This sounds like some bizarre episode of the X-Files, but Verizon just filed for a creepy patent. Apparently, their "innovative" R&D team came up with a unique idea. They want to patent a DVR with a camera that can monitor "ambient actions" like people singing, fighting, or even cuddling. It will then send you "appropriate" advertising based upon your behavior.
Interestingly the idea of behavioral monitoring is nothing new in the tech world. Even Comcast, Microsoft and Google have toyed around with the concept. However, their ideas centered around making the user experience more useful for their customers, like resuming a show where you left off or locking out certain TV programming for kids. Verizon's new idea focuses squarely on delivering advertising content directly to consumers. In fact, one example was directly related to the "cuddling" example above, and has the DVR sending "contraceptive commercials" when folks are getting snuggly. Here's a quote with some additional detail,
While this odd patent easily instigates head scratching, at least we can be comforted by the fact that almost no consumer would consent to something like this. Chalk this one up to, "What the heck were they thinking?"But in Verizon's idea, the creepiness outweighs the useful by a good margin. It's solely directed at selecting advertising, and has nothing to do with improving the user experience or adding functionality.
Not only that, but the actions it looks for seem odd. It would be understandable, if still a little weird, to send ads targeted to couples if it detected there were two people sitting close together. But Verizon's system goes one step further and detects whether those two might be "cuddling," and then specifically suggests "a commercial for a contraceptive" as a likely one to run.
Few people would submit to such scrutiny anyway, even if they were assured that the information was confidential. And while basing ads on things like reading or cooking wouldn't be as creepy, the other actions described don't even make sense. Playing an instrument, participating in a sport, fighting — these are things people do when they aren't paying attention to the screen.
It's also worth noting that Verizon's idea chooses ads for the "commercial break" — the very thing people are trying to get away from when they buy a DVR.
Sidenote: The source of this article reached out to Verizon and actually received a response from them on the subject. Here it is below,
Somehow, that statement still doesn't entice one to "cuddle up" with this idea..."Verizon has a well-established track record of respecting its customers’ privacy and protecting their personal information. As a company that prizes innovation, Verizon takes pride in its innovators whose work is represented in our patents and patent applications. While we do not comment on pending patent applications, such futuristic patent filings by innovators are routine." ~Verizon
Thanks for the tip, justin82!