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Verizon Patents Eavesdropping Using Your TV For Ad Targeting

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the 1984-was-not-a-design-manual dept.

Advertising 181

MojoKid writes with news of the latest and greatest idea brought to you by a marketing department. From the article: "It's a patent that sounds like a plot description for a science-fiction movie or the result of Apple's Siri and Google's AdSense mating. With it, Verizon could program its set-top boxes to survey a room to determine relevant ads to display either on your television or mobile phone. Sound a bit scary? It kind of is. Verizon's new technology can work a variety of ways. For starters, it can listen in on conversations — whether it be with someone else in the room or on the phone — and pick out keywords that would aid it in its duties. In reality, it's simple stuff in this day and age, but that doesn't make it any less off-putting. Imagine arguing with your significant other and then seeing marriage counseling ads on the TV — or better, cuddling and then seeing ads for contraceptives."

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Prior art (5, Funny)

ACE209 (1067276) | about 2 years ago | (#42190949)

Isn't there prior art from 1984?
(I leave it to you if I meant the year or a certain novell)

Re:Prior art (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 2 years ago | (#42191115)

Isn't there prior art from 1984?

It's starting to feel like the title was off by just 30 years. At the rate we're going 1984 (the book) is a blueprint for 2014.

Re:Prior art (5, Funny)

arcctgx (607542) | about 2 years ago | (#42191341)

Yeah, and people seem to be forgetting that the book was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual.

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42192577)

Yeah, and people seem to be forgetting that the book was supposed to be a warning, not an instruction manual.

Don't see how people could forget, given that this post is repeated every 12 seconds here on slashdot

I've said it before... (2)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 2 years ago | (#42191647)

Some people see "1984" as a guidebook, not as a warning.

But actually, this is just a company, who is trying to maximize profits (breaking laws generates a cash cost, which is taken into account in the optimization study). The spying is scary, but the results are just some ads, which in a worst case are very embarrassing.

Next week's article, which reports that multiple governments are interested in this same technology, will be more worrying.

Re:I've said it before... (3, Insightful)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 years ago | (#42192207)

Yesterday in Slashdot we discussed that police departments are urging legislators to REQUIRE that mobile service providers keep a log of text messages for all users. While many would agree that using such information to prosecute true criminals of heinous crimes, the same logs could be abused just as easily by a tyrannical regime. Active monitoring devices in our own homes could have a chilling effect on dissent of any form. Congress inquiries with questions like "are you or have you ever been a member of the [fill in your political affiliation] Party?" McCarthyism unfolded on a public stage and revealed itself to the American people for what it was. Today we just have to mention the word "McCarthyism" and it has a similar connotation as invoking the words "Hitler" "facist" or "communist". But if a tyrannical regime could suppress dissent before it ever leaves the home from which the most fundamental discussions begin, then there would be litte hope of dissent ever forming a critical mass following that could effect change. The references to 1984 are quite appropriate.

But even without the threat from a potential tyrant, imagine the damage that could be done if scammers or British newspapers hack into the system?

Re:I've said it before... (-1, Troll)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 2 years ago | (#42192263)

Liberty is not for the faint of heart, and those people (fainthearted) are running the country. Ergo, Liberty is threatened. And it is much worse under the (D) party because the complicity of the media's failure to report anything negative about them.

Re:I've said it before... (4, Insightful)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | about 2 years ago | (#42192423)

Can I buy drugs from you? Seriously, you want to drag partisan rhetoric into this? Both parties are criminally complicit in the erosion of our civil liberties, and people like you are the reason why we cannot make any progress.

Re:I've said it before... (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 2 years ago | (#42192547)

In my world, you would be able to buy drugs, legally. I'd also regulate and tax them and require sellers to be registered and buyers to present ID to buy it much like alcohol and cigarettes are regulated and controlled. Think about the terrorism caused by the "war on drugs", and realize that narco terrorism is ruining Mexico (and other Latin countries).

Liberties are being sacrificed because we are sacrificing liberties to gain safety and not getting any safer. The better option is to realize that in a free state of liberty, bad stuff happens, and deal with the bad stuff as it happens, rather than restricting things and having bad stuff still happen, which leads to the increasing tyranny of trying to prevent bad stuff from happening.

Legal? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42190965)

How does this get around wire-tapping laws in the two party states (where both parties need to know there's recording going on)? If someone comes over and watches TV, do you have to tell them or does Verizon since Verizon is the party doing the recording?

