“It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself–anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face…; was itself a punishable offense. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime…”
– George Orwell, 1984
“The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken.”
– Microsoft, US Patent Application 20120278904
Orwell got it wrong: we’ll be watched by corporations, they’ll do it for profit, and we’ll let them.
It’s already happening.
Microsoft’s patent, mentioned above, would tie the cost of entertainment to who’s physically in the room watching with you. Unexpected guest drops in? The movie stops until you pay more money. Intel seems to be doing something similar with their not-yet-announced IPTV offering:
It’s also said to be working on innovative set-top box technology, including a system that would allow it to broadcast targeted ads using facial recognition, which could provide information like age and gender to marketers. (Source)
And that’s really the goal of this stuff: to watch you, extract data, and use that data to sell things to you. Next week at CES, we’ll be seeing that exact tech from Gracenote:
Gracenote’s solution will give buyers the chance to sell different products to various segments of people during the exact same commercial slot. A male viewer in his 40s may see a car commercial while a younger woman may be served a fashion-oriented ad, for instance. (Source)
But it doesn’t end there. What if you’re eating a bag of Doritos? Now your TV knows to show you ads for new Doritos products (and maybe some Mountain Dew and Loco Tacos). If the system can recognize faces, it can surely recognize products.
This tech will also hit second-screen experiences. Now your TV will know when you’re multitasking on your iPad. Watching Conan? Maybe you’ll see more pushes towards the Team CoCo iPad app. Or if you’ve synced your iPad with your TV (which is also coming, just you wait), you’ll get a Push notification with a direct link to the second-screen app.
And by that I mean absolutely terrifying.