And? (1)

pallex (126468) | more than 13 years ago | (#339809)

>It's a slippery slope. Once you start down that path, companies don't like turning back.

Slippery slope to what? This is different to selling info about things that matter, its just what tv you watch, isnt it?

TiVo's privacy policy URL (2)

Therlin (126989) | more than 13 years ago | (#339810)

This is [tivo.com] TiVo's privacy policy, including opt out procedures.

info already in the user's manual (3)

Therlin (126989) | more than 13 years ago | (#339811)

I thought the user's manual clearly states that this information is collected anonymously and then gives opt out procedures.

Besides, I don't have anything against being able to tell the networks which shows suck and which ones are good.

what bothers me... (1)

frknfrk (127417) | more than 13 years ago | (#339812)

is NOT their database. i could care less if they make money by selling their server logs (properly anonymized, of course!). what DOES bother me is that they join a looooooooong list of companies that do this without telling their users up-front. i mean, come on. they think we won't find out? i don't care what someone does with my anonymous usage as long as they tell me first. but doing it 'secretly' is just stupid, stupid, stupid.

How anonymous is anonymous?? (2)

Enonu (129798) | more than 13 years ago | (#339814)

In order for this to be effective, wouldn't they have to attach a random ID to your TiVo??? Doesn't this make this as bad as the PIII serial number, if not worse? If I'm completely wrong, could you please enlighten me on exactly how this "anonymous" info usage is collected?

MegaDittos! MetaDittos! Wah wah wah! (5)

StoryMan (130421) | more than 13 years ago | (#339816)

Well, here's a newsflash: it's not surprising because TIVO has said for the past two years that they've been doing this.

It's no mystery, never has been a mystery, and is only a mystery to those odd privacy foundation folks who -- after two years of TIVO -- suddenly cracked open their TIVO manual and read that, yes indeed, TIVO collects and aggregates usage statistics.

I love it when "foundations" underwrite studies in order to garner publicity. Their so-called "studies" -- or press releases, whatever you want to call them -- always ride the crest of this week's current "hysterical trend."

The question we should be asking -- and no, I haven't checked their web page yet -- is who, exactly, is this foundation? What corporation has them in their pocket? (They wouldn't be involved with Microsoft, would they? I mean, MS would love to indirectly spread TIVO FUD -- indirectly, you'll notice I say -- because their oft-delayed Ultimate TV will very shortly make its way into pipelines.)

Maybe they aren't affiliated with MS at all, but it wouldn't surprise me one bit. Likewise, it wouldn't surprise me if this place gets funding from the core foundations of the American "right" -- the NRA, the various Christian fundamentalist groups, or whatever non-profit "moral authority" is the flavor of the day.

("Hey, video games are what causes the school shootings! And, TIVO, by god, it's on a video screen -- and it sorta plays like a game -- so you bet, we don't like TIVO either. It's just proof that the private button presses of our gun-carrying members are used to further the left's 'liberal' agenda!" "MegaDittos, Rush! MegaDitto's to you from Spokane!" "MegaDittos from Newport News! MetaDittos from New Mexico!" "All hail Mom, Apple Pie, shotguns, and Rush Limbaugh! Because, as you know, this country was founded on freedom: the freedom to carry guns, blow shit up, and read the bible!")

Re:Same as cable, satellite (2)

jedwards (135260) | more than 13 years ago | (#339818)

From www.barb.co.uk

Audience Measurement

The measurement service provides television audience data on a minute by minute basis for channels received within the UK. These data are available for reporting nationally as well as at the ITV and BBC regional level.
Viewing estimates are obtained from panels of television owning households representing the viewing behaviour of the 23+ million households within the UK. The panels are selected to be representative of each ITV and BBC region, and collectively provide a network sample of 4,485 households.
Panel homes are selected via a multi-stage stratified and unclustered sample design. This ensures that the panel is fully representative of households across the whole of the UK. Each panel is maintained against a range of individual and household characteristics (panel controls). As the estimates for the large majority of the panel controls are not available from Census data it is necessary to conduct surveys (Establishment Survey) to obtain this information.
The Establishment Survey is a random probability survey carried out on a continuous basis and involving some 40,000 interviews per year. The nature of this survey ensures that any changes within the characteristics of the population can be identified. Panel controls can therefore be up-dated and panel household representation adjusted to ensure representativeness is maintained. In addition to being the prime source of television population information, the Establishment Survey also generates a pool of potential recruits from which panel member homes are recruited.
Each of the 4,485 panel member households have all their television receiving equipment (sets, video cassette recorders, set-top box decoders etc.) electronically monitored by a 'peoplemeter' monitoring system. This system automatically identifies and records the channel to which each television set is tuned when switched on and all viewing involving a VCR (recording, playback, viewing through the VCR etc.). In addition the metering system incorporates the capability to 'fingerprint' videotapes during recording sessions and to subsequently identify such recorded material when played back (time-shifted viewing).
All permanent household residents and guests declare their presence in a room whilst a television set is on by pressing an allocated button on a handset. The metering system monitors all registrations made by each individual.
Throughout each day the meter system stores all the viewing undertaken by the entire household. Each night the panel household is contacted by the processing centre by telephone to collect the stored data. This procedure is carried out on every home each day to produce 'overnight' television viewing data.

