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Television Advertising Privacy Entertainment

A TV That Knows and Shares What You're Watching 168

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-hide-your-jersey-shore-addiction-from-skynet dept.
holy_calamity writes "A technology will be appearing soon in TVs that fingerprints what is onscreen and sends that information to an internet server able to identify the content, whether it's live TV or another source, like a DVD. Web pages and mobile apps using the same connection as the TV can access that information using an API, allowing online content to dynamically provide relevant information and ads to be more targeted. Startup Flingo, which developed the technology, says one of the top 5 TV brands in the US will launch a set with the Sync Apps system in coming months."
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A TV That Knows and Shares What You're Watching

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  • No thanks, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:14PM (#37145806)

    I do not want this technology.

    • I have a solution. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Skarecrow77 (1714214) on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:22PM (#37145976)

      See that ethernet port on the back of your tv? don't plug anything in to it.

      Your tv have wireless (snazzy!) don't give it your wireless password.

      Your tv secretly connecting to the 3g cellular network to report back information? A. who cares it doesn't know who you are anyway and B. start up a class action lawsuit... or C. search the web until you find www.sonytv-hacks.com and follow their instructions to load custom firmware on your tv that lets you use the secret 3g connection as a tether'd internet connection and subsequently torrent anonymously to your heart's connent.

      TL;DR: you have nothing to worry about.

      • by 0123456 (636235)

        See that ethernet port on the back of your tv? don't plug anything in to it.

        But it's probably running Windows 8, so it won't boot without an Internet connection.

      • by Intron (870560)

        See that ethernet port on the back of your tv? don't plug anything in to it.

        Your tv have wireless (snazzy!) don't give it your wireless password.

        Your tv secretly connecting to the 3g cellular network to report back information? A. who cares it doesn't know who you are anyway and B. start up a class action lawsuit... or C. search the web until you find www.sonytv-hacks.com and follow their instructions to load custom firmware on your tv that lets you use the secret 3g connection as a tether'd internet connection and subsequently torrent anonymously to your heart's connent.

        TL;DR: you have nothing to worry about.

        See that bidirectional HDMI cable to your set-top box? Wonder what it's talking about.

        • See that bidirectional HDMI cable to your set-top box? Wonder what it's talking about.

          Don't have a set-top box. I've got a blu-ray player (no internet connection), an xbox 360 (no internet connectino), a ps-3 ( withpurposely broken DNS resolution), and a wii.

          I suppose it might be pushing out through the Wii... but I can just firewall that as soon as I find out what ports it is using.

      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:53PM (#37146482)

        I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't let you do that.

      • See that ethernet port on the back of your tv? don't plug anything in to it.

        Your tv have wireless (snazzy!) don't give it your wireless password.

        Your tv secretly connecting to the 3g cellular network to report back information? A. who cares it doesn't know who you are anyway and B. start up a class action lawsuit... or C. search the web until you find www.sonytv-hacks.com and follow their instructions to load custom firmware on your tv that lets you use the secret 3g connection as a tether'd internet connection and subsequently torrent anonymously to your heart's connent.

        TL;DR: you have nothing to worry about.

        You forgot the most likely scenario. Your tv connect to a cable TV system over coax? Don't plug in the coax. Oh, that's right you want to be able to watch that cable tv you're paying for... damn...

        • I thought cable TV companies stopped support direct coax connections years ago.

          • by muindaur (925372)

            Nope, my parents still have that. Though a forced change may be coming soon as the basic digital package now costs the same $70 as the Basic Expanded one they have without the set top box. So they may have to get one soon. Then again, there would be no way to connect more than one TV without a card/set top, but suspect they want the extra $5/m per device.

          • by schwit1 (797399)

            My Verizon FIOS DVR to Verizon router connection is coax. Verizon requires their crappy router at the front of the network.

    • by kheldan (1460303)
      I second that; I'm not willing to pay extra for this, and even then there had better be a way to completely and verifiably turn it off.
    • I'll tell you the same thing I tell those religious fanatics that try to keep women from being able to have abortions: If you're against it, then don't do it!
      • by jedidiah (1196)

        Except in this case, the abortions happen automatically and without your knowledge and consent.

