This was bound to happen. Inevitable.
American cellular giant Verizon has filed a patent application for a device to watch you watching TV. Who is interested in watching you watch TV? Probably more people than you can imagine but TV advertisers would be near the top of the list. That's certainly Verizon's target group.
[Verizon] has filed a patent, published last week, for a system designed to be used in the home to target advertisements at people. Using a combination of image and audio sensors, it would detect actions in your living room while you were watching TV. These sensors, deploying facial and profile recognition, would pick up “physical attributes” like skin color, facial features, and even hair length, and also detect “voice attributes” to help determine the tone of your voice, your accent, and the language you speak. Inanimate objects aren’t off-limits—the technology could also spot beer cans and wall art.
Combined, this would mean that your TV or set-top box would effectively be watching and listening to you while you snuggle up on the couch with your partner to watch the latest episode of Homeland. If the cuddling went a bit further, the chances are the technology would pick up the noises and start playing ads for "a commercial for a contraceptive” or “a commercial for flowers,” as outlined in the patent.
The patent also says if the device picks up that the user is “stressed” then it “may select an advertisement associated with the detected mood (e.g., a commercial for a stress-relief product such as aromatherapy candles, a vacation resort, etc.).” It adds that “If a couple is arguing/fighting with each other” the system “may select an advertisement associated marriage/relationship counseling.” And if the sensors detect that a user is a kid, the system will trigger “more advertisements targeted to and/or appropriate for young children.”As Steve Donohue at FieceCable has noted, Verizon’s technology would operate in the same way Google targets Gmail users based on the content of their emails—only transposing that principle into the home by “scanning conversations of viewers that are within a ‘detection zone’ near their TV, including telephone conversations.”
Maybe it's time to start thinking seriously about building that cabin up the coast and getting off the grid entirely.