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SPYING THROUGH YOUR TV?

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Big Brother televisions: Intel is the latest firm to announce TV box that spies on you and selects ads that match your behaviour

y DAMIEN GAYLE
PUBLISHED: 16:55, 14 February 2013 | UPDATED: 17:21, 14 February 2013
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Campaigners today warned of a ’seismic shift’ in privacy invasion after it emerged that Intel was the latest company set to market a television set-top box equipped with a camera that stares back at viewers.
The company, which makes the microchips found inside most personal computers, has launched an entirely new division, Intel Media, to make and market the Orwellian streaming-television product.
Erik Huggers (pictured), vice-president of Intel Media, said the new service would offer users a TV ’that is much more personal, that learns about you, that actually cares about who you are.’
The camera, Intel claims, will enable them to personalise the interactive features of their product, so that different members of the same household can be served programming and advertising specific to them.
Intel is only the latest company to develop a television product that contains a camera and sensors designed to watch what viewers are up to.
U.S. cable provider Verizon sparked outrage in December when it applied to patent a set-top box technology that can observe what’s going on in the room and show viewers adverts based on what it detects
In U.S. Patent Application 20120304206 the company suggests it could detect when people are ’cuddling’ then show ’a commercial for a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers […] etc.
Microsoft also recently registered a patent for technology to allow its Kinect motion sensor to figure out how many people are in front of it then stop playback if it detected more people than the copyright terms allowed. Google TV proposed a similar patent that would use video and audio recording devices to do the same.
And Comcast in 2008 patented a monitoring technology that would recommend content to users based on people it recognised in the room.
The surge in products that look back at you will no doubt spark associations with George Orwell’s dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which an oppressed population live in fear of surveillance through two-way ’telescreens’.
The book’s hero, Winston Smith, is only able to keep a diary – a banned activity – because one corner of his old-fashioned flat is out of the view of the telescreen’s camera.
Erik Huggers, vice-president of Intel Media, spoke to AllThingsD’s Dive Into Media conference this week, where he gave official confirmation of Intel’s long-rumoured entry into the telescreen market.
’This thing looks like a leap in time of 10-20 years compared to what you have today, that is much more personal, that learns about you, that actually cares about who you are’
Erik Huggers, vice-president of Intel Media
He said: ’This thing looks like a leap in time of 10-20 years compared to what you have today, that is much more personal, that learns about you, that actually cares about who you are.’
He added: ’We think there’s real value in the ability to actually identify the various users. Today television doesn’t really know anything about you and it’s the same television service for everyone in the household.’
Challenged about the privacy implications surrounding a television service which is designed to look back at the viewer, he said: ’We think there’s real value in the ability to actually identify the various users.
’Today television doesn’t really know anything about you and it’s the same television service for everyone in the household.’
THE NEW TVS THAT STARE BACK
Intel’s new set-top box product is not the first technology that encroaches on the privacy of families’ living rooms.
Verizon recently applied for a patent for a set-top box equipped with sensors to detect the characteristics and activities of viewers and serve advertising to suit
Before that, Microsoft registered a patent for technology to allow its Kinect motion sensor to figure out how many people are in front of it then stop playback if it detected more people than the copyright terms allowed.
Google TV proposed a similar patent that would use video and audio recording devices to do the same.
And Comcast in 2008 patented a monitoring technology that would recommend content to users based on people it recognised in the room.
Samsung’s Smart TV already comes equipped with cameras and microphones, although they are not linked to a system which delivers personalised content.
Dutch-born Mr Huggers gave a personal example drawn from his own family life, where his children’s use of his Netflix account means that when he and his wife use it the service often suggests cartoons for them to watch.
’My kids may watch programming geared toward them, and I’ll watch programming geared toward me,’ he said.
’If there’s a way to distinguish who is watching what, advertisers can then target ads at the proper parties.’
He also promised that the final product would ship with a ’shutter’ over its camera’s lens, allowing users fearful of being watched to block its view.
Privacy campaigners nevertheless reacted with horror to the product, which Intel intends to sell directly to the public as soon as later this year.
Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: ’The idea that your television is watching you as you watch is a seismic shift in privacy protection.
’This is data collection solely for commercial purposes and most people won’t realise that this is even happening.
’It highlights why proper regulation is essential so companies aren’t free to scan and search your living room – or wherever you have a TV – to record more information on who is watching.
’At least this camera will have a physical way of blocking it, but with a range of smart televisions there is no way to block the in-built camera and microphones.
’Given the widespread concerns about these devices being hacked over the internet, they could well end up being Orwell’s telescreens controlled by strangers with a laptop.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2278701/Big-Brother-TV-Intel-latest-firm-announce-box-spies-you.html#ixzz2KuRM5PfV

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