Re:Legal? (4, Interesting)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 2 years ago | (#42191045)

How does this get around wire-tapping laws in the two party states (where both parties need to know there's recording going on)? If someone comes over and watches TV, do you have to tell them or does Verizon since Verizon is the party doing the recording?

IANAL but I am a cynic, so here's what I think would happen:

Assuming Verizon couldn't just pay some lobbyists to get themselves an exemption, they would simply not record the audio. They would have a list of keywords and they would listen for them in real time. If the system hears a keyword, it increments a counter associated with the keyword but that is all it does, the audio is immediate sent to /dev/null without any sort of permanent record. No actual recording, no legal violation.

Re:Legal? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#42191197)

I would love to see the result of two of these systems in the same room, like a Furby and Siri talking to each other. On the downside, our current president's last name has the sound of a weapon in it, so would that increment his name and that weapon every time only his name was spoken? Would the SS be summarily notified?

Re:Legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191293)

Or, we could vote with our wallets. I'd imagine that there are some people that might actually go for something like this, and so would buy into it. I don't see how someone would want it long-term, so as long as there was a way to disable it and Verizon finally got the message that people don't want it, it'll disappear just like other failed technology (the original Windows phone, for example).

Re:Legal? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#42191543)

Unfortunately such a vote would, in many regions, not be between 'good cable company and evil cable company' but between 'cable and no cable'.. which given that cable is somewhat of a luxury item that is not all that nesseary doesn't make the choice that much harder. Still, consumer choice works best when people have equivalent choices to choose between as opposed to 'how much will people put up with in order to access a resource'.

Re:Legal? (2)

hlavac (914630) | about 2 years ago | (#42191839)

Dump the TV already. I did.

Re:Legal? (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#42191327)

If the system hears a keyword, it increments a counter associated with the keyword but that is all it does, the audio is immediate sent to /dev/null without any sort of permanent record. No actual recording, no legal violation.

I like speak in phrases whereby the words said never repeat. Using grammatic syntax reconstruction they could discern, to a high degree of certainty, what has been spoken...

Re:Legal? (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | about 2 years ago | (#42191483)

How does this get around wire-tapping laws in the two party states (where both parties need to know there's recording going on)? If someone comes over and watches TV, do you have to tell them or does Verizon since Verizon is the party doing the recording?

IANAL but I am a cynic, so here's what I think would happen:

Assuming Verizon couldn't just pay some lobbyists to get themselves an exemption, they would simply not record the audio. They would have a list of keywords and they would listen for them in real time. If the system hears a keyword, it increments a counter associated with the keyword but that is all it does, the audio is immediate sent to /dev/null without any sort of permanent record. No actual recording, no legal violation.

Well transcribing the conversation would certainly be a recording. However, I think, transcribing a certain subset of words I think would qualify as well.

...because... not... record every..., not mean... know... meaning... conversation... especially... recording... key...

Re:Legal? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 2 years ago | (#42192349)

Well transcribing the conversation would certainly be a recording.

No. If that were true, then anyone writing down what was said over a phone call would be in violation of the two party consent laws in the states that have them. Transcription is not legally considered a recording for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which the identity of the speaker is no longer directly tied to the words that were spoken. Anybody can write something down and attribute the words to someone else, but in theory only the speaker could actually say the words themselves.

Re:Legal? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42191835)

Why would anyone buy one of these boxes in the first place??

Re:Legal? (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about 2 years ago | (#42192193)

Depends on your definition of record. What's the difference between video recording a road to keep track of all the cars that pass through, or a person counting the cars that pass by and taking note of the registration plates.

A counter in the TV that takes note of how many times words are said is the same thing as making an audio recording of a conversation. If they did speech to text and produced an entire transcript of conversations, isn't that the same as an audio recording?

I really hope this never ever takes off, if it does I'll make sure that it can be easily disabled before I'd buy any TV with it (assuming EVERY TV has it, otherwise I just buy one that doesn't)

Re:Legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42192475)

The paranoid have been absolutely certain that their TV watches them since the day TV was invented. Consider this nonsense a paranoia amplifier. And then there are those bathroom mirrors and we all just know that strange beings live in those mirrors.

