Big Brother: Your Television is Watching You


Susanne Posel

Joining the ranks of private sector corporations assisting in the expansion of Big Brother surveillance in the US, Verizon has patented technology that turns a DVR into a personal spying tool to watch Americans in their own homes.

Verizon is calling this endeavor FierceCable that is able to display “acute sensitivity in customers’ living rooms: argument sounds prompt ads for marriage counseling, and sounds of cuddling.”

Verizon explains: “If the detection system determines that a couple is arguing, a service provider would be able to send an ad for marriage counseling to a TV or mobile device in the room. If the couple utters words that indicate they are cuddling, they would receive ads for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers, or commercials for romantic movies.”

The patent is entitled “Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement Associated with an Ambient Action of a User” and filed by Brian F. Roberts who invented the technology on behalf of Verizon Patent and Licensing INC. Under the guise of perfecting marketing and advertising, the spying “method includes a media content presentation system presenting a media content program comprising an advertisement break, detecting an ambient action performed by a user during the presentation of the media content program, selecting an advertisement associated with the detected ambient action, and presenting the selected advertisement during the advertisement break.”

In home ambient activities such as “eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, singing, humming, cleaning, and playing a musical instrument; as well as cuddling, fighting, participating in a game or sporting event” can be surveilled using this technology. All cellular phones can interact with this device as a separate mode of surveillance.

Information associated with the user, such as gesture, profile, voice and facial recognition are methods that can identify the user which will produce the most effective advertisement based on the “media content presentation system” (MCPS).

It is as simple as speaking a word, and the MCPS is activated. Embedded “computer-executable instructions” working in tandem with the MCPS will allow specified advertisements through the utilization of “depth sensor[s], image sensor[s], audio sensor[s] and a thermal sensor.”

In 2008, Comcast patented infrared camera technology that will recognize individuals in their living room. The sensors inside a cable box will the person and anticipate their television viewing preferences.

Google, in creating the foundation for GoogleTV, patented an “image capturing device” under the mask of developing interactive television. This technology can “be used to measure how many viewers are watching or listening to a broadcast.”

With the use of audio surveillance and identification technology, a specific person can created “personalized information related to the media broadcast.” In syphoning this information was television watchers, Google can create “complimentary websites” utilizing the data they have collected.

While the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) justifies its use of surveillance software, Trapwire, with the contention that it assisted them in thwarting another manufactured terrorist threat, online spying is continually expanding.

A California Judge seated in Superior Court placed a temporary restraining order against Twitter for attempting to terminate their million-dollar contract with PeopleBrowsr. This legal bullying in the name of preserving surveillance rights will continue the relationship between Big Brother, data mining and social media.

PeopleBrowsr maintains that based upon “Twitter’s promise of openness when we invested millions of dollars and thousands of hours of development time” that this justifies a “long term supply” of user data to their entity which is promised “full unrestricted access to the Firehose [on Twitter] for our Enterprise and Government clients.”

The US government, through private corporations such as PeopleBrowsr to spy on Americans, as well as collecting untold amounts of data they would have to gain warrants to have access to – yet since this information is passed through contractual agreements between federal agencies and private corporations, it is all part of the deal. Private information becomes a sellable commodity.

Law enforcement on the state and local levels have requested that Congress grant them warrantless access to digital information facilitated by customers of AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and all other wireless providers that store private text messages for a minimum of 2 years.

The Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, one faction that is pressuring elected representatives on Capitol Hill, represents police departments in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago – just to name a few.

Other law enforcement advocacy groups include the National District Attorneys’ Association, the National Sheriffs’ Association, and the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies assert that: “This issue is not addressed in the current proposal before the committee and yet it will become even more important in the future.”

2 Responses

  1. Dave Blevins says:

    Great idea Dan! But I already have those.

  2. Dan says:

    I wonder how it would react to sounds of angry customers praying for dead Elite? Perhaps sales ads for fast accurate weapons? One could only hope.

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