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LOSING YOUR PRIVACY ONE DEVICE AT A TIME: IS THAT FREEBIE WORTH YOUR FREEDOM? -- Verizon applies for a "big brother" patent which should scare the bejesus out of privacy advocates

For a few dollars per month to statistically chosen viewers, television ratings agencies such as Nielsen Media Research recorded television usage; who was watching, when you were watching and what you watched.

But now there might be something more insidious on the horizon – or should I say Verizon …

It appears that Verizon has filed a patent application for “Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement Associated with an Ambient Action of a User.” A sophisticated way of saying that Verizon has developed a method to watch and listen to what you might be doing in proximity to a set-top or built-in sensor array, and then using that information to send you targeted advertising.

Behind this innocuous sounding language of the patent, lies a capability that only existed in books on a fictional “big brother” that constantly surveils the home environment on behalf of a totalitarian government. The use of this technology is beyond scary since it can be built into almost any electronic device and monitor political speech and other behaviors that the government may be interested in. One could almost imagine the technology being used to detect a fight between individuals for the purposes of dispatching law enforcement personnel and then using the information to prosecute you for criminal activity. 

Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement Associated with an Ambient Action of a User (VERIZON PATENT AND LICENSING, INC., Basking Ridge, NJ)

From the Patent Description … 

1. A method comprising: presenting, by a media content presentation system, a media content program comprising an advertisement break; detecting, by the media content presentation system, an ambient action performed by a user during the presentation of the media content program and within a detection zone associated with the media content presentation system; selecting, by the media content presentation system, an advertisement associated with the detected ambient action; and presenting, by the media content presentation system, the selected advertisement during the advertisement break.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the ambient action comprises at least one of eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, singing, humming, cleaning, and playing a musical instrument.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the ambient action comprises an interaction between the user and another user.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein the interaction between the user and the another user comprises at least one of cuddling, fighting, participating in a game or sporting event, and talking.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the ambient action comprises an interaction by the user with a separate mobile device.

6. The method of claim 5, wherein the presenting of the selected advertisement comprises directing the separate mobile device to present the selected advertisement.

7. The method of claim 5, wherein the detecting of the ambient action comprises communicating with the separate mobile device to obtain information associated with the user's interaction with the separate mobile device; and the selecting comprises utilizing the information obtained from the separate mobile device to select the advertisement.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein the detecting comprises utilizing at least one of a gesture recognition technology, a profile recognition technology, a facial recognition technology, and a voice recognition technology.

9. The method of claim 1, further comprising: identifying, by the media content presentation system, the user; wherein the selecting of the advertisement is based at least partially on a user profile associated with the identified user.

10. The method of claim 1, further comprising: determining, by the media content presentation system, a mood of the user in accordance with the detected ambient action; wherein the selecting of the advertisement comprises selecting the advertisement based on the determined mood of the user.

11. The method of claim 1, further comprising identifying, by the media content presentation system, one or more physical attributes associated with the user.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein the selecting of the advertisement is at least partially based on the identified one or more physical attributes associated with the user.

13. The method of claim 11, further comprising selectively activating, by the media content presentation system, one or more parental control features in response to the identifying of the one or more physical attributes associated with the user.

14. The method of claim 1, wherein: the detecting of the ambient action comprises detecting at least one word spoken by the user; and the selected advertisement is associated with the at least one word spoken by the user.

15. The method of claim 1, further comprising detecting, by the media content presentation system, a presence of a physical object within the detection zone, wherein the advertisement is further associated with the detected physical object.

16. The method of claim 1, embodied as computer-executable instructions on at least one non-transitory computer-readable medium.

17. A method comprising: presenting, by a media content presentation system, a media content program comprising an advertisement break; detecting, by the media content presentation system by way of a detection device, an interaction between a plurality of users during the presentation of the media content program and within a detection zone associated with the media content presentation system; selecting, by the media content presentation system, an advertisement associated with the detected interaction; and presenting, by the media content presentation system, the selected advertisement during the advertisement break.

18. The method of claim 17, embodied as computer-executable instructions on at least one non-transitory computer-readable medium.

19. A system comprising: a presentation facility configured to present a media program comprising an advertisement break; a detection facility communicatively coupled to the presentation facility and configured to detect an ambient action performed by a user during the presentation of the media content program and within a detection zone; and a targeted advertising facility communicatively coupled to the detection facility and configured to select an advertisement associated with the detected ambient action, and direct the presentation facility to present the selected advertisement during the advertisement break.

20. The system of claim 19, wherein the detection facility is implemented by a detection device comprising at least one of a depth sensor, an image sensor, an audio sensor, and a thermal sensor.

<Source: USPTO Application 20120304206 - November 29, 2012>

It does not take a genius to know that the information recorded and analyzed by the system will reside on remote servers which can be accessed by the government or any other du y authorized party with or without an appropriate search warrant because it is likely that the vendor of this system will create a scheme whereby you obtain discounted services or other benefit in return for signing a unilateral contract holding them harmless from any unauthorized access or use of the system – and insuring that all of the data in the system can be made instantly accessible to the government through the provisions of CALEA (Communications for Law Enforcement Assistance Act).

CALEA's purpose is to enhance the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to conduct electronic surveillance by requiring that telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have built-in surveillance capabilities, allowing federal agencies to monitor all telephone, broadband internet, and VoIP traffic in real-time. <Source>

If anyone is unsure of what this means, let me point out that Verizon is a telecommunications carrier which must provide these surveillance services to the government. Whether or not you will ever find out about legitimate and illegitimate requests is between Verizon and the government. And they can be trusted as much as OnStar who swore to the public that they could not listen in to in-car conversations when the phone was not in use – only to have their lie exposed when a court case was filed based on the government activating the microphone in a private car and listening to the conversation unbeknownst to the car’s occupants.

Bottom line … 

  • There is an old saying among data processing guys” “if the service is free in exchange for advertising, YOU are the product being sold to the advertisers.”
  • Not only are people voluntarily waiving their privacy rights, they are also signing unilateral licenses that grants software vendors the unlimited right to spy on your activities in return for the faux benefit of “improving the user experience.”
  • And, even worse, you are participating in the destruction of your privacy and providing an almost unlimited license for vendors to sell advertisers, governments, credit bureaus and others your innermost secrets when you post to social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or use one of the photo sharing or location “check-in” sites.

This device appears to be an end-run around the 5th Amendment of the Constitution …

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” <Source>

In essence, you may be waiving your Fifth Amendment rights should the government decide to compel Verizon to provide proof that you committed a crime. Because this system may be able to detect spousal abuse, unwanted sexual activity – and cannot determine if the users were role playing – alarms to local law enforcement may result. We have only Verizon and the government’s word that this will not be used for personal, political or commercial uses by the company or its employees.

In the final analysis, you must read every word of those unilateral contracts and decide whether or not a freebie is worth your freedom.

-- steve


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS

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