Re:Legal? (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#42191065)

I expect it gets around it by not actually explicitly transmitting what it hears or sees to anyone else... but instead uses local software to infer what ads would be appropriate for the context, and then pull those advertisements down.

Re:Legal? (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 2 years ago | (#42191067)

How does this get around wire-tapping laws in the two party states (where both parties need to know there's recording going on)? If someone comes over and watches TV, do you have to tell them or does Verizon since Verizon is the party doing the recording?

Do you use Verizon? If so, I'd suggest carefully re-reading your contract with this development in mind . . .

Re:Legal? (3, Insightful)

Jawnn (445279) | about 2 years ago | (#42191077)

Simple. Verizon (or whoever licenses their technology) will have made more than enough "campaign contributions" to keep the regulators from bothering them. You didn't really think your privacy mattered when stood up against corporate interests, did you? Wake up.

Re:Legal? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#42192053)

Simple. Verizon (or whoever licenses their technology) will have made more than enough "campaign contributions" to keep the regulators from bothering them. You didn't really think your privacy mattered when stood up against corporate interests, did you? Wake up.

I don't know which makes me more sad: that this post has been modded Insightful, or the fact it's an appropriate mod...

Probably the latter :(

Re:Legal? (1)

jameshofo (1454841) | about 2 years ago | (#42191261)

They can just ask you if you want to enable the feature nothing intrusive, say every time you change the channel or whatever, or just offer you a discount on your bill by enabling it. Maybe they call it something catchy like "Content relativity sensors", or hell just make it enabled by default and bury it in the list of crap you have to sign when you get service. Most people would probably go for it not taking the time to read the enormously long disclaimer that says "we own the content you produce and you have no right to it unless you or anyone who asks pays us ellevendy billion dollars!"

Re:Legal? (1)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#42191497)

EULA.

Such laws usually state that both parties must consent.. not that both parties must understand hey are consenting.

Re:Legal? (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about 2 years ago | (#42191739)

The greatest weakness of EULAs are that there is no signature or other record that a EULA was consented to. The weak boilerplate of "By opening and/or using" fails, because Joe could have opened the box and thrown away the EULA, and then given it to me. He didn't use it, I didn't consent, or even know one existed.

Re:Legal? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about 2 years ago | (#42192121)

Yeah, the idea of a contract without any communication, or even evidence that communication might have happened, is pretty hilarious.

Re:Legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191567)

Verizon will claim you consented to be recorded when you clicked through the EULA.

Re:Legal? (1)

dontfearthereaper (2657807) | about 2 years ago | (#42191953)

How does this get around wire-tapping laws...

Pretty easily actually....
First: bury it in layers and layers of fine print and legalese in the EULA, which, lets face it, no one actually reads.
Second: incentivization. Offers for free crap in the US sells crap quicker than ammunition sells in the middle east.
Third: Lobbying: sell it to congressional officials as a 'counter terrorism' tool, build in a back door for DoD/DHS and it'll be legalized in the annual defense authorization bills almost instantaneously.

Will it be abused? When hasn't a corporation and/or government entity abused something?
You tell me....

Re:Legal? (1)

Sloppy (14984) | about 2 years ago | (#42192067)

How does this get around wire-tapping laws in the two party states (where both parties need to know there's recording going on)?

That's the buyer's problem. His computer, not Verizon's computer, is recording people without their consent or knowledge.

Your computer is your agent. If you don't know whose interests your agent serves, maybe you should fire that agent. If you think your agent might get you in trouble with the government, then all the more reason to JUST SAY NO.

Re:Legal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42192347)

Push it under the USAPATRIOT act, or say that it is required for law enforcement... no judge (if they value their career) would get in the way then.

Problem (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42190967)

So, how would Verizon go about this without it breaking the law? It sounds like eavesdropping, interception of communications and whatever other legal description there is for bugging a room.

I don't think their EULA will protect them from prosecution and civil law suits on this one.

Re:Problem (2)

muindaur (925372) | about 2 years ago | (#42191101)

That would be easy actually. As there is this thing called fine print, and service with them requires signing an agreement. Since most people don't read theirs, it would be easy to sneak it in.

Re:Problem (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#42191443)

That would be easy actually. As there is this thing called fine print, and service with them requires signing an agreement. Since most people don't read theirs, it would be easy to sneak it in.

'fine print' is not a legally valid excuse for criminal behavior.

