Verizon Plays Big Brother by Watching You Watch TV

Verizon has filed a patent application for technology that would allow them to watch their customers watch TV, to track their responses to advertisements and adjust them accordingly.

In the digital age, everything is interactive, but how much is too much? Television advertisers are at a disadvantage to advertisers online because there’s no click through rate, no way to measure whether or not an ad actually has impact. I understand that Verizon would want to find a way to close that gap, but cameras that spy on people in their living rooms and measure their responses to what they see? Really? 

The proposed system includes microphones and infrared cameras that record how many people are watching television, and the types of conversation and activity going on.

The patent application says Verizon would track whether people were "eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, singing, humming, cleaning, and playing a musical instrument," and then show advertisements "in a personalized and dynamically adapting manner." So if you work out while you watch TV, you'll see ads for gyms and fitness equipment, if you and your wife fight while watching TV, you'll see ads for marriage counseling (or divorce lawyers).

It's one thing for internet advertisers to keep track of our browsing and shopping habits, but this proposed technology wants to track what we're doing outside the realm of our interaction with media; Verizon wants to know if people are exercising while they watch TV, fighting with their spouses, or making out.

All I can think of is "1984," with the screens in every home that are as much for citizens to hear announcements from the government as they are for the government to monitor the behavior of the citizens. And I don't really think it's any of Verizon's business whether I paint my nails while I watch TV, or stuff my face with potato chips, or if I run around in circles screaming in tongues and banging pots and pans together. 

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Lilly O'Donnell

Lilly O'Donnell is a freelance writer, currently working on her first book.

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