Google awarded patent for tailored advertising based on spying on sound and environment

By End the Lie

On March 20, 2012, Google was awarded U.S. Patent 8138930, known as “Advertising Based on Environmental Conditions,” which can be viewed here or here.

This patent is one of the most troubling advances in the growth of Big Brother Google as it proposes that background sounds, temperature, humidity, light and air composition can all be monitored in order to serve highly targeted advertisements.

This shouldn’t be all that surprising for those who have been following the Silicon Valley data mining arms race, but for those who have not, this is likely a major wake up call.

The patent states that a web browser or search engine which the user is using can actually be used to obtain what could very well be highly private information about the environment surrounding the user.

“Advertisers may specify that ads are shown to users whose environmental conditions meet certain criteria,” the patent states, although it could quite obviously also be used as yet another way to gather massive amounts of private information on Americans.

After all, the National Counterterrorism Center can now hold on to private data belonging to Americans with no known or suspected links to terrorism for a shocking five years.

Coupled with the National Security Agency’s new massive data center complex in Utah and the announcement from American internet service providers (ISPs) that they will soon begin to conduct the largest digital spying operation in history, this does not look good.

The more innocuous applications of this technology could be along the lines of air conditioner advertisements that are served only to users in areas with high temperatures, or on the flip side, winter jackets could be advertised to users in areas below a certain temperature threshold.

As I have been covering, Google has come under fire recently, even from some unlikely individuals like Senator Chuck Schumer, mainly for their absurd new privacy policy which collects data across all of their many services and platforms in order to create a more fleshed out profile of users.

While this might sound fine in principle, the fact that it is impossible to opt out of, not to mention Google’s intimate relationship with the American intelligence community, makes it far from acceptable in my opinion.

Google has ignored any and all public opposition to their new policy, which came into effect on March 1, even though some have raised concerns that it might actually be illegal in the European Union along with outside nations like Japan and South Korea.

In an email to the Chief Executive Officer of Google, Larry Page, EU officials warned that their new privacy policy appeared to be in violation of EU law.

This is in addition to a massive coalition of consumer groups, numbering some 50 groups in both the United Kingdom and the United States, who also wrote a letter to Page in protest of their new policy.

However, as I have previously pointed out, some believe this isn’t in fact anything new, they’re just now making these practices public while guaranteeing that they are protected from any legal attacks on their Big Brother policies.

Google is now even being criticized by some of their former executives, including James Whittaker, who said, “the Google I was passionate about was a technology company – the Google I left was an advertising company.”

However, I see Google as more of a tool of the Western intelligence community than anything else at this point, and the recent announcement that the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) would be leaving for Google just reinforces this long-standing relationship.

Like Google’s government ties, the technology in this patent is not actually entirely new, since the patent itself was filed way back in January 2008.

According to Information Week, “the patent suggests that Google has at the very least exercised the idea of using targeted advertisements based on background noise and conversations.”

One of the many troubling aspects of this patent is the claim that it will utilize a computer-implemented method of grabbing environmental data from a wide variety of devices including one or more of the following, “[a] mobile phone, a personal computer, a digital billboard, a digital kiosk, or a vendor machine.”

This could incorporate sound, such as speech and background noise, as well as images and video signals, which Google can already hijack through their programs loaded on to smartphones.

The disturbing part of this technology is that, when considered with their new privacy policy, Google could essentially collect data covering just about anything and everything you might do in your life, store it one central location for easy retrieval, all indefinitely and all with no limits to who they can share the information with.

“We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t,” one Google spokesperson said in an attempt to assuage the understandable concerns of many.

“Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications,” the spokesperson added, according to the Daily Mail.

One must wonder if anything is stopping them from rolling out this technology under our noses without actually telling anyone. Something tells me that there is absolutely nothing in their way from doing such a thing, in fact, I would be surprised if they weren’t already leveraging their ability to remotely access cameras and other parts of unsuspecting users’ devices to gather data either for intelligence purposes or advertising.

What do you think? Are these fears overblown or should people be concerned about this patent approval and the growing tide of Big Brother technology in the United States?

I’d love to hear your opinion, take a look at your story tips, and even your original writing if you would like to get it published. Please email me at [email protected]

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3 Responses to Google awarded patent for tailored advertising based on spying on sound and environment

  1. Pingback: Google Awarded Patent for Tailored Advertising Based on Spying on Sound and Environment :

  2. Bo Brown April 6, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    As an SEO and a conspiracy nut I can read through this particular article and have no disagreement worth arguing. It may sound a little far fetched to most readers; however, in light of the recent Panda update we all know just how complicated and advanced the new algos are getting. Keep it up man, very good work here!

    Reply
  3. Erik August 28, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    I wonder if this patent was also granted in Europe. It sounds like a typical business method, which should be excluded from patent protection.

    Reply

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