        The only way to avoid them is to buy a farm and go live with the Amish.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      Too bad the cable companies already do this with their set top boxes.
    • by hawk (1151)

      I'll be signing up for it just as soon as I'm done paying the proctologist for the 18" probe to monitor my digestion and suggest menu items for me.

      And when I'm done buying this one, I'm going to buy an app that sends my banking information to the RIAA and MPAA to make appropriate payments for songs played loudly by the next car. After all, it's hardly fair that I'm able to listen to the song drowning out my own stereo without paying . . .

  • by wsxyz (543068) on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:15PM (#37145836)
    Find out who is watching what: Only $10/month for unlimited access!
  • Selling firewalls that block the Big Brother connection.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:17PM (#37145870)

    If my viewership can help the obscure shows I like get some advertiser love, I'm fine with my TV "reporting" on me. Back in the day, they apparently only gave Nielsen boxes to hillbillies in trailer parks (who apparently weren't big Firefly fans). I even volunteered to be a "Nielsen family," but I guess they didn't give them to single geeks. In fact, the only Nielsen family I ever even met was a family of local rednecks in my hometown when I was a kid. They were barely literate and I'm not even sure how they filled out their weekly paperwork (this was before the set-top boxes). I think they probably just randomly checked boxes, which may explain how "The Love Boat" ran for eight seasons.

    Now, having said that, there *are* limits. DON'T YOU BE REPORTING ON MY PORN! THAT'S WILLIE'S TIME!!!

    • by Sentry23 (447266) on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:25PM (#37146018) Homepage

      Now, having said that, there *are* limits.DON'T YOU BE REPORTING ON MY PORN! THAT'S WILLIE'S TIME!!!

      If anybody needed a good example what a difference an apostrophe can make, this seems like a good one.

      • Now, having said that, there *are* limits.DON'T YOU BE REPORTING ON MY PORN! THAT'S WILLIE'S TIME!!!

        If anybody needed a good example what a difference an apostrophe can make, this seems like a good one.

        LMAO but what if they reported on your porn? Don't you think Willie would like more black trann hooker porn? Better listen to your Willie, he's feeling left out.

    • This is the only possible upside I can see. It seems all the shows that everyone loves do poorly in the ratings (Firefly), while the crappy stuff (Glee, Jersey Shore) scores high enough to keep it around.
    • by slew (2918)

      I think you are mistaken on the economics of TV shows. The viewership (and the resultant ad-rates for the first airing), are only a small part of the equation. There's the aspect of the actual startup cost of the show too.

      That's why there are all the reality shows out there today. Reality shows have lower production costs (but also have lower-re-run value) so although they make less money over time, they make more profit up front. "The Love Boat" (and similar series that feature washed-up actors/actress

      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        True. But viewership is a pretty important part of the equation. I'd hate to think of a good show dying because no one realizes how many people are really watching.

    • I've actually been a Nielsen family twice. The first time I still had a TV, but no antenna or cable hookup. (I had a VCR though.) Second time, I didn't even have a TV.

      I tried explaining this to them, but they could never quite get the concept...

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You Don’t Own a TV? What’s All Your Furniture Pointed At?
        • by Amouth (879122)

          mine is aimed at the fireplace and a dining table - i also have one set aimed at a coffee/drawing table.

      • I had a Nielsen book once. i didn't watch any tv the whole time i had it. I sent back a blank book. easiest $10 i ever made.
      • I've actually been a Nielsen family twice. The first time I still had a TV, but no antenna or cable hookup. (I had a VCR though.) Second time, I didn't even have a TV.

        I tried explaining this to them, but they could never quite get the concept...

        HA-Haw! You don't have a TV!

        Oh, N i> elson ... nevemind!

      • I got do do the Nielsen thing once. All they did was send a little flimsy TV journal (with $5 cash nestled inside it for my time). All I had to do was write in each day what I watched in the appropriate time slots. I was honestly able to send it back ant the end of the watching period with every page marked "No TV watched that day."

        Easiest $5 I ever made.

        I hate to sound like that guy in that Onion article from a few years ago who is proud of not owning a TV, but I think I can count on once hand the numbe

        • by Raenex (947668)

          I got do do the Nielsen thing once. All they did was send a little flimsy TV journal (with $5 cash nestled inside it for my time). All I had to do was write in each day what I watched in the appropriate time slots. [..] Easiest $5 I ever made.

