Somebody is Watching You (Via TV)

Last week my local Congressman Michael Capuano introduced some important legislation into the house regarding privacy and TV.

Like many of us residing in the US, Capuano was astonished and troubled by the revelations that home TV and telephone operator Verizon was required to give the government lots of data about our telephone use. They provide a daily list of all calls, duration and codes to identify mobile devices so that the government can look for terrorists.

Capuano decided to look further into issues of privacy surrounding this particular operator, and his legislation is a result of his findings.

He found that cable TV companies are developing systems that allow the TV set to watch the viewer. The idea is that a box sits in your house and watches you watch the TV so that advertisers can market their wares better.

A woman watching TV in the dark

Watching TV

The systems will be fitted with face recognition software (see this article for an idea of how far this software has come) so that publicity can be tailor made for the consumer.

So if I am watching something the publicity will be aimed at me, and probably cross referenced with data about my interests, life and Google searches. Fast cars, motorbikes and concert tickets.

If my wife is in the room maybe the publicity will also take her presence into account, and offer her shampoo, a fitness package or the likes, or maybe target us both with a cruise or a romantic weekend in the sun for 2 or likewise. If we are sat at opposite ends of the sofa maybe some counselling or a good divorce lawyer, who knows.

I can only imagine that if the watcher is eating a bag of crisps (chips) and drinking a bottle of beer then publicity for pizza and wine would be in order, the right message at the right time if you see what I mean.

What Capuano and his co sponsor are trying to do is to pass legislation to force producers to build and market a version of their cable interface box without the cameras integrated, and that the TV must show the message “I am watching you” when the machine is watching you.

Not too much to ask you might think but in free market led America I await the outcome. Read more about the legislation here.

I was fortunate enough to interview Congressman Capuano for my Bassetti Foundation blog a couple of years ago. We spoke about technology and his responsibility as a politician to society and his electorate. A transcription of the interview is available here.

Just as a sideline the BBC has an article out about hackers taking over webcams to spy on people covertly. Apparently there is a market for access to your computer, although the stated motivations are different and the practice is not legal.

EDITOR NOTE: Don’t forget the post I wrote about keeping Java up to date Jonny; it mentions about webcam hacking too :-)note by Christopher

5 thoughts on “Somebody is Watching You (Via TV)

  1. Christopher Roberts

    Personalised ads have been around online for a while now, and seem to be very effective. It was only a matter of time before TV caught up.

    Also, I added a note at the bottom of your post. I hope it is okay.

      • Christopher Roberts

        Don’t be sorry! I don’t expect you to read every word on the blog – sure do if you want to, but don’t feel obliged.

        FYI, don’t forget to hit the ‘Reply’ button under a comment when directly replying to it – I (or the original comment author) will then get your reply sent to them via email, and your comment will thread/nest underneath the ‘parent’/original comment. :-)

  2. You mean to say that an invisible camera will be fitted in our TV to watch us while watching TV? I do not think it’s a good idea as we all know that everyone needs privacy in their home specially in their bedroom. So, how can a person allow such type of change in his house with his acknowledgement. I do not want my TV to watch me every time when I watch it. Thanks for sharing this article with us.

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