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Patent Office Rejects Verizon's TV Snooping Tech Application

By - Source: Computerworld | B 25 comments

Verizon's scary "TV snooping" patent received a non-final rejection from the USPTO.

In addition to invalidating Apple's "Steve Jobs patent" on a non-final basis last week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has rejected a patent application on a non-final basis submitted by Verizon. This application caused quite a stir over the past week because the tech promised to serve up targeted ads based on what TV viewers were doing, saying and watching in front of their sets.

FierceCable uncovered the patent last week, reporting that the proposed advertising tech -- likely mounted in a set-top box, tablet or smartphone -- could determine if the viewer was laughing, playing a music instrument, cuddling, sleeping or singing. The information provided by the viewer's motions, expressions and words would be captured by infrared cameras and a microphone. The tech could even distinguish between people, objects and animals that were near the TV.

"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 states in its patent application.

By detecting the mood and/or actions of the viewer, the tech would be capable of triggering specific advertisements matching that data. The technology described in the patent claims it can provide 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."

That said, someone exercising in front of the TV would likely see advertisements about gym memberships, vitamin supplements and other related material. A couple cuddling on the couch might see an advertisement about a romantic cruise, a romantic comedy playing in the movie theater, and so on.

FierceCable said that the proposed targeted advertising system may be developed through a joint innovation lab it has created with Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. This speculation stems from a comment Comcast CFO Michael Angelakis made in November, saying that engineers from Comcast and Verizon have been meeting together on the West Coast to develop products and services.

"Of all the privacy-intrusive technology developments that I've become aware of in recent years, this one is at the extreme end of the scale," said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearing House. "One of the things that troubles me about this patent, aside from the extraordinary privacy-invasiveness of it, is that there are engineers at Verizon sitting around thinking up such things."

As it stands now, the patent application has been returned to Verizon who must now decide if it wants to abandon the patent, or to keep developing the technology until its finally approved. Computerworld said that a Verizon spokesperson "downplayed" the concerns over the patent, adding that the company has a "well-established track record of respecting its customers' privacy and protecting their personal information."

"Verizon takes pride in its innovators whose work is represented in our patents and patent applications," the Verizon rep added.

 

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  • 18 Hide
    otacon72 , December 10, 2012 12:19 AM
    "Verizon takes pride in its innovators whose work is represented in our patents and patent applications,"

    That include invading someone's privacy? The fact Verizon thinks this is a good idea is just scary.
  • 11 Hide
    phatboe , December 10, 2012 5:26 AM
    /me Stands in front of set top box and says "porn" repeatedly.
Other Comments
  • 18 Hide
    otacon72 , December 10, 2012 12:19 AM
    "Verizon takes pride in its innovators whose work is represented in our patents and patent applications,"

    That include invading someone's privacy? The fact Verizon thinks this is a good idea is just scary.
  • 5 Hide
    razor512 , December 10, 2012 12:26 AM
    otacon72"...


    But then how will big brother keep you safe and assist you on finding true freedom and happiness through obedience to authority?
  • 1 Hide
    thecolorblue , December 10, 2012 1:09 AM
    FU@£

    game over people... kiss it goodbye.
    1984 is here
  • 1 Hide
    thecolorblue , December 10, 2012 1:09 AM
    game over people... kiss it goodbye
    1984 is here
  • -1 Hide
    bigdragon , December 10, 2012 1:59 AM
    Will preventing Verizon from getting a patent on this technology prevent them from deploying it? Probably not, unfortunately. There is still tons of money to be made from this sort of service. However, if they honestly deploy it I expect to see a reduction in my bill and the ads to be non-intrusive. The moment they make me wait to watch an ad, interrupt what I'm doing to watch an ad, or put something on the screen that could bug me I'm off to get a tuner for my HTPC.
  • 6 Hide
    keczapifrytki , December 10, 2012 2:22 AM
    Hell no! I will never ever take this kind of tech into my home. And if they force these cameras into my cable box then that's what duct tape is for.
  • 7 Hide
    Thunderfox , December 10, 2012 3:00 AM
    So what was the basis for the patent being rejected?
  • 2 Hide
    tacobravo , December 10, 2012 3:12 AM
    Well looking at their track record, the United States Patent and Trademark Office needs to invalidate a whole bunch of nonsense patents given to companies that other companies have already had a patent for.
  • 0 Hide
    HEXiT , December 10, 2012 3:53 AM
    bigdragonWill preventing Verizon from getting a patent on this technology prevent them from deploying it? Probably not, unfortunately. There is still tons of money to be made from this sort of service. However, if they honestly deploy it I expect to see a reduction in my bill and the ads to be non-intrusive. The moment they make me wait to watch an ad, interrupt what I'm doing to watch an ad, or put something on the screen that could bug me I'm off to get a tuner for my HTPC.
    why would you even allow this kind of crap in your home...
    any 1 that does is an idiot of the highest order im not saying you are said idiot but people in general...
  • 2 Hide
    ttcboy , December 10, 2012 4:01 AM
    That's why i never subscribe for any over priced cable box and stick to the internet for my entertainments.
  • 2 Hide
    Truckinupga , December 10, 2012 4:57 AM
    What is happening to this country, It wasn't until the last few years an idea such as this would have not even been considered, And a lot of people are excepting this new privacy breaching technology. We have to stand up and put a stop to this type of thing, Its getting really out of hand.
  • 11 Hide
    phatboe , December 10, 2012 5:26 AM
    /me Stands in front of set top box and says "porn" repeatedly.
  • 1 Hide
    madjimms , December 10, 2012 6:02 AM
    phatboe/me Stands in front of set top box and says "porn" repeatedly.

    BEST COMMENT EVARRR
  • 0 Hide
    Nick_C , December 10, 2012 6:41 AM
    A bit of magic tape over the camera and some sticky-backed foam over the mic should be enough to restore privacy....
  • 2 Hide
    heero yuy , December 10, 2012 7:04 AM
    phatboe/me Stands in front of set top box and says "porn" repeatedly.


    what happens if you have sex in front of your tv :o ?
  • -1 Hide
    DREAMER_ES , December 10, 2012 7:58 AM
    Big Brother is watching you!
    No more fiction in Orson Welles' 1984
  • -1 Hide
    kellybean , December 10, 2012 12:12 PM
    How can they issue a patent to something that is already being done, well the spying part anyway. Got a Crapbox 360 with a mic and motion camera or have a PC with a camera running Windows then.....
  • 0 Hide
    mrmaia , December 10, 2012 12:34 PM
    I want a TV with Adblock Plus, NoScript, Ghostery and whatever other track-blocking addons :p 
  • 0 Hide
    cknobman , December 10, 2012 1:39 PM
    heero yuywhat happens if you have sex in front of your tv ?


    Trojan condom commercials. ;) 
    STD screening facility commercials.
    HIV treatment commercials.
    Mens cabaret commercials.
    KY Lubricant commercials.

    (would be cool if)
    Tuner automatically tunes receiver to porn channel.
    (would be cooler if)
    Tuner tunes to porn channel showing porn based off type of sex you are having.
  • 1 Hide
    freggo , December 10, 2012 1:44 PM
    It is always fascinating to see how enginees and business people do not see that there is a fine line between being innovative and creepy.

    This is obviously crossing that line well on to the dark side.
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