Verizon Wants to Track Your Movements While You Watch TV

Think watching television from home is the perfect alone time? Think again. Verizon has filed patents for a TV set-top box equipped with cameras, motion sensors and microphones that would track the movements within a given room –- similar to that of Xbox’s Kinect system.

According to the company’s patent application, the set-top box is a “media content presentation system” that would select advertisements based on “ambient action” in the room. This may mean seeing more commercials for singles getaways when you’re snuggling with a loved one.

Systems like this aren’t new. In 2008, Comcast proposed a similar patent that would monitor what was happening in a room, and highlight specific ads. Google has also proposed plans for a similar technology.

via Verizon Wants to Track Your Movements While You Watch TV.


12 thoughts on “Verizon Wants to Track Your Movements While You Watch TV

  1. I think this technology could be useful. How often do we have to sit through commercials that don’t pertain at all to our lifestyles. It could upset some people though. If someone is watching TV alone and gets repeat eHarmony and commercials, it could be troublesome. The legality and privacy concerns are legitimate and would most likely cause it to be difficult to be put into action. In the end, people probably can just not choose that service if they don’t want it though. If it cost the same and it improved my TV experience, I would use it.

  2. This article demonstrates how the habitual integration of technology into our lives such as smartphones with cameras, laptops with webcams, Xbox Kinects etc are increasingly becoming a privacy problem because they have the capacity to record sound and video without our knowledge. Not only do they have the ability to do this, but companies like Verizon want to utilize those already present features to capitalize on marketing and advertising. I personally believe the idea is highly disturbing because of its various ethical issues that go beyond just personal privacy. For example, one way Verizon could address the personal privacy concern is to give users a choice on whether or not they want to be tracked and monitored for select advertisements. However one problem with this is what were to happen in cases when the user is not really “watching” tv or forgot it was monitoring and did something they did not want the device to see? More specifically, how will Verizon handle the cases where they monitor someone doing something illegal like drugs, or if they witness a crime being committed through the device? Will it be permissible in court as evidence or is it a violation of the 4th amendment to unreasonable search and seizures? Furthermore, if the user agreed to have the device on would that agreement override their 4th amendment protection? These are only a few of the ethical problems I noticed when reading this article. But the implications of the device and the various possibilities of what it could record are endless, and that is why I believe that it would be improbable if not problematic, for such a technology to become reality.

  3. The use of this form of technology almost borders totalitarianism by Verizon. As technology grows and becomes more part of everyday life; questions will have to be asked as to were will the line be drawn. First it will be your living room, and then your whole house, then your car. Pretty soon every aspect of your life will be tracked and stored somewhere on a hard drive. Using this technology is an invasion on personal privacy. Basically a stranger could be watching how you and your friends watch TV. Personally I would prefer to have a choice on if I wanted to use this technology, and I would also want to know how and what ways my user data was being used.

  4. I find this technological concept as being very beneficial for companies like Verizon or Comcast and advertising companies, but I am not sure how I feel about it as a user. This definitely would benefit the advertising companies by being able to target the user and play only advertisements that would appeal to them. This would in return most likely increase revenue for the companies. This would also give service providers like Verizon the ability to get to know their users on a different level. By doing this, they could alter their services to become more appealing to users based on how they watch tv. As a user, I can see the pros and the cons. I think having ads that are based on my lifestyle and habits would be beneficial. I would then avoid having to sit through the ads that are irrelevant to me. At the same time I do not like the idea of having the potential of someone on the other end watching me. For example, I have a cable box in my bedroom, so I would not want people to be able to watch me sleep or get dressed in the morning. The not knowing of who can see or hear what is going on isn’t a comfortable feeling to me. It is kind of a panoptic-like situation. I might act differently knowing that at any point Verizon will know what I am doing. Overall, I can see the plus side to this idea from a business standpoint, but from the user I do not think I would support the implementation of it.