the latest 2.0 update and wasted disk space (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 13 years ago | (#339821)

I read in the previous slashdot link that the 'stolen' hours that happens when you get upgraded to 2.0 software is used for targeted ads.

anyone know if this is pure speculation or if its true?

I love my tivo, but I will NOT give up disk space for ads. no way. if I find this is true, I'll probably cancel my subscription and go do an opensource linux version on a regular pc.

I assumed the stolen disk space was used for buffering YOUR chosen data. anyone really know for sure?

--

They said the info is *separated* (3)

f5426 (144654) | more than 13 years ago | (#339825)

It probably means that they need to do a SQL join to associate viewing habits to a particular customer.

Cheers,

--fred

Contractors and Third Party Service Providers (1)

khog (146409) | more than 13 years ago | (#339826)

From the TiVo privacy policy:

We use contractors to help with some of our operations. Some of these contractors will have access to our databases of Subscriber Information on a temporary basis for specific tasks. TiVo also uses third parties to help with certain aspects of its operations, which may require disclosure of your Subscriber Information to them. For example, TiVo may use a third party to communicate with you (via telephone, email, or letter) about your account or upcoming features or services, to mail rebate checks, to process and collect payment for your TiVo Service via your credit card, to generate demographic profiles based on Subscriber Information of current TiVo subscribers, and to perform other work that we may need to outsource. TiVo contractually binds these contractors and third parties to use your Subscriber Information only as necessary to perform the services they are asked to perform; such contractors and third parties are legally liable for misuse of Subscriber Information.

Now, I don't even have a TiVo, but if I did, I certainly wouldn't appreciate getting any extra phone calls about it. I must admit, however, that TiVo's policy is suprisingly understanding of consumer concerns and seems rather responsible. God help us all if the AOL/Time-Warner/Satan partnership buys them up, though.


Mike Greenberg

What you guys are missing is this... (2)

Quixote (154172) | more than 13 years ago | (#339829)

TiVo is legally correct when they say that they are not selling any private data. They are not. The files that get uploaded from your TiVo every night do not contain any identifying information (I'm talking about the files that monitor the remote keypresses, etc.).
But there is a catch here. TiVo uses UUNET dialup access to upload their files. If I were an advertising company, I would head straight to UUNET and get their caller-ID logs. Remember, UUNET has not given any privacy assurances, and neither has TiVo said anything about third parties (in this case, the advertisers and UUNET) being bound by their "privacy guarantee".
OK, now why does this bother me? Because I'm not getting compensated for this! Heck, if these advertising companies wanted my viewing habits (down to my favorite show, PBR), they should compensate me for this. Otherwise, I'm not willing to part with this information!

So what? (2)

doctor_oktagon (157579) | more than 13 years ago | (#339831)

If TiVO are actually aggregating their usage data, and selling this to marketeers so they can (for instance) profile which times to show a particular advert, then what is the problem?

This may be great: you may see an advertisement for the product of your dreams when you are actually watching your TV.

Get with it: all companies have a duty to their shareholders to make money. If they are not actually selling your personal details then they are merely trying to run their business.

Re:Same as cable, satellite (2)

doctor_oktagon (157579) | more than 13 years ago | (#339832)

Even when you are using "good ol' rabbit ears" it is still possible to capture "your" viewing demographics.

In the UK (and I'm sure everywhere else) a large number of people (20,000?) have a box in their lounge which captures their veiwing habits. This data is then scaled up so they can tell us Coronation St beat East Enders (!) by 1,200,00 viewers for Monday's nail-biting showdown between Deirdre's glasses and Ashley's Sausages (ask someone from the uk :-)

Again, this info is used mainly by the advertisers to target peak viewing times and/or specific viewing groups. I have no problem with this.

