UPDATED 11:00 EDT / MARCH 23 2012

If a Tree Falls In the Woods, Will Android Send You an Ad for Stump Grinders?

If you’re wondering why Android apps have more in-app ads than iOS, the answer is simple: Android developers rely on ads for their revenue.  But what’s troubling with in-app ads is the fact that it makes users’ information available for advertisers to see and use.

“Due to the fact that ad libraries are incorporated into the host apps that use them, they in essence form a symbiotic relationship,” said a study from North Carolina State University. “Based on such relationship, an ad library can effectively leverage it and naturally inherit all permissions a user may grant the host app, thus undermining the app-based privacy and security safeguards.”

If in-app ads doesn’t concern you even a bit, then maybe Google’s new ad patent will get the blood boiling.

Google’s Environment-based Ads

Google  applied for a patent that uses data gathered from your environment to send you advertisements.

US Patent 8,138,930, filed last March 20, is described as “Information about an environmental condition of a remote device is received, the environmental condition being determined based on a signal output from a sensor of the remote device or a sensor coupled to the remote device. An advertisement is identified based on the environmental condition( temperature, humidity, light, sound, air composition), and the advertisement is provided to the remote device.”

Though this is really an ingenious form of advertisement, it also brings up concern for security and privacy.  The patent, if approved and used by Google, will enable them to track your location, or even use keywords to send you ads.  Google would use geolocation, GPS, or triangulation to determine where you are, as well as the environmental factors in your current location to know which type of ads to send your way.  If that still doesn’t bother you, then I urge you to read on:

“An audio, image, or video signal can be received from the sensor and the environmental condition can be determined based on the audio, image, or video signal, respectively. An audio signal that includes a voice instruction from a user of the remote device can be received, and the environmental condition can be determined based on background sounds in the audio signal,” as written in the submitted patent.

“Information in addition to the advertisement can be provided to the user based on the voice instruction of the user. The remote device can include a mobile phone. The remote device can include a mobile phone, personal computer, digital billboard, a digital kiosk, or a vendor machine, and providing the advertisement to the remote device can include providing a visual advertisement for displaying on a display of the mobile phone, personal computer, digital billboard, digital kiosk, or vending machine, respectively.”

It’s like Google is always there in the background, listening, learning and waiting for all the right ambient data to come together. That’s just a little creepy.

I’m amazed at how patents are getting quirkier as time passes.  Nokia recently filed for a patent that covers magnetically induced vibrating particles that can be embedded in clothing or under the skin in the form of a tattoo.   What will they think of next?


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