Source: was sued by a former employer for breach of a contract that a judge determined illegal (due to clauses that flouted the law) and dismissed.

Re:Problem (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#42191491)

Fine print would not protect them from stuff like child porn.

Little Jane the baby watching Sesame Street without a shirt on, being recorded by a camera. It's already been argued for pirated/cracks for games that a copy has been made in the system RAM, therefore Verizon just created CP.

Re:Problem (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#42192095)

Fine print would not protect them from stuff like child porn.

Little Jane the baby watching Sesame Street without a shirt on, being recorded by a camera. It's already been argued for pirated/cracks for games that a copy has been made in the system RAM, therefore Verizon just created CP.

Related question - if you rent a laptop from someplace like Aaron's, is the rental place held liable for stuff that gets put on the laptop while it's in your possession?

I ask, because chances are Verizon 'rents' these boxes to their customers, which probably means the onus is on the renter, not Verizon. I wouldn't put it past the greedy fucks to charge the parents in your anecdote with producing and possessing CP.

Re:Problem (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about 2 years ago | (#42192325)

I think you would need to establish what is being sent back to Aarons.

Customers may rent them, but customers could also reformat them clean. If Aarons locked them down so only they had administrator rights and the laptop were reporting back personal information, like CC, photos, porn, etc... then they might be in some hot water.

Even if Verizon just rented them, I highly doubt they will give users administrator access to them to wipe.

1984 (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 2 years ago | (#42190975)

If you haven't already read George Orwell's 1984 [amazon.com] , you really should do so. The frequent comparisons between contemporary society and the novel aren't just based on a vague feeling of constant surveillance, which you might imagine if you don't have a knowledge of the book itself, but with things like this even Orwell's specific technology is coming true and even being outdone.

In the novel, the protagonist Winston Smith's television watched him just as he was watching it. He had the advantage of an alcove in his home that wasn't within the view of the "telescreen", where he could sit and keep a secret diary. With this news story and the way microphone technology is evolving, I fear that even retiring to a secluded part of the room to write one's forbidden thoughts will have a Clippyesque mascot pop up on the screen to sell you pens and paper.

Re:1984 (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191119)

The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed) but there was no way of shutting it off completely.

...

The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live - did live, from habit that became instinct-in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer;

Reality begets fiction. I would prefer this happen only for wondorous things. But sometimes reality begets nightmares.

Re:1984 (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#42191323)

In the novel, the protagonist Winston Smith's television watched him just as he was watching it.

Interestingly, Apple has three relevant patents. The first involves concealing the camera behind a panel [sumobrain.com] . These cameras could still be detected by disassembling the device and inspecting its contents, and as such will appear in any disassembly article. The second involves actually hiding the camera behind the display itself [maclife.com] , requiring a specially-modified display panel and backlight. And finally, the real piece de resistance, and actually not the latest of these patents: A display whose image sensing elements are distributed throughout [google.com] . And of course, through gaming, Microsoft has gotten in on the action too. [slate.com] (I didn't want anyone to think I was going to leave them out, or single Apple out...)

Re:1984 (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#42191395)

Arguably, the stuff the abhuman scum over in advertising are pushing is a much more subtle and dangerous flavor than the traditional statist dystopian genre.

If you try hard enough, you can build a statist dystopia(y hello thar, GDR); but that sort of thing is staggeringly expensive. The tighter you want your surveillance to be, the bigger the capital and operational costs. If you aren't careful, you'll eventually collapse under your own weight, or have so many subjects pissed off at being poor that you just can't hire enough guns to keep them in line.

With commercially-supported(but eminently dual use) technologys, though, you can largely sidestep this problem. People buy their own radio-equipped microphone/camera modules, lovingly charge them every day, and pay the cell phone bill. They voluntarily buy the cable box because how else will the magic of football reach them? They sign up for the credit cards and the 'loyalty' cards, and so on and so forth. It still isn't free to build an apparatus for demanding the data from the private sector and crunching it; but the impressively vast and thorough mechanism for gathering and storing in convenient machine-readable format all sorts of cool invasive details is automatically provided, and running at a profit no less! All you have to do is put a few CALEA style mechanisms in place, and enjoy!

Re:1984 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191949)

Omnipresent high tech oppression gear, paid for by the target. The future global tyrant who came up with this must be laughing his ass off right now.