Re:What is TiVo? (2)

aardwolf64 (160070) | more than 13 years ago | (#339836)

TiVo is basically a linux box that records video/audio to an internal hard drive, so that you can pause (and rewind) live TV. It can also record just like a VCR. The TiVo will work in the background and automatically record shows that you like to watch, so it DOES keep usage statistics.

The TiVo dials into their central server every night and updates its program listings. During that time, I guess it tells them your usage information.

Re:Ironicly... (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 13 years ago | (#339840)

I will charge nothing to share my opinion that your observation is the funniest (and most insightful) comment I've seen on /. in a long time. Thanks for the laughs.

Re:So what? (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 13 years ago | (#339846)

Well said.

Can somebody please tell me how anonymous tracking data can possibly be considered a privacy violation to anyone other than black-helicopter conspiracy nuts?

Does it really hurt anybody if advertisers know that 35% of Simpsons viewers also watch ER (or whatever)?

Re:think (2)

Golias (176380) | more than 13 years ago | (#339847)

Yeah and if GM decides to make shoddy cars you should just not buy them

Correct.

and if meat packing plants decide to process meat that has been sitting on the floor with poisoned bread to catch rats, the dead rats themselves, and their fecal matter it shouldn't matter right?

That might be analogous to the situation if the meat was clearly labeled "this meat contains rat poison, dead rats, and rat shit. For God's sake, don't eat it, but if you want to buy it for composting, it's great".

TiVO made no secret of the fact tha they are sharing aggregate data, so no crime was committed. Cool your jets, Mr. Nader.

Re:declining value (3)

Golias (176380) | more than 13 years ago | (#339850)

Actually, if there is any demand at all for niche programming, the data will reflect that. As an example of how ratings do not always lead to what you call "majority oriented" programming, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is about 70th in the Neilson ratings (which is pathetic... that means it is getting about a 2.0 share, at best), but there is a 4-way network war going on to pick up the show next season, because advertisers know that Buffy has a very loyal cult following.

On the other hand, if all the people like you who prefer the more obscure shows are too paranoid to participate in the survey, the data will show that we all really love watching "Will and Grace", and you will get 24 hours of nothing else.

Been doing this for decades - Neilson ratings (1)

Ratteau (183242) | more than 13 years ago | (#339853)


Its called the Neilson ratings. They contact people and put a box in their homes to monitor their viewing habits and cross-reference that information with the viewer's demographic info. It is then published and used to determine which shows are retained, which are cut, and yes, it is valuable information for advertisers to know that their target market watches show ABC a hell of a lot more than XYZ. Nobody knows who you are, I have heard that Neilson actually asks people not to advertise their status, but I cannot verify this.

TiVo, and you will probably find that ReplayTV does the same thing (I didnt read the entire article so it may be mentioned), is just an expansion of this, except you dont have to be contacted by Neilson.

I have always wanted to be a Neilson person -- and this may prompt me to get TiVo sooner than later -- I dont know how many times Ive loved a show, only to see it cancelled. I like to think that if I had been in the Neilson sampling audience, it may have made a difference...

Wrong! (2)

sulli (195030) | more than 13 years ago | (#339858)

Have as many people as possible use your grocery card, TiVO, pet club card, and whatnot. Give them such a random sampling of as many people as possible, give them fake info when you sign up for thier incentives. It may not do much, but tell your friends, have them tell thier friends. Eventually they will be getting so much bad data, they may just quit.

But these aren't bad data! You are simply aggregating the information for the service provider. Tivo can use 10 people's usage patterns just as well as they can use one - now it looks like the customer is a really frequent viewer, but Tivo still knows that (for example) people skip all the ads on ER but they don't on the football game.

You will reduce the utility of the data to track you individually... but since Tivo isn't doing that, they won't care. Sorry!

Re:So what? (1)

owlmeat (197799) | more than 13 years ago | (#339859)

It says clearly in the manual that they will do this. If you don't like it, don't buy it. Must be a slow fsking news day.

Re:So what? (1)

ColdGrits (204506) | more than 13 years ago | (#339864)

"Information is power. You are giving that for free"

Well, given that "information wants to be free" (as many here keep claiming, usually in Napster-related threads), I don't see that you have a problem.