          A got that unsolicited packet in the mail a little over ten years ago, but I made my money even easier by pocketing the cash and throwing out the rest. I was actually surprised they sent cash like that in the mail.

    • by laron (102608)

      Now, having said that, there *are* limits. DON'T YOU BE REPORTING ON MY PORN! THAT'S WILLIE'S TIME!!!

      Great, now that every browser offers a "stealth mode" for err... browsing for birthday presents, there's another set of tracks you would have to cover, if that's even possible. I'm sure if you host a movie night on your new PC, people will be thrilled about the strange advertising you get.

    • by SiChemist (575005)

      I was a "Nielson Family" for one week. They paid me some minuscule amount (5 bucks, I think).

  • "Hi. I see you are watching "HalfBreeds Gone Wild. Would you like to subscribe to "Obama's Adult Fan Club?"

    (Not making this up! Hulu already does this!)

  • I get why vendors want this feature, I just don't see what is in it for the people who actually buy the TVs. I remember having the same feeling when Microsoft was touting how VIsta would have this stuff in it that would make it harder for people to copy copyrighted material.
    • "...I just don't see what is in it for the people who actually buy the TVs." Consumer whores?
    • I get why vendors want this feature, I just don't see what is in it for the people who actually buy the TVs. I remember having the same feeling when Microsoft was touting how VIsta would have this stuff in it that would make it harder for people to copy copyrighted material.

      The set will probably also include offerings like Google TV, Netflix, and other content you might actually want (we've already seen that). I'd guess this other technology won't be an announced feature, or at best the notification will be buried on page 122 under footnote 34 using very convoluted language.

  • Guess this is the end for "Big Brother" since it will be in every home soon enough....

    • by game kid (805301)

      On the contrary, this now means that Cablevision and friends will be carrying at least several million new channels, and they can up the monthly price! It's a win-win (for the cable guys)!

  • Seems kind of redundant really. Unless it is spying on you while you are watching your personal media collection, there is a playback mechanism that already has sufficient information on what you are watching to precisely identify what you are watching.

    I tweaked my MythTV setup to enable this very sort of thing. I would expect an outbreak of spastic paranoia if such features were in the official version though.

    Makes it easy to see that I am watching entirely too much TV though... and what it might cost to r

  • by Bloodwine77 (913355) on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:29PM (#37146074)

    If used as a replacement for Neilsen Ratings then I would actually be all for this, as long as the data was properly anonymized (or only searchable/exported with an obscure TV ID or Viewer ID, and not easily identifiable information). I don't mind advertisers knowing which shows are more popular, but I'd rather that neither they or any other entity tracks all my TV viewership for the sake of either custom-tailoring ads/junk/spam at me or monitoring me specifically.

    Judging by what is on TV right now, I think we need to try an alternative to Neilsen Ratings to see if that fixes anything ... or at least confirms that humanity isn't worth saving.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      I've just about given up watching shows that haven't made it at least one season. I've just started getting into too many shows that were subsequently canceled before they had a chance. And I double don't want Fox as they seem to be the worst offender.

    • by brunes69 (86786)

      I do not understand why the Neilsen ratings still exist in an age where nearly everyone has digital cable, and Time Warner / Cox / Comcast / Whoever could collectively sell anonymized aggregate statistics of EXACTLY how many people watched any show, that would cover half the country.

      It would inherit a small bias in that it would not include people who did not have cable, but the strata of incomes that DO have cable pretty much nullifys that argument IMO.

  • If enough people refuse to buy it- they'll stop selling it.
  • Or will they be obsoleting the non-net-aware ones via HDCP so we all have to upgrade?

    (bend over backwards to not obsolete first-gen tech .. anyone remember NTSC-M?)
  • They want to sell me a TV that tracks what I do and gives that information to others who's only interest is selling me things based on my TV viewing habits?