Wait ... who authorized a mike in my STB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191017)

I didn't. Did they include a camera too? And here I've been making fun of those guys wearing tinfoil!

Re:Wait ... who authorized a mike in my STB? (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | about 2 years ago | (#42191113)

You have speakers right? Same basic principles at work...

Re:Wait ... who authorized a mike in my STB? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#42191533)

I find that the teeny MEMs mics you can get these days are the best for stoking people with incipient paranoia. "Oh, sure, 3x3.5mm surface mount package, looks barely different from any other teeny IC, reasonably sensitive, they could be almost anywhere..."

Too late (2)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 2 years ago | (#42191033)

"Imagine . . . cuddling and then seeing ads for contraceptives."

If one could actually get past the creepy, peeping-tom, psycho-stalker element of that concept -- which I don't think I could do -- there's still the problem that once you're "cuddling" you've probably already made your contraceptive purchase. And if you haven't, it's a little late for advertising.

Now I'm trying to un-imagine what "cuddling" sounds like.

Re:Too late (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#42191071)

They could always show ads for baby clothes and the like, if they could differentiate between cuddling with and without contraceptives. I dunno, cuddling has always been kind of snuggling up comfortably to me, what the subbie probably meant to say was having wild yowling sex.

Re:Too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191103)

If you're trying to unimagine FAP FAP FAP, you're doing it wrong.

Re:Too late - and if in Georgia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191109)

and if your in Georgia and detected as cuddling in the "wrong" way, or with the wrong gender, no doubt the Sodomy police will also get notified!

Re:Too late (1)

fred911 (83970) | about 2 years ago | (#42191539)

"once you're "cuddling" you've probably already made your contraceptive purchase."

Absolutely. Therefore, I hereby patent the use of hyper-linking to display pre-selected porn, once cuddling has been determined.

Re:Too late (1)

homey of my owney (975234) | about 2 years ago | (#42192069)

Imagine arguing with your significant other...

And seeing an ad for a divorce lawyer.

Re:Too late (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about 2 years ago | (#42192283)

There is a positive side of course. Sometimes you're there cuddling and trying to find a suitable way of getting smoothly to the sexytimes. Having an add for contraceptives would be a great queue.

Better than Siri (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42192573)

What a great advancement! Now, instead of saying:

"Siri, where can I bury a dead body?" and waiting for a map, I can just say:

"Where can I bury a dead body" and watch an ad for the Sopranos.

VERIZON RULEZ !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191055)

Your world !! And you !! Suck it up and stop whining about pending patents that never go anywhere !! Would you rather MS patented it ??!!

Re:VERIZON RULEZ !! (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#42191485)

Your world !! And you !! Suck it up and stop whining about pending patents that never go anywhere !! Would you rather MS patented it ??!!

They already have a very similar patent for use of the Kinect, not sure how the patent office let that one slide...

Fucked. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191063)

This is absolutely FUCKED.

Kills the Mood.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191087)

doesn't even begin to describe it.

Against this, but not "spying" on TV habits. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191093)

This is a step too far, and sadly it will impact TVs that monitor your viewing habits for advertising and to report actual legit numbers to TV production companies, which is a shame.

Shame for advertising because advertising isn't a bad thing, just abused by scrubby people and dodgy companies.
I've found some of my most used services and programs through advertising, without it I would be lost.

HUGE shame for viewing figures because the current methods are terribly bad. Not even jokingly bad or anything, it is just sad because so many good shows are cancelled because the demographics are exactly the types of people who wouldn't overly-discuss things or subscribe to newsletters or whatever other metrics these companies claim to use. (and especially not voluntary monitoring)
Sci-fi, horror, obscure comedy, dark comedy, so many other niche areas, they all get cancelled because fans don't obsessively talk about them like they do with, say, reality TV or whatever else. And writing a show to encourage discussion often takes away from the show too, it is all fine and well if you write some mystery in to your show, but it plain doesn't work in some things and can even damage the integrity of the show overall.

Why would you do this Verizon? You know nobody would want this, and now you just damaged a possible future for monitoring TV habits by default. Great one, idiots.

off putting? people LOVE this stuff. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191125)

It's "off putting" to me, so I won't buy one. But look at how people fall all over themselves to use email services that data-mine keywords from their emails for advertising purposes. Look at how people let Facebook snoop their visits not only to facebook, but to a million other sites around the web.

