Verizon patents technology to observe you while you watch TV


Privacy advocates are gonna love Verizon after this one. The company has filed a patent application for a set-top box that is similarly equipped as Microsoft’s Kinect — cameras, microphones and motion sensors, everything you would need to track movements in a room. What room, you ask? Why, you’re living room of course.

This would allow the company to select advertisements based on “ambient action” in the room. Possible implementations of this would be to show commercials for a theme park when a whole family is watching television, especially when kids are present with their parents. Another would be to show romantic vacation packages to couples watching together.

There are probably many more ways they could leverage this technology but that won’t do any good to stop the privacy concerns. If it’s anywhere near the technology present in the Kinect, it would basically be a window into your living room — to show you advertisements.

Do you think this is an invasion of privacy? Or would you allow this technology into your living room for more “personalized” advertising? Let us know in the comments!

[via Mashable, image via BenFrantzDale]

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  • Mary S

    I go nuts with all the advertising now, and I’m going to deliberately set out to get more??!! The first comment is mine as well – “shudder” (and then some). No, no a thousand times NO!

  • Paul D

    @RobCr: That’s why I have two dual channel PVRs.

    Your idiotic diatribe about Australian politics has no place in this thread.

  • Paul D

    @Frank: I was referring to advertised v actual times. After 6:30pm every commercial channel runs progressively later against advertised times to discourage people from switching channels at show’s end. It’s not uncommon to be 20 minutes behind by 9:30pm. And it’s clearly deliberate, since the EPG gives real times.

  • RobCr

    When I mentioned the Aust stations are fooling with start and end times, what I meant was they have abandoned proper start Times.
    Years ago you could set your watch by the time the evening news starts, all the stations would show a start time of 6:00 PM and an end time of 6:30 PM, and they would faithfully follow them.
    Now the program guides show (for example) a start of 5:59 and a finish of 6:32, and they actually will start and finish on those times. They are doing similar with the 30 minute current affair programs that follow the news show.
    What they are doing DELIBERATELY is ensuring that we cannot record their shows, and ALSO the shows on the opposition channel.
    It is deliberate and it is infuriating, and the government is doing nothing about that. (And doing nothing about the loud commercials. And doing nothing about the oil companies always raising the price of petrol just at the beginning of holidays).
    Our Labor government (it is the one that the workers and unions are associated with) stuff up the Aust finances every time they take office, and the public keeps re-electing them. They are stuffing up the finances now big time, and amassing massive debts.
    Because I am soon to be over 70, I can live with the stupidity of the Aust voters, and the Labor party, as I figure my death will be more peaceful when I realize that I am not going to miss out on much, as the world will be going down the toilet (over population), and Aust economy will be doing a ‘Titanic’ (Labor party).
    But back to the present, if the Labor party will fix up –
    – Loud commercials
    – TV show times
    – Petrol prices being hiked on EVERY holiday
    I will vote for them.

  • Frank

    Paul D said,
    “The EPG on my PVR shows the real start/finish times. I’ve been told (can’t verify) that this sort of delay isn’t allowed in the US.”

    The time the broadcaster publishes is the time it starts and stops. They push the red and green buttons in the carousel, but there is a delay because of the buffer and low memory in the design of the ATSC/DTV converters, and not to keep switching back and forth but some broadcasters over the air out here in the west coast don’t properly fill in their EPG, so when you check it it will be just the channel number, the time, the call sign and nothing else. Lazy stations ;o)

    One other thing I hate is during bad weather when communications are important these digital packets never fail to screw up the most critical information at the most critical time. With ANALOG we got SNOW sure, but could STILL HEAR…


  • Frank

    There’s just no possible way I will be buying, repairing, or servicing that technology.

    Maybe if the world turns mad max and I can hack it to detect movement by the front door and send a signal down the serial port to fire the shotgun?! (okay just kidding) But man, what possible good could come from this? A bigger bill for bandwidth monitoring use? Targeted ads for hand cream and underwear?