    Why on earth would anyone want a TV that targets spam at them? I suppose if someone were to get the TV for free, they would put up with the spam. But I can't see that as being a huge customer base. Then again, we're talking about the TV viewing public. I wouldn't have though there was much of a market for inane reality shows. I guess I'm just overes

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Because they'll include it in all new TVs and eventually the old ones will break.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Because they have this idea that if they know what you like they can make the spam INTERESTING to you, and then you'll LIKE it.

      Personally I think it's crap, but a lot of people buy into it.

  • is exactly why i gave up television 10 years ago. Its not designed for entertainment, its designed for marketing.

    I can just as easily sit down with a copy dune that i own and read it cover to cover to my hearts content, without anyone interrupting me every five to seven minutes trying to get me to buy a sugary energy drink or cell phone or car.

    and unlike E-Readers, revoking a copy of a real book after ive purchased it is much more likely to get your face broken.
  • A TV that knows when I am tugging on my junk just so it can nark to my computers and suggest I do it more.
  • ..... the fact is, it is providing information to someone about what you are doing. Cell phone companies are facing law suits that are all about privacy concerns. If Cell phone companies are not supposed to track your location, how does the Broadcast Media industry think they have rights to relay information back to 3rd parties about what you watch in the privacy of your own home? Will they add little camera to your TV so as to video you in your home, to monitor what product you might be using so as to f

  • Just don't buy the damn thing.
  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:40PM (#37146268) Homepage

    Every major cable provider tracks what you watch already. Your cable box asks the provider for a particular show, and that request is logged. The logs are collected and reports are generated. This has been going on for many years, and no, you don't need to consent.

    I'm not saying this is a good thing, but I do wonder how many of the folks saying they'll never buy these TVs because of privacy concerns already use cable.

    • Why hasn't Nielsen incorporated this dataset into their ratings system? Their current sample size is quite small.
      • What market advantage would that give Comcast?

      • by jader3rd (2222716)
        Because it risks unseating the current big players. I remember reading an article about this, and how the current big players hated the idea of actually tracking what people were watching. The idea is that if you're forced to write down what you watch, and when, you'll probably only write down the big episode viewing. But if the TV is recording exactly how long you stay on a channel, all of a sudden previously un reported channel surfing gets reported, and the big players aren't so big any more.
    • by geekmux (1040042)

      Every major cable provider tracks what you watch already. Your cable box asks the provider for a particular show, and that request is logged.

      Uh, comparing what cable TV companies do today vs. this technology is like trying to compare little league to MLB. You're not even close.

      This covers every single thing that forms an image on your TV. We're talking your personal DVD collection. Perhaps home movies. Perhaps you'll throw in a picture CD you recently got from a family member in your DVD player or computer hooked up to your HDTV. Yeah, remember how eerily accurate Picasa was with their facial recognition technology, automatically "sorting"

      • by jedidiah (1196)

        ...which is a vanishingly small set of what anyone would be interested in really.

        If your set top box can't identify it, then it's likely not something that is worth monitoring or should be monitored.

        Big Brother is really redundant here.

        • by geekmux (1040042)

          ...If your set top box can't identify it, then it's likely not something that is worth monitoring or should be monitored.

          Uh, says YOU. Entire organizations, both profit (doubleclick) and not-so-profit (No Such Agency) would tend to disagree with your "meh" stance, as they spend billions of dollars a year solely for the purpose of finding useful information in mountains of bullshit.

  • Or is this just one of those things that are going to happen in a cartel kind of way, like HDMI and plugging the analog hole?

  • by Ken_g6 (775014) on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:42PM (#37146304) Homepage

    As long as a TV is identifying content, does it also identify pirated content? (A show that looks like a known show, but in poorer quality, for instance?) If so, does it report me to the MAFIAA?

    This looks like a slippery slope.

  • recent news reports are describing a sinister technology being developed by a company named "flingo" next up, an impressive implementation for automated human euthanization has been patented by boobytoo, a new startup out of silicon valley
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday August 19, 2011 @01:43PM (#37146324) Journal

    One of the few shows I watch is Have I Got News For you. I also admit to having liked Miranda... so you are going to give me ads for loud shirts, big girls clothes and boring suits?

    Well, they sure got my number.

    Except I don't wear suits, my shirts are black and I am not a big girl.

    Most people just don't ads, targetted or otherwise. Stop listening to focus groups, only inbred mutants ever volunteer for them. Ask around, who do you know that has ever been in one?

