Verizon Idea to Track TV Viewers Gets Patent Rejection
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A Verizon idea to monitor people watching TV ran into trouble when the U.S. Patent Office rejected Verizon's patent application last week.
The patent filing had detailed a plan for TV set-top boxes to track whatever people said or did — a way to create personalized ads that could run during commercial breaks. But the patent office's "non-final" rejection of the patent application means that Verizon must now decided whether to pursue the technology patent claim further or simply give up, according to Computerworld.
Verizon's idea would have aimed ads at people in front of the TV based on their behaviors or even physical characteristics such as skin color or facial features. If the system had spied a couple enjoying some private time on the couch, it might have even served up ads for a romantic comedy film, flowers or condoms.
The rejection may bring relief for those who found the idea unsettling. Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearing House, told Computerworld that she found the Verizon example at the "extreme end of the scale" for technologies that could invade the privacy of Americans in their own homes.
But Verizon countered with a statement that reiterated it respected its customers' privacy and protected their personal information. The company spokesperson also pointed to the patent office rejection — presumably as evidence that the company would no longer go forward with its original patent filing plans.