As far as i can tell, people LOVE having parts of their private conversations captured, data-mined for ad keywords, and used to display advertising to them. I see no reason to believe they won't love this too, although I am bewildered at why anyone would. But just watch.... I am always - always, surprised by how little people care about privacy. It seems just the opposite, they actually prefer not having any.

Re:off putting? people LOVE this stuff. (1)

kilfarsnar (561956) | about 2 years ago | (#42191705)

It's "off putting" to me, so I won't buy one. But look at how people fall all over themselves to use email services that data-mine keywords from their emails for advertising purposes. Look at how people let Facebook snoop their visits not only to facebook, but to a million other sites around the web.

As far as i can tell, people LOVE having parts of their private conversations captured, data-mined for ad keywords, and used to display advertising to them. I see no reason to believe they won't love this too, although I am bewildered at why anyone would. But just watch.... I am always - always, surprised by how little people care about privacy. It seems just the opposite, they actually prefer not having any.

They don't see the downside in their daily lives, so they don't notice it. It takes thinking a few moves ahead to see what constant data capture and mining can be used for. It takes critical thinking and some imagination. But if you sign up for GMail, how is your life different the next day? Other than your new email address, it isn't. We all live in our own little worlds and most of us never question it. Most think the world is just as it seems day-to-day, and don't consider what is happening outside of their immediate field of vision.

I love my FiOS (1)

saveferrousoxide (2566033) | about 2 years ago | (#42191137)

but that's enough to make me switch to Comcast if they actually follow through with this.

No deaths yet. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#42191149)

As long as the 'verts don't blow up any heads, where's the harm? /sarcasm

Re:No deaths yet. (2)

Bieeanda (961632) | about 2 years ago | (#42191547)

Fortunately there's been a bit of lag, and we're only fifteen minutes into the future so far.

Please stop the hyerbolic 1984 rants (2)

h2okies (1203490) | about 2 years ago | (#42191163)

Just because it's patented doesn't mean it will ever see the light of day in a working product.

Verizon realizes this is a public relations nightmare and that the backlash would be so ridiculous it would cave their corporate head quarters phone system, along with calls to Senate and House hearings and the CEO's head.

So stand down people we are not on some slippery slope here. If and only if they actually submit a product for testing, should anyone get worked up by this.

Another misleading subject line (2)

RNLockwood (224353) | about 2 years ago | (#42191187)

"Verizon Patents Eavesdropping Using Your TV For Ad Targeting"

It's not my TV or even yours in which it's installed, it's in the set-top box that decodes the signal and responds to the remote. I'll bet that if it's ever deployed DHS will have a back door.

Re:Another misleading subject line (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191275)

"It's not my TV or even yours in which it's installed, it's in the set-top box that decodes the signal and responds to the remote."

The Asperger's story [slashdot.org] was last Sunday.

Re:Another misleading subject line (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 2 years ago | (#42191421)

" I'll bet that if it's ever deployed DHS will have a back door."

And that's supposed to make us feel better?

Re:Another misleading subject line (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#42191433)

Mr. Anderson, what good will a "set-top box" be to you if you have no TV? ::poof::

Also, you are now aware that many TVs run Linux or other OSs within them. I see no exclusion for performing such "set-top box" features on a TV that has a camera and/or microphone...you know, like a computer has.

Oh F'ing great... (1)

3seas (184403) | about 2 years ago | (#42191201)

now when the commercial comes on and you get up to get snaks or go to the bathroom it'll pause so you don't miss the commercials...

Unlikely (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191203)

That would be in violation of federal wiretap laws.
The same reason I can't hack into your webcam.
Of course if you authorize it then all bets are off.

Re:Unlikely (1)

Scutter (18425) | about 2 years ago | (#42191373)

Laws are for me and you, not for big corporations, police, or governments.

Bugging (3, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | about 2 years ago | (#42191243)

I bet anything that police / courts will determine that a warrant is not necessary to intercept this eavesdropping since it was already there (or some other flimsy reasoning). Instant audio bug.

Re:Bugging (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#42191455)

Or, indeed, because you have no expectation of privacy.

Re:Bugging (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#42192157)

Or, indeed, because you have no expectation of privacy.

Even in your living room.

"You bought a TV with a camera and mic in it, right? So you want to be monitored! What's that? You say you didn't have a choice because today all TV's have camera's and mic's in them? Well, now you're just being a whiner."