    Look, as a tech, sometimes I can’t get straight answers from Amazon when I manually type in the “exact description” what the heck is it going to think when I walk past with something that looks like a gun? Will it fire up a DOS box and call homeland security just to be sure next?

    dsz port 2 speed 57600 dt
    atdt 911

    What is the point of paying to be spied on when you know the spies are exploiting the spied data? The only POWER people have is to boycott and disconnect – a dual edged sword since then you can’t stay current or do electronic transactions.

    I personally don’t like this future one bit, and it’s past time to be boycotting these fascist businesses

  • Paul D

    @RobCr: Obviously also an Aussie.

    Re volume. Not a chance. They’re not really louder, they just sound that way (so the industry tells us). I was aware that this legislation has recently been passed in the USA.

    Re start-finish times. The EPG on my PVR shows the real start/finish times. I’ve been told (can’t verify) that this sort of delay isn’t allowed in the US.

  • Peter

    simply apply (opaque) adhesive tape.

  • RobCr


    If they give the units away free, I’m in.
    From their business model perspective, it would be in their financial interest to give us units for nothing. We can then cover the lens.
    ” We just got the government to turn down the volume on TV ads”
    There has not been any mention of that in Australia’s news or current affair programs. The TV industry is keeping us in the dark on that one.
    There are two other problems with our TV programs –
    – The stations are deliberately starting and finishing programs (News and current affairs, etc) a few minutes longer. Meaning we cannot set our PVR’s to record multiple shows. Are they doing that in US ?
    – When we press the info button on TV shows that are part of a series, they do not give us the Season and Episode numbers. EG Nikita, Desperate Housewives.
    Do you have that problem in the US ?

  • Skye-hook

    Am I the only 1 not afraid to say this?– the USA & many other governments will pay so much for access to this that it won’t matter what we say about it! AND there will be a point not too far away when we won’t be able to buy a new TV or get cable or satellite TV without it being there. And you won’t be able to turn it off, even when you think you did! If we don’t keep having a landline phone (& cell), and TV broadcasting through the air…they will also be able to totally take over your cell & TV – in emergency, of course. Haha. Think hard about that, folks. I guess human implanted microchips must be next. Sad thing is, it doesn’t even scare us anymore! We’ll probably just let it all happen. I’m pretty passive, so I probably will. After all, they’ll say it’s for our own good. Can’t fight City Hall & all that. Too busy in my own daily life. Etc. How about you? You gonna stand up and fight for all our human rights, for all of us lazy cowards? Which includes me. I said us. If I’m wrong, I’ll be very happy. I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, I just think that’s what will happen, plan or no plan. It will just be too tempting for governments NOT to use it.

  • ap0si0pesis

    SAY NO! Stand up for yourself… We just got the government to turn down the volume on TV ads. However, DON’T WAIT FOR OTHERS to FIGHT for YOUR RIGHT TO PRIVACY, DO IT YOURSELF! Email Verizon, tell them how outraged you are for their blatant attempt at intrusion into your personal and private life. How dare Verizon attempt to implement such a repugnant idea.

  • Jim Carter

    If the TV is in the bedroom, then expect even more commercials for K-Y Brand Warming liquid!

  • Jim Carter


  • Tom

    Anyone remember the show Max Headroom? 20 minutes in the future… hmmm…closer to 25 years…

  • Seamus McSeamus

    That’s just creepy.

    The official line will be “we can’t actually see people with this technology, just basic form outlines giving us best-guess age estimates for viewers based on height”.

    And then someone will hack Verizon’s servers and release HD quality digital video of a quarter million Americans watching TV in their family rooms and bed rooms. People will express shock and outrage, Verizon will agree to pixilate faces (fingers crossed, of course), and the next day a record number of their spy TV’s will be sold.

  • Ray

    And if you put a TV in your bedroom!!??!!??!!??!!??

  • Mike

    Just – say – no.

  • ewsmith

    I get enough sitting from the government. I don’t need to add another.

  • Enrique

    Yup! This definitely taking it too far just for advertisements.

  • Jeanjean

    Unbelievable !
    They will go into your room if you let them do.
    I don’t need advertising (or advice) there or anywhere.

  • thegreenwizard

    Just don’t allow those device in your house. With mobile apps which can take pictures , listen and more, it’s enough informations about you. Don’t you think?

  • kelltic