Big Google is Watching You

Apparently Google researchers are developing a programme which will be able to monitor which TV programmes we are watching, which radio stations we are listening to, and what we are saying in our most intimate conversations. They will be able to access ambient background noise through any PC with a microphone using a technique known as fingerprinting.

Real Tech News reports:

“The idea appeared in Technology Review citing Peter Norvig, director of research at Google, who says these ideas will show up eventually in real Google products – sooner rather than later.

The idea is to use the existing PC microphone to listen to whatever is heard in the background, be it music, your phone going off or the TV turned down. The PC then identifies it, using fingerprinting, and then shows you relevant content, whether that’s adverts or search results, or a chat room on the subject.

And, of course, we wouldn’t put it past Google to store that information away, along with the search terms it keeps that you’ve used, and the web pages you have visited, to help it create a personalised profile that feeds you just the right kind of adverts/content. And given that it is trying to develop alternative approaches to TV advertising, it could go the extra step and help send “content relevant” advertising to your TV as well.”

This links back to a post about IPTV on Faris’ blog a week or so ago. It’s a very interesting development – but is it one that people will actually ever agree to? Do we really want this level of involvement? Serving ads based on search history is one thing, but serving ads based on our every move is slightly more concerning.

From a comms planning point of view we welcome any developments that enable us to narrowcast our messages and ensure tightly targeted communications. From a consumer point of view, however, I reckon George Orwell will be turning in his grave (no doubt tracked by a webcam).


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