--

Maybe it is a big deal? (e.g., boycotts) (2)

yali (209015) | more than 13 years ago | (#339866)

Lots of posts have pointed out that this doesn't seem to be a big deal -- that they're selling information that's had personal identifiers stripped off so that third parties can only test aggregated marketing models. Thus they can't track me down with junk mail, phone calls, etc. As long as they stick to this policy, fine.

But protecting myself from unwanted intrusions is only one aspect of privacy. What about other reasons why I might want to withhold consent to use my personal information? For example, what if a company that does something I consider unsavory (damaging the environment, supporting political candidates I don't like, etc.) wants to buy my anonymized information from TiVo to use in their aggregated analysis in order to help them make a better profit? Shouldn't I have the right to withhold my information?

While this is on a tiny scale, I don't see how it differs much from a boycott. I can choose not to buy products from Company X, so why can't I avoid helping them in some other way to make a profit?

Re:No biggie (1)

aratas (210026) | more than 13 years ago | (#339869)

I don't think anyone needed statistical data to make that choice. I'm pretty sure even the brain-dead marketing people could figure out that breakfast cereal ads would work better with Saturday morning cartoons.

Who's affraid of Big Brother? (2)

tenzig_112 (213387) | more than 13 years ago | (#339870)

I chose to give TiVo my information. I chose to allow them to track my viewing habbits. If all of this results in better programming and cheaper cable for me and my family- I fail to see the harm in it.

This UPC-code I allowed to be tatooed on the back of my neck was also a great idea. Whenever I rent a movie at Blockbuster and forget my card- bam! They just scan the back of my neck and I'm good to go.

The high-band radio transmitter I had installed in my daughter's sinus cavity has earned my family over four hundred dollars in Warner Bros. store merchandise. Plus there is the added benefit that I always know where she is. Of course, I would have to go through the database managers to do that, but it's a comfort to know that I could. And the best part: the surgery was free.

To all you nay-sayers and naybobs I can only say this: imagine a future sans the great inconveniences of our day like Neilsen boxes, annoying survey calls, voting.

Think about it. [ridiculopathy.com]

AOL vs TIVO (1)

alen (225700) | more than 13 years ago | (#339874)

Let's see, AOL owns CNN now. AOL TV is based on TIVO. And everyone knows how AOL values it's customers' privacy. Why would they have a negative story on a company they do business with?

But what happens when TiVo is sold? (1)

trentfoley (226635) | more than 13 years ago | (#339875)

This so-called "foundation" does have a decent point. A company's privacy policy is only as good as the company itself. When a business goes belly-up and the bankruptcy court sells its assets (collected data included), who enforces the original privacy policy? Nobody. I think this would be a good place for some legislation

It is more important what data is collected than what data is given out. So long as it isn't collected, it can't be sold.

So, I applaud Tivo for not personally identifying the data at the point of collection. If they go belly-up, they can't be forced to sell data they don't have.

Re:ratings? (3)

GMontag451 (230904) | more than 13 years ago | (#339876)

Nielson ratings require an extra piece of equipment hooked into your TV. But Digital Cable has a transmitter built right in to the cable box. That is how it requests listings for certain times. The cable company could be using that for info collecting purposes.

Good for TiVo owners (2)

Xibby (232218) | more than 13 years ago | (#339879)

In the end, it's good for TiVo owners for TiVo to give out this info. It's much better for TiVo to sell this info. Wy? Think of how you're TiVo works.

When TiVo sells the viewing anonymous viewing info, it shows the advertisers what it is you're watching. As more and more TiVo's are sold, networks will show more programming geared to the TiVo crowd. (say filling their late night timeslots with decent programming instead of infomercials and TiVo enabling advertising.)

Plus it help fund things like the TiVo magazine and buy the airtime (On latenight Discovery) for their weekly program that you TiVo will record by default (Anyone else think they need a better host for that show?)

If the networks see value in TiVo, they will become more TiVo friendly. Maybe SiFi will actually update their schedules when the run B5 movies instead of their normal schedule. Comedy Central finally made BattleBots TiVo friendly by adding [very short] descriptions to every showing of BattleBots (just what bots are fighting in what round, it's not much, but it's enough to allow the new features in v2.0 of the TiVo software to function. [v2.0 should be out soon for those of you who aren't on the beta [tivobeta.com] program] :) (The specific feature is the one that won't record reruns for 28 days. For this to work, program descriptions are needed.)

In the end, I think that TiVo selling viewing information can only benifit me in the long run, so I have nothing agnist it as long as it is anonymous. (Anonymous to the point where marketers can't target advertising to my tivo unit, that would suck.)