  5. I personally believe that this technology is too invasive. Allowing for verizon or anyone to have eyes inside your personal home is scary to me. The fact that the system will also be able to read your movements and select a target ad makes it even more scary. Maybe I am being slightly dramatic but if we start allowing companies to place cameras into our houses, where will that lead. What if an outside source gains unauthenticated access to the cameras. I feel that what they are gaining is not worth the privacy that users will be losing. I personally cannot believe that this is even allowed to be constructed. Invading peoples privacy seems to be a common theme among many new technologies and it seems to me that little by little are are losing more and more of it. It is slightly frighting to me to look into the future and see how much more we will lose and the technologies that will exist. As it stands now almost every social networking site tracks and sells everything you do, search engines track everything you search, phones track location, the Siri from apples iOS5 software sends everything you say to apple’s data base, and now we will have cameras watching us in our living rooms. There seems to be less and less privacy as we gain more and more technology.

  6. I would definitely agree with some of the above sentiments that this is another gross invasion of privacy. At least within the home, a company should not have the means to record and assess what is going on in a house to market the right advertisements. There is too much risk for misuse of this technology and for customers to be taken advantage of or for the government to pressure Verizon to utilize this if it sees fit to. However, I think in a more public setting like a movie theater or anywhere but a home, a feature like this could be fantastic.

  7. When I first read this article, I thought it seemed like an interesting idea. After thinking about it a little more, I think this technology is very much an invasion of privacy. It is eery to think about a system/company that will be able to track your movements and display certain commercials based on what is happening in the room. Even though this might attract a certain group of people, I think the companies will end up losing more customers in the long run because of this invasive technology. This article shows how desensitized we are becoming with regards to our own privacy. We are thinking about letting a system track our every move while watching TV, and let them display certain advertisements based on the current situation in the room. While there may be some advantages to a technology such as this, I would argue that the cons largely outweigh the pros.

  8. I don’t think this should ever be implemented. This is as invasive as technology can get. No one wants to have their TV provider track them while they are watching TV. Personally, I don’t watch TV shows on TV during their air time. I watch them online instead. With the thought of this coming to my living room, I would stop watching TV all together. I will gladly not watch an episode of a show in order to secure a bit more of my privacy. The home is one of the most private places for people. The thought of having cameras and sensors tracking you in your living room is awful. Something to question, would this feature only be on the living room set up, or will it be implemented on all boxes like ones in people’s bedrooms? If this technology isn’t crossing the line, then I don’t know what is.

  9. For Verizon, this technology could become extremely useful. They could use this information for many marketing purposes today and this technology could easily lead to new products for the future. As a user, this does feel like somewhat of an invasion of privacy. However, I think that it could easily be adopted and slowly transition into acceptance. Having “big brother” watching via webcam in your own living room does sound rather insensitive but I think that society could slowly adopt it. This could maybe be possibly by being aware of exactly what it tracks. As long as they are very translucent about that, I don’t think it will be completely rejected.

  10. Verizon could benefit from this technology. With that being said, I think this would not be successful once implemented because users would be skeptical. Verizon could lose a lot of business from this and I believe the majority would be older users. They would not be as adaptive to this technology as our generation. I could see them thinking that the box was recording them for other purposes than Verizon’s said intentions. Also, I just don’t think many people would like for there to be a camera on their TV box at all times.

  11. To be honest, I do not care what kind of advertisements I will see on TV because I will not even pay attention to those. The technology Verizon is building looks like new, but selecting different commercials depends on the number of person in the room sounds like weird to me. I actually will not feel comfortable if there is a in-built camera on the TV. I think it is not necessary because it will only make me feel I am being watched when I am watching the TV. Tracking the movements of a given room sounds inproperly to me. Thus, personally if this technology comes out, I will not get it.

  12. I think it would be interesting to see what kind of ads start showing up and how relevent they become. I would also expect to see a negative reaction when, or if, it is adopted, but as people start to grow up with the technology they might never give it a second thought and not care one way or the other. Currently, advertisers have a pretty firm grasp of the demographics that watch certain shows and are able to tailor their ads that way. Additionally, anytime a camera is involved in a private area there are going to be eithical concerns. What happens when children are brought into this? What happens when the camera picks up illegal activity occurring or a juvenile is standing in the room without any clothes on? Even if it is not saved, that data still has to be transferred in some manner and could then become compromised.

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