Do Not Allow Verizon to Use Spy-Like Technology

Target: U.S.Patent and Trademark Office

Goal: Deny the patent request from Verizon for a device that would observe viewers in order to deliver specified advertisements

Verizon is in the very early developmental stages of a system that watches viewers while they watch television. Executives have applied for a patent on a device that will gather information about viewers using infrared cameras and microphones for the purpose of delivering more targeted advertisements. The patent was actually filed over a year ago, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is not required to release patent filings for 18 months.

This system will have a designated detection zone. In this zone, actions from the viewer are picked up and the advertisements are then based on what the viewer is doing. This device will be able to determine if the viewer is eating, laughing, talking, singing, fighting and even cuddling. One example that Verizon gives in its patent request is if a couple is observed fighting it would trigger ads for marriage counseling. Likewise, if the device picks up on a couple cuddling, it would show ads for romantic getaways.

Using infrared cameras, this device will also be able to detect things like skin color and hair length, and in conjunction with the microphone, tone of voice and accent. It can also pick up on inanimate objects in the room such as a can of soda. The microphone component will also allow this device to pick up on telephone conversations within its designated range to change advertisements to be relevant to the conversation.

Verizon is not the only company looking to patent this type of technology. Google has filed a patent for an interactive TV service that can tell how many people are in a room watching the same program at any given time. This technology could even be spread to other devices. Verizon may be able to sync smartphones and computer tablets that viewers are using to this detection system.

If this system were to become a reality, it would be a clear violation of privacy. People would no longer be able to sit down in front of the television to relax. Sign the petition to demand the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deny Verizon’s patent request.


Dear U.S. Patent and Trademark Office,

The patent request that Verizon has submitted for technology that will gather information about television viewers for the purpose of targeted advertisements is an invasion of privacy. Verizon claims this technology will be able to detect actions including eating, laughing, talking and fighting, as well as skin color and accents. Although it is still in its very early stages, if this patent was approved it could serve as an opportunity for devices to advance the invasion of consumer’s privacy; the unforeseen effects could be devastating.

The approval of the patent could also lead numerous companies to develop similar technology, blurring privacy boundaries even further. Many consumers would take serious issue with the privacy violation of being both listened to and watched while they are trying to watch television. This system could also serve as a harsh judgement in some situations, which would be equally as unpleasant to viewers. Please do not approve Verizon’s patent request.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: LEOL30 via Flickr

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