If you have digital cable, the capiblaty is there to target advertising based on your location. I've even seen it happen (Timewarner kinda goofed and the commercials overlapped. One was for a national product, the overlay was a local business.) Go worry about your cable company instead, they're not as open as TiVo is about these issues.

Same as cable, satellite (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 13 years ago | (#339881)

You think that your cable & satellite companies don't do the same thing? I'd be willing to wager that they do. Some paranoia is justified, but put it in perspective. The same thing has been happening to years, and most geeks I know still use cable/satellite TV. Me, I opt for good ol' rabbit ears (but not because of privacy concerns).

Re:Same as cable, satellite (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 13 years ago | (#339882)

In the US, only a few thousand boxes have this. They're called Neilsen boxes, and they're used for, what else... Neilsen Ratings. They just use statistics to sample and extrapolate the total number of viewers. Unless there's a nearby FBI van using some really high-tech sniffer, viewing habits with rabbit ears in the US are pretty anonymous.

Re:What is TiVo? (2)

arnex (238036) | more than 13 years ago | (#339886)

This brings up an interesting point. TiVo seems to have a real image problem. Everybody thinks it's just a digital VCR, or a way to buffer live TV so people can control their own "instant replays".

TiVo is much more than this... it's like a VCR on steroids. TiVo the company provides a service by which TiVo the device dials in nightly to obtain program listings. You are able to tell the box you want to record, say, The Simpsons, and it takes care of all the programming, scheduling, etc. It will catch repeats, syndicated broadcasts, delayed broadcasts, etc. without your intervention.

It monitors your preferences and, based on what you watch, attempts to suggest other programs you might like as well. By giving different programs Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down ratings, you're able to teach the unit what sorts of programming you want to watch. It's very cool to turn it on Saturday morning and see that it's grabbed a week's worth of shows that I actually might want to see. In other words, it guarantees that there's always something on that's worth watching. It works really well, and in theory, could eliminate the need to ever program a VCR or watch live television ever again.

A lot of people have a problem with the other side of this coin -- those preferences are also sent back to TiVo (the company) during the nightly call, so they can build an aggregated database of viewing habits. As mentioned elsewhere, they don't know any personal demographic info about me, so my geographic location is the only criterion by which they can aggregate this data. Big deal.

More importantly, however, they can cross-tab viewing habits, so they (and, eventually, the broadcasters) will know that 95% of the people who watch Battlebots might also enjoy Junkyard Wars or possibly Robotica. They can also tell what episodes of a given show you might watch more than once -- or even archive for keeps using the "Save to VCR" feature -- information that none of the current ratings systems can possibly provide. This information can be used by the networks to produce better programming.

All in all, it's a good thing. I'm happy to have my data included.

read the fine print, geniuses. (1)

rebelcool (247749) | more than 13 years ago | (#339889)

The documentation for TiVo all mentions they gather data, and even mentions what to do to opt-out of it.

They've been on 60 minutes and been very honest and up-front about it. Try reading next time, and don't bitch on slashdot for your failure to do so.

ratings (1)

epicurus (252619) | more than 13 years ago | (#339891)

Seems to me, this would be a great way to collect viewing information. Better than having to fill out the Nielson(sp?) diary thing. I'd be more than happy as long as it's anonymous and I get something out of it (like a better viewing experience, money, discount, etc.)...and as long as there is a way to say 'no thanks', I can't see that there's anything wrong w/ this. Better than companies that send info to their site when you install a program (especially when they don't ask/tell you)...blah

my $0.02

Won't make TV better... (1)

Mercaptan (257186) | more than 13 years ago | (#339896)

I know it's a taste issue, but 99% of TV sucks! I'd be happier if this data they aggregated ended up delivering better programming to me. But it still doesn't. In a sense, if they didn't anonymize the usage habits, I'd hope that it would result in better personalized content to me.

Re:Seriously (1)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 13 years ago | (#339897)

But there is a way we can fight back.

Yes, don't buy a Tivo. I have the same functionality as Tivo with my TV tuner video capture board and a honking great hard drive (3x80Gb).

My main problem at present is that I can't get a satelite box which allows for program control. This means that I can record off-air (and cable if I subscribed) but not the satelite TV which has the only channels I watch - BBC World service, speedvision and comedy.

What I want is a digital VCR that connects up to my home network. I should be able to move the programs round the house like any other file. I should be able to program the recorder from the Web. I should also be able to buy additional disk drives and plug them in using firewire.