Sadly, this is actually how many of my conversations regarding ubiquitous surveillance go.

Anyone have a Gmail account? (2)

SomePoorSchmuck (183775) | about 2 years ago | (#42191351)

...and how is this different from Google reading all your mail discussions and targeting ads to you? You've already accepted that a corporation can listen to your conversations and build a profile of your likely purchasing habits. Does the difference in medium - from text to audio - really make that much difference?

Re:Anyone have a Gmail account? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191473)

I do see your point. However, I tend to be careful with what I put into email or Facebook. There are a great many things I will say, but will I will never put them in print.

Re:Anyone have a Gmail account? (1)

rickb928 (945187) | about 2 years ago | (#42191613)

I tolerate it from Google because they provide me a useful email service in exchange for access to my infor, and targeting ads that I overwhelmingly ignore (when I'm not gaming them for entertainment). My cable provider delivers to me a service I paid for already. If they which to further enhance their revenue stream by this or similar methods (beyond monitoring my set top already for channel changes and such), I may just clip the cable and move on.

And as others have mentioned, the real poroblem here is that the government, at all levels, will latch on to this data because, for lack of a better way to put it, they can. We will be fighting this for a long, long time.

Re:Anyone have a Gmail account? (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 2 years ago | (#42191905)

...and how is this different from Google reading all your mail discussions and targeting ads to you?

Well, that's why I don't use Gmail. But there is still a difference: your e-mail, by its nature, goes through Google's servers. Your conversations at home do not naturally flow through Verizon's.

Re:Anyone have a Gmail account? (1)

Holi (250190) | about 2 years ago | (#42192307)

Installing a microphone in my house is quite a bit different then having an algorithm dig through mail stored on your server.

disable it (1)

jason777 (557591) | about 2 years ago | (#42191353)

Do these set top boxes have microphones now??? If so, I'm opening mine up and cutting the connection to it. Theres no way I'm allowing the possibility of anyone listening in to my home. You know eventually this will certainly be abused.

Re:disable it (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 2 years ago | (#42191411)

Breach of contract, violation of terms of service, vandalism of property. I see permanent ban on Verizon telecom services and a civil judgement against you, with possible criminal charges for the vandalism.

Enjoy the new (TV) lineup!

Re:disable it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191625)

Do these set top boxes have microphones now??? If so, I'm opening mine up and cutting the connection to it. Theres no way I'm allowing the possibility of anyone listening in to my home. You know eventually this will certainly be abused.

You know the big obvious mic behind the front panel will be fake so the real mic that looks just like another chip on the circuit board can carry on recording.
Sorry not recording, "Monitoring".

The cutting of the wire to the fake mic will of course be detected by the internal circuitry and you will suddenly get a lot of ads for tin foil hats.

     

Facebook users say.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42191369)

"We LOVE being data-mined! Please, do it more!"

    - signed, every Facebook user everywhere

Do digital cable boxes report your viewing habits? (2)

Marrow (195242) | about 2 years ago | (#42191379)

It would be easy for them to see what ads you surfed away from. That information could be saleable and most people would not mind it too much. OTOH, people would mind if they reported on what you were watching when the commercial came up.

Information Extraction (2)

Bob9113 (14996) | about 2 years ago | (#42191457)

Arguments? Pillow talk? Imagine it overhears you discussing whether it is time to overthrow the government (one of the duties of American citizens is to overthrow the government when necessary -- see, for example, The Declaration of Independence). Now suppose it shows you ads for Buds Gun Shop and three books; The Anarchist Cookbook, The Amateur's Guide to Forming a Militia, and So You Want to Overthrow The Government.

Now, since Verizon is a good citizen that wants to play ball with the government, they provide access to their private corporate information about what ads they have been serving to which households.

Think of the fun you can have with this.... (2)

3seas (184403) | about 2 years ago | (#42191463)

You have a girlfriend over and little does she know you have cause sex based ads to happen... Or to test how far the information collected goes - role play and act out a murder scene...And then wait for the police to show up ....I've fallen and cant get up...

No phone, no problem (2)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 2 years ago | (#42191487)

I don't use Verizon for my television but in my parents case, they don't have a cell phone from Verizon so there can't be any listening in on conversations.

