The telecom giant Verizon has filed a patent for a cable television box that would use sensors to monitor what costumers are doing in their homes and how they are behaving as they view television programing in order to target audiences with more specific advertisements.
In a patent filing, Verizon outlines a set-top box that would use a depth sensor, an image sensor, an audio sensor and a thermal sensor to determine what people are doing while they watch television.
“If detection facility detects one or more words spoken by a user (e.g. while talking to another user within the same room or on the telephone), advertising facility may utilize the one or more words spoken by the user to search for and/or select an advertisement associated with the one or more words,” Verizon wrote in its application.
The technology would also allow the company to know how the inhabitants of the home were interacting with one another. For instance, a couple watching a romantic program while cuddling on the couch could be recognized by the set and targeted for ads for contraceptives or romantic getaways.
The company would also be able to find out whether a user is “eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, singing, humming, cleaning, playing a musical instrument, performing any other suitable action, and/or engaging in any other physical activity during the presentation of the media content,” according to the patent.
While the technology raises major privacy concerns and brings to mind notions of the all-seeing telescreens in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, Verizon said its customers have no need to worry.
“Verizon has a well-established track record of respecting its customers’ privacy and protecting their personal information. As a company that prizes innovation, Verizon takes pride in its innovators whose work is represented in our patents and patent applications. While we do not comment on pending patent applications, such futuristic patent filings by innovators are routine, and whatever we might do in the future would be in line with our well-established track record of respecting our customers’ privacy and protecting their personal information,” it said in a statement.