TV/DVR Spies In Your Living Room: The Future Of Targeted Ads?


Many people think Google has already crossed the line with its targeted ad campaigns that track what sites you look at and the things you search for. Now imagine if they could – quite literally – watch every single move you make?

That is exactly what Verizon are up to, having just filed a patent for a DVR that users a camera and sensors to watch and listen to your every move, so that it can bombard you with adverts that are appropriate to whatever it is you might be up to – be it kissing, cuddling, playing with the dog, fighting with siblings – whatever.

It gets creepier though – the sensors would also be able to identify exactly where you are looking, and so it will know how you respond to certain ads so that it can target you with similar ones later on.

The intrusiveness doesn’t stop there. Your children, your pets, and even inanimate objects in your living room could all be targeted. According to the patent, the sensors will be able to identify any animals in your home, such as dogs, cats, birds, or even fish. Further, it will also be able to spot logos and brand names on any consumer products you have lying around the home, as well as things like your taste in decorations and furniture. Using this info, Verizon wants to tailor its advertising specifically to your interests.

In another act of subterfuge, Verizon’s spy-boxes would also be able to ‘talk’ to any mobile devices and gadgets you might have lying around. When the DVR senses a cell phone in the room, it will attempt to communicate with the device and garner even more information about you.

Verizon’s plans might sound pretty Orwellian, but it’s not the first company to consider such creepy uses of modern technology. Comcast did something similar in a 2008 patent, designing monitoring technology that can recommend content based on people it recognizes; while Google has similar plans for its Google TV platform, which would count how many people are in the room watching a broadcast.

The patent application was filed back in May 2011, but it’s only just become public now. The document provides examples of how the technology might be applied. An argument might be picked up by the DVR, prompting advertisements for marriage counseling services, while two people cuddling on the other hand, would be a signal to deliver ads for condoms and other contraceptives.

Not surprisingly, such applications of modern technology scare the crap out of most consumers, so it’s little wonder that no one has come up with such a device yet. But even so, just because Verizon haven’t made any kind of device that is capable of doing all of the above, the fact that the company wants to do so is enough to turn me off.