Just when media advertising has hit an all time loss in revenue, the Cable TV industry has brought new lifeblood to their own profitability. That will leave the radio and news print companies fading away broke and into oblivion. Or, at least that is how Comcast Executive Gerard Kunkel outlined it in a reporter’s interview during the 2007 Digital Living Room Conference.
Reporter Chris Albrecht wrote in 2007 that Kunkel openly stated to him and another attendee that, "the Cable Company is experimenting with different camera technologies built into devices so it can know who’s in your living room." Kunkel went on to state that… "The system wouldn’t be based on facial recognition, so there wouldn’t be a picture of you on file (yea, right). Instead, it would distinguish between different members of your household by recognizing body forms."
After the story aired, Comcast tried to respond with damage control to keep their technology work secret. Unfortunately for them, Albrecht had made specific written notes and even film interviewed Kunkel.
But now, in 2009, Kunkel (pictured to the left) and a collective group of mega high-powered companies have reportedly broken through the sci-fi technology barriers that were first feared as far back as George Orwell’s 1949 novel and movie, "Nineteen Eighty Four." This partnership of top Cable Companies, TV Manufactures and National Media companies first came about in 2005. All of them with one collective goal, seeing inside your home, needs and habits, tracking your computer surfing and what video games you enjoy.
The Driving Force Behind It All
Ever since this technology was developed, advertisers have pressured the cable companies to determine where to best spend their advertising dollars. Before now, the Cable Company could not determine which brand of soda pop someone was drinking. They couldn't clearly read the brand of potato chip being munched. But that has all changed in the last few years with the creation of High Definition Television or HDTV.
Older model TV's will become obsolete and replaced with HDTV type. Especially when it comes to the cable company TV screen cameras. Now, for the first time, if you have a HDTV, the Cable Company will have a high definition view into your home through the TV screen(s).
Since cable companies will be monitoring through watching TV, they can provide advertisers data on you and your family’s lifestyle. Then sell advertising directly geared to your needs and wants. Just think, you and your neighbors could all be watching the same television show in the comfort of your living room. When a commercial break comes, your wife sees a cosmetic commercial while next door, your male neighbor gets a beer commercial, and the kids down the street see ads for toys. All at the same time.
Reality Of It All….
Think it’s impossible? Here is a simple way to look at it all. If you have a cable box, the cable companies have given you an "address." This address is needed to differentiate you from every other subscriber on their network so they can know where to send an "on-demand" movie that you may have just ordered. Inside that cable box is a RFID type chip that allows the cable company technicians to pinpoint and single you out from thousands of other subscribers.
If they want, as they do with "on-demand" movies, at a moments notice they can create a selective connection between their main office equipment and 'their' cable box which is connected to the TV.
Now, as one technician with a major cable company told this author. "Who really knows what capabilities have been included in new TV sets and or built into digital and conversion box’s."
He went on to say, "Its absurd to think that if our industry can use this technology to transmit a signal through a tiny cable to any digital box or QAM equipped set in your home or business, that they cant in turn create a signal/fiber to return a picture back to a database on that specific account."
And, with the government doing away with analog TV airwaves in June of this year, everyone will have to have cable....its all downhill from there.
When former Attorney General John Ashcroft asked Congress for more power to monitor cable lines to fight terrorism, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a cable industry trade group, did not strenuously object. Many critics accused the cable media of wanting privacy rules relaxed for its own members' marketing purposes.
Microsoft already uses Predictive Networks' technology to track the viewing habits of people who use Microsoft TV interactive television products. Predictive Networks makes "personalization software" for interactive television that monitors what programs each user watches and creates a profile that is then used to tailor advertising pitches and new content to users.
Up until now, this use of space-age technology has been without seeing a real face or actual human monitoring inside your home. They’ve just tracked use of your remotes, keyboard or game controllers. "TiVo," has now gone as far as to file for a US Patent to intrude into your private life.
The Patent Application states....."This system is a multimedia mobile personalization system that provides a remote control that detects a user’s electronic tag, e.g. an RFID tag. The remote control notifies a multimedia device of the user’s identity. The multimedia device then tailors it to the user’s preferences stored locally. Multimedia content such as broadcast or recorded television programs and the like could be sorted, displayed, or restricted, depending on the identifier.
Bottom line, TV media has prepared and joined forces to ensure themselves billions each year in advertising revenue while radio and newspapers will fade away because no advertiser will pass up on this new high tech marketing tool. Whether all of this is in conjunction with the government being able to monitor what goes on in your home is not going to matter, its happening now. Any corporation tied to the cable company industry is going to jump on the moneytrain in order to share the wealth.
It’s Not The Government You Need To Fear…
Gathering your lifestyle and personal data is nothing new to marketing strategies. Twenty-four hours a day, an Arkansas company named Acxiom, electronically gathers and sorts information about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions. Telephone numbers and real estate records. Car registrations and fishing licenses. Consumer surveys and demographic details.
What Acxiom does is perfectly legal. Assembling an array of facts from scattered sources. But the phenomenon known as "data warehousing" represents yet another example of how traditional American notions of personal privacy have become obsolete, outstripped by technology's ability to peer into personal lives.
In a flash, these data warehouses can assemble electronic dossiers that give marketers, insurers and in some cases law enforcement a stunningly clear look into an American's needs, lifestyle and spending habits.
Jim Settle, former supervisor of the FBI's National Computer Crimes Squad and now a security consultant says the whole thing is scary. He says it's not the government you need to worry about, it's private industry.
As a nation, we have all come to accept the fact if you walk down any street or pull up to most any stoplight in your car, there is a camera somewhere watching and or filming. And, if you’re not violating the law, this type of monitoring is a good thing.
But, no matter the reason, for your Cable Company, or anyone to monitor you in every room in your home that has a TV is downright scary. In a sense, this will make us all marketing lab rats. Plus, you really may want to take a hard look at any extra curriculum activities your willing to do in front of the TV in the privacy of your own living room, bathroom and or bedroom.
Look at it this way, don’t do anything you would not want to see the next day on "You Tube." Or, the latest live TV reality show…. Maybe we should all just turn the TV towards the wall….
End Of Story….
TiVo’s patent request
Sam Webber & Jack Swint
PO Box 40511
Charelston, WV 25364