Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) has introduced a bill that would prohibit TV boxes or DVRs from automatically monitoring viewers to serve targeted ads, Hiawatha Bray of The Boston Globe reported earlier this week.
The bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and named the We Are Watching You Act, is a response to efforts by cable and technology companies to patent technology that would be built-in to receivers and constantly pick up movements and comments of viewers.
“Allowing this type of technology to be installed in the homes of individuals without their consent would be an egregious invasion of privacy,” Jones said. “When the government has an unfortunate history of secretly collecting private citizens’ information from technology providers, we must ensure that safeguards are in place to protect Americans’ rights.”
From Katy Bachman of AdWeek:
For viewers that opt in, the monitoring company would have to display a “we are watching you” message on the screen and provide to the consumer what types of information is being collected and how it will be used.
Microsoft’s new Xbox One Kinect console uses sophisticated tracking to detect body positions, but the company says that the sensor can be turned off and the consumer is in control of their own personal data.
Last year Verizon filed a patent application — which received a “non-final rejection” — for monitoring technology “that would use infrared cameras and microphones to track and collect consumer behaviour in the vicinity of a TV or mobile device.”
According to the application, the patent would cover technology that can serve ads “…targeted to the user based on what the user is doing, who the user is, the user’s surroundings, and/or any other suitable information associated with the user.”
Verizon stated that the goal of the technology is to provide “the user with advertising content that is relevant to the user’s current situation and/or likely to be of interest to the user.”
The technology would also expose the last place that Americans enjoy robust privacy protections.
“Think about what you do in the privacy of your own home and then think about how you would feel sharing that information with your cable company, their advertisers, and your government,” Capuano said.
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