With Tivo I pay $400 for the box, then $10 per month for the 'service'. I don't want the stinking service. I am already paying for the information I need. I can't upgrade the disk in the box and I can't use the satelite TV provider of my choice.

Everyone wants your data (3)

SomeoneYouDontKnow (267893) | more than 13 years ago | (#339900)

You know, it occurs to me that companies aren't just willing to sell things to you anymore and let you go on your merry way. Now you not only pay with your hard-earned money but also with your demographics. When was the last Web site you saw where you could just go in, add one or more products to your shopping cart and simply check out without having to register and tell the company everything about yourself, including what you had for breakfast that morning? And this tactic isn't just happening online anymore. This morning's Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a story [accessatlanta.com] about how Kroger is now limiting most of its sale items to those who sign up for its discount card. And yes, they can and do keep track of what you buy. And like everyone else, they say that they'll never divulge that data. I wonder how many companies would be willing to write that promise into a legally-binding contract. Not many, I bet. You'd think that retailers would be happy to just sell us things, but no, they want to also sell us to marketers. And I don't buy the BS that this allows them to lower the prices they charge us. They're doing it to make more money, not so they can give us the benefit of lower prices. If a marketer wants my data, then they can pay me in cold hard cash. After all, it's my data, damn it. You want my demographics? Fine, show me the money! If I like your offer, then maybe we'll talk.

This might even be a good thing (1)

dachshund (300733) | more than 13 years ago | (#339901)

The problem with the current ratings system, which uses a very small number of viewers to extrapolate the habits of the entire TV-watching public, is that it often rounds off niche audiences. There may be many thousands of people watching a particular show, but the Nielsen system can often round those people off into obscurity (especially as it does not include any demographic information on those viewers.) If you're really interested in quality TV, you should be glad that your preferences are being heard, rather than extrapolated from a bunch of couch potatoes watching "Full House".

Re:So what? (1)

jotaeleemeese (303437) | more than 13 years ago | (#339904)

Information is power. You are giving that for free. Good for you, but any information I provide, even if it is anonymously recorded, should not be taked for granted and the provider of the information (although anonymous) should be compensated.

David Letterman had some gripes about this (1)

oooga (307220) | more than 13 years ago | (#339908)

He complained that his TiVO unit was automatically choosing shows for him based on what he'd watched before. It had him watching Animal Planet and *shudder* ER.

I don't get it (1)

oooga (307220) | more than 13 years ago | (#339909)

What's the point of collecting user data? TiVO just lets you record stuff right? So where do they put ads? As a non-TiVOer, help me out. Do they shrink the screen or something to put more ads on?

Re:So what? (3)

MSBob (307239) | more than 13 years ago | (#339911)

If it makes my television viewing better, then I'm all for *anonymous* tracking.

And tell me how is this supposed to make your television viewing better, huh? This will just result in TV program being adjusted to the lowest common denominator (not that it's not already) and quality programs that are targeted at a bit more discerning viewers will disappear altogether. Viewing rate is King after all! Then we will have a flood of Survivor and Temptation Island or whatever the fuck they call it these days and live coverages of school shootings.

Happy viewing!

No biggie (2)

UltraBot2K1 (320256) | more than 13 years ago | (#339914)

Wow, a TV company selling anonymous statistics to advertisers, this is unheard of! I demand my money back.

But seriously, this is nothing out of the ordinary. Television service providers, mainly networks and cable companies, have been selling viewing habits to advertisers since the television was invented. That's why you see commercials for sugary breakfast cereal during Saturday morning cartoons instead of commercials for 1-800 porn numbers.

Anonymous statistical data is in no way an invasion of anyone's privacy, it just helps to ensure that we see ads that are targetted to our interests.

This is useful information and should be for sale (1)

KingAzzy (320268) | more than 13 years ago | (#339915)

As long as it is completely disconnected with any personal info, the compilation of viewing data is definitely worth something and should be sold to the networks so that they can stop making crappy shows that everybody hates.

HTH HAND

pro-privacy... (1)

OSgod (323974) | more than 13 years ago | (#339916)

until one member of management changes. That's all it takes now-adays.

democratic TV (1)

Carbon Unit 549 (325547) | more than 13 years ago | (#339924)

I think this is a good thing. This is essentially letting you vote with your clicker as to what shows should stay or go. Now when you change the channel in disguest from the latest NY Cop blood and guts show--your vote will be counted.
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