    Now there is a group who likes ads but they tend to be the sort that are a bit... stupid. The kind who want a hat just like XXX who is having their 15 minutes of fame. That is not a large enough group for advertisers.

    Stuff like this is very old, there are countless attempts to get people to consume advertising. QR codes? OLD hate, barcodes were earlier. CueCat anyone? Total failure. People just ain't that into ads. Most ads realize this and therefor different from the advertising in a supermarket where an ad is a sign telling you this item can be bought for this right now. Rather a car ad wants to create a feeling with you so that in future, that feeling might come back when you are considering buying a car. People aren't going to jump up from their TV show to google that car the criminal was driving. Or stop their movie evening to google what her names dress.

    Oh a small percentage might but are they going to buy a new TV just for that?

    So you have a subset of a subset and then they have to agree to buy THAT tv and not one of the countless other models.

    Not enough of a market. These things NEED mass adoption in a small time frame to survive. Nothing has worked in the past. Just name one of the countless once introcuced over time that have made it. A free cuecat for the winner.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      QR codes are actually helpful and they're standardized in a way that works. The problem with CueCat was that it required that you have a specific device and in order to make use of the device you had to have advertising that was support it. They weren't ever able to solve the chicken and egg problem and failed.

      QR OTOH doesn't require special technology, there's at least one app for both iPhone and Android and including the code is actually somewhat desirable as there's tons of folks with compatible devices.

      • and don't forget there are also PC (and i would bet Mac) QRCode readers (and generators).

      • Be honest, when the novelty wore off, how many times did you REALLY use it not to show off but to actually get info you wanted? How often do you see QR codes in the wild? (Not in japan, japan is the exception for everything)

        • by hedwards (940851)

          I see them regularly, and I'm seeing an increased number of ads which have them embedded. Some folks have their business card information embedded in a scannable code.

          Given how useful the technology is and how little it costs smartphone users to use, I don't see it going away anytime soon. The nice thing is that it has very little downside for those that don't use the technology.

  • If I had one of these tvs I'd spoof my neighbor's IP and then leave a XXX porn dvd playing on auto-repeat.

  • here's my idea for a solution to this: Make a home movie. Play it on the TV. Sue the TV manufacturer for violating your copyright to your home movie by creating and distributing a derivative work. Profit.

  • You are think of this all wrong. rather than view it as yet another intrusive attempt to gather data and make money off of it; think of it as an opportunity to Slashdot ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H educate content creators

    1. Hook up an IR sender to your computer

    Scrape TV listings

    Create open source show selector, channel changer, and URL generator

    Watch favorite show 24/7

    Profit? That's the content creators problem, you just don't want your show cancelled.

    Seriously, properly done the noise will cancel out the signal. Eve

  • Cable TV set top boxes report back what you're watching, and the cable companies sell that data to market research companies and others. Look at fine print in the privacy agreement that you agreed to when you signed up for cable TV. You gave the cable companies permission to do that.
  • Teevee? Wasn't that the push video thing from before the 'net? Where you had to sit in front of some glaring, flickering cathode ray tube to see ghost images projected on the phosphorous layer in front of the thing? I heard they showed people walking on the moon on those things, for real!

    How times change. Now TV is dead, but there is nobody walking on the moon.

  • I remember thinking my grandmother was paranoid because she thought that the people on the other end of the TV could see her. I guess she was just ahead of her time.

    • by wdef (1050680)
      Hearing robot-like voices emanating from machinery like televisions is a commonly-reported auditory hallucination in those suffering from a psychotic illness.
  • In Soviet Russia TV watches us :)

  • No cable, no problem!
  • Once all entertainment content comes into your home via the internet - how far is that away, 5 years? - they won't need to "fingerprint" what is on the screen since what you are viewing will be tracked anyway like web habits are tracked. And as another commenter pointed out, cable tv providers already track what you watch.

    So what is the agenda for this short lived intermediary technology - surveillance of private content?

  • Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.

    It seems every few years another upstart somehow gets VC for another go at the "context-aware" commercial viewer product which surely everyone wants, particularly on a voluntary basis with only a complete privacy tradeoff.

    Good luck with that -

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