Can You Hear Me Now? Verizon Patent Could Listen In On Customers

Originally published: December 4, 2012
Updated: December 29, 2014 at 11:08 am

Verizon has filed a patent for a DVR set-top box that once deployed can watch and listen to the goings-on in your living room

9:00PM EST December.4.2012 – Long Island NY — In an unprecedented proliferation of public spying, government and corporations are casting an ever-growing watchful eye on millions of ordinary Americans through largely unregulated surveillance cameras trained on public spaces throughout the nation.

In an application for patent submitted by Verizon, the company proposes to use technology to serve targeted ads appropriate to whatever you’re doing in the privacy of your own home—fighting, be it cuddling, or talking, or even sitting in your underpants watching TV.

Verizon is far from the first company to think of this unassailable creepy use for a set-top box. Comcast patented similar monitoring technology in 2008 for recommending content based on people it recognizes in the room; Google proposed yet another patent for Google TV that would use audio and video recorders to figure out how many people in a room are watching the current broadcast.

Many civil liberties and camera-use proponents alike are troubled of the absence of local, state or federal laws that specifically govern police-video surveillance of Americans, suspected of no crime, as they go about their daily business.

Equally rare are enforceable regulations on such matters as who or what can be watched, how long images can be kept, who can see and share them, where a person’s “zone of privacy” begins, and what recourse and punishments exist if that privacy is abused.

Verizon filed for the application in May 2011, and it was just published last week. (By law, all patent applications are published after 18 months.) In the document, Verizon gives two examples of the context-sensitive DVR’s use in a couple’s living room: sounds of arguing prompt ads for marriage counseling, while sounds of “cuddling” prompts ads for contraceptives. Charming.

Generally, these uses of cameras and mics frighten the living daylights out of customers, so all of these patents have yet to be put to use. Still, the wheels continue to turn in content providers’ heads about how to get eyes and ears in your living room, even as the creepiness factor persists.

“If detection facility detects one or more words spoken by a user (e.g., while talking to another user within the same room or on the telephone), advertising facility may utilize the one or more words spoken by the user to search for and/or select an advertisement associated with the one or more words,” Verizon states in the patent application.

The patent goes on to say that the sensors would also be able to determine if a viewer is exercising, eating, laughing, singing, or playing a musical instrument, and target ads to viewers based on their mood. It also could use sensors to determine what type of pets or inanimate objects are in the room. The system can also “dynamically adjust parental control features” if it detects that young children are present in the room.

We are living in George Orwell’s Oceana

Of course, having a human interpret and look through all of this video data would be a time-consuming at best and impossible at worst. If you were trying to find a specific person, or track and record movements for review, it would take some doing. That’s where advanced facial recognition software comes in, and it could be used to keep a database of an individual’s movements without a manual effort.

There is only limited recognition in the law that there are some places into which a surveillance camera is not allowed to intrude. And there are virtually no rules that prohibit police or private entities from archiving, selling or freely transmitting images captured by a video surveillance camera. The courts have yet to address the fundamental privacy and associational rights implicated by the phenomenon of widespread video surveillance.

Philadelphia Police Inspector Thomas Nestel, author of a widely cited study on video surveillance, has warned that “forging ahead with reckless abandon by providing no written direction, no supervision, no training and no regulating legislation creates a recipe for disaster.

Sources: Moriches Daily, Ars Technica,local affilaites

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3 Responses to Can You Hear Me Now? Verizon Patent Could Listen In On Customers

  1. anonymous on December 6, 2012 at 12:58 am

    So then nobody ever buys a product designed by Verizon again? Why would they even consider it??

  2. Obama Wants 'Black Box Event Recorders' in All Cars on December 10, 2012 at 11:30 am

    […] system. The courts have yet to address the fundamental privacy rights implicated by the phenomenon of widespread surveillance.Advanced EDRs can collect detailed information about drivers and their driving habits; including […]

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