How to get targeted ads on your TV? Try a camera in your set-top box.

A set-top box could push ads based on what it sees and hears in your home.

Ars Technica, By Casey Johnston, December 3

Verizon has filed a patent for a DVR that can watch and listen to the goings-on in your living room. In the application, the company proposes to use the technology to serve targeted ads appropriate to whatever you’re doing in the, uh, privacy of your own home—fighting, cuddling, or hanging out with your cats.

Verizon is far from the first company to think of this unassailably creepy use for a set-top box. Comcast patented similar monitoring technology in 2008 for recommending content based on people it recognizes in the room; Google proposed yet another patent for Google TV that would use audio and video recorders to figure out how many people in a room are watching the current broadcast.

Verizon filed for the application in May 2011, and it was just published last week. (By law, all patent applications are published after 18 months.) In the document, which was first noticed by FierceCable, Verizon gives two examples of the context-sensitive DVR’s use in a couple’s living room: sounds of arguing prompt ads for marriage counseling, while sounds of “cuddling” prompts ads for contraceptives. Charming.

A new use for black electrical tape! (Covering up the camera – though ya gotta wonder which ads you’d be served in *that* case).

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  • And while you might cover up the camera, you’d also want to disable any microphone. And if I were designing the hardware, I would not let it function if audio/video were not operating.

    Seems to me this could lead to serious lawsuits, so they’re probably build in an ‘off switch’ equivalent to the fine-print-nobody-ever-reads. And it would On by default.

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