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Could Verizon Someday Be 'Peeking Into Your Life' While You Watch TV?



With the way technology and data tracking is evolving to allow for targeted advertising, companies have filed patents for everything from "Minority Report" style billboards to background noise tracking in phones. Along a similar vein, Verizon recently filed a patent that would spy on users while they were watching TV.

According to the demurely named patent "Methods and Systems for Presenting an Advertisement Associated with an Ambient Action of a User," a device -- perhaps associated with the set-top cable box -- with the ability to sense what the user was doing while the TV was on would target advertising toward them accordingly.

Verizon wrote that such technology could be beneficial because traditional advertising might not work well if the viewer is doing anything besides watching the commercials.

By taking in such information -- like if the viewer is "eating, exercising, laughing, reading, sleeping, talking, singing, humming, cleaning, playing a musical instrument, performing any other suitable action, engaging in any other physical activity during the presentation of the media content" or playing with a mobile phone in front of the TV -- would allow the company to present a better "selected advertisement during the advertisement break" that could draw the user's attention.

The device could include a camera, depth sensor (e.g., an infrared laser projector combined with a complementary metal-oxide semiconductor ("CMOS") sensor), audio sensor and thermal sensor. The patent does mention a "detection zone," which would be a physical space or range where it would be appropriate for the sensors to pick up information on the users.

A bit freaked out? We've said it before and we'll say it again: just because a company files a patent does not mean they will ever make the technology a reality. As Gizmodo put it, "how many of these patents actually turn into products, anyway?" It also speculated that if the idea ever did come to fruition, it would require the user to opt-in "before peeking into your life."

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