As to the set top box, the article mentions infrared sensors. Electrical tape works wonders. If Verizon complains about "hacking" their hardware, put the set top box in a closed tv stand. It's your property, not theirs, so they can't complain.

As to a mic in the set top box, same thing. Inside a a closed tv stand what little sound they can pick up will be muffled and not worth their effort to figure out.

If they still have a problem, cancel your service. Problem solved.

As good a time as any (1)

spcebar (2786203) | about 2 years ago | (#42191527)

Well, I was planning on selling my T.V. anyway.

marketability of zero (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#42191635)

And as soon as CNN gets a hold of this, purchases drop to zero. People do not want to be spied on. If there are 99 TVs that all got together and decided to spy on people and there's 1 Chinese knock off, off-brand that doesn't, everyone is going to buy that one instead. This will fail horribly.

Not a patent, just an application (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | about 2 years ago | (#42191651)

... so before everyone goes complaining about prior art existing and how the USPTO must be off their rocker to allow this, it hasn't been allowed yet. It hasn't even been examined. It was applied for 18 months ago, and all patent applications are published after 18 months. It'll probably be first examined sometime next year, with the current backlog.

In the meantime, you can do something useful by submitting prior art [groklaw.net] .

block them out (2)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | about 2 years ago | (#42191723)

So when I fill the microphone device on my set top box with glue, will I get ads for a better cable provider?

The targeted ad myth (3, Insightful)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#42191967)

I think, decades from now, we'll look back on the very concept of "targeted advertising" with mockery, like "Duck and Cover" drills in the 50s. Not because it's evil or privacy-invading, but because it doesn't work. (At least, in my estimation).

Seriously. You can *maybe* target your advertising to people working in a general profession, or in a geographical region, or maybe an age group. But every time I've seen ads targeting me because of something more specific, it's been a terrible failure.

The ads on Angry Birds were, at one point, *convinced* I was a gay black man with HIV. They were bombarding me with ads for "gay thug dating" or "HIV testing", despite the fact that the only thing they actually got right was "male" (and it's easy to get that one right when it's 50/50 on a blind guess).

Google keeps hitting me with sports ads. Football, I think, but I care so little about sports in general that I can't really tell. Which tells you how inclined I am to click those links. Or if I buy something, I start getting a lot of ads for competing products, *after* the fact.

Steam targets poorly with their "recommended games" bit. Usually, it's either stuff already on my wishlist (so I've already decided to buy it next time it's on sale), stuff that's blindingly obvious (oh, you just added Call of Duty 7 to your cart? Might I suggest Call of Duty 6, Call of Duty 8 or Call of Duty 5?), or stuff that I don't like (Train Simulator 2012). And they've got nearly as much data on me as Google. I will give them credit for using some of that data properly - they use their knowledge of what games I own to not try to sell me games I already own, or to try to upsell me on DLC for games I have.

Those are just three examples. But I could list hundreds more. I have yet to see an advertiser try to target me, and "hit" the target. They're amassing all this data on me, but they're no better at advertising to me than when they just classified me as "late teen/early twenties caucasian male working in some sort of computer field".

We need to collectively get over our obsession with targeted this or personalized that. It might give impressive results when it works, but I'd bet money that the hit rate is under 1% for the most precise groupings.

(While we're at it, I'll note that even if your targeting *was* perfect, it's useless if your actual ads are shit. And guess what? Most ads are shit)

Hello Mr. Yakamoto and welcome back to the GAP! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42192129)

Courtesy of IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181689/quotes

[after having his eyes replaced to fool retinal scanners]
GAP Sign: Hello Mr. Yakamoto and welcome back to the GAP!
John Anderton: *Mr. Yakamoto?*

Wow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42192451)

This is a new low for Verizon. I sure won't sign up for FIOS TV now. WAY TO GO VERIZON, you just lost one TV customer..

Obscene (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42192461)

I wonder how would this react to loud conversations between my roommates, one of whom is generally a "douchbag," and told this, loudly and frequently by everyone.

You can be assured... (1)

Jintsui (2759005) | about 2 years ago | (#42192487)

that if Verizon did that and I had the service, I would just build a sound dampening housing around their box, and only allow vents to let heat out and allow my remote to hit the IR panel..

So, Verizon is patenting "stalking"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42192539)

Doesn't surprise me that they do it, just that they have the nerve to patent it. More to sling at the next in the long line of FIOS sales people to dirty up my front porch.

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