Google’s new (newish) idea is this: taking your whole lived environment and monentizing it. Whatever machine you’re currently reading this on, and its various audio, video, and image inputs, is just the beginning. The future for sensor technology is still wide open and will get positively insane in the near future, even from the perspective of a regular ass consumer. From this whole new and infinite pool of background information collected from environmental sensors, the company wants to be able to better target ads on your machine. After an initial filing in 2008, Google was finally awarded a patent for the idea last Tuesday. So, one imagines if your next-generation smart-phone registers that it’s cold wherever it currently is — say, a bus stop — said device will receive an ad from Google trying to sell you, dunno, some shit at REI. That figures. Google’s already got the inside of your computer locked down via the monitoring of all your online activity, so let’s take that to the next level. I’m sorry I didn’t patent it, but I suspect the couple hundred dollars in my bank account wouldn’t suffice to buy all of the very many ancillary patents already in existence that Google surely needed to make this one happen.
Besides temperature, the patent mentions specifically background noise. That is, if you’re giving Siri a command or whatever, Google might just listen in on that and analyze your environment that way. So maybe it could figure out what kind of music you like or how often you’re outside or if you spend a lot of time in bars or nice restaurants or if you’re waiting at the mechanic or doctor’s office. And, of course, Google can understand words too. Maybe you already use Google voice search. it’s pretty likely, even. So the sky is the limit in that sort of analysis analysis; it’s a vast universe of keywords. And do your friends’ or coworkers’ conversations count as "environmental conditions’? Do what people are saying to you, like, say, your doctor or lawyer, count? In which “you have cancer” triggers a keyword query in Mountain View, Ca., and quite suddenly your phone becomes ground zero for every drug and vitamin corporation to peddle their wares unceasingly. (Maybe Merck disagrees with your doctor even on their choice of a particular non-Merck drug.)
Imagine this: you tell your phone or tablet to search something, and you are given appropriate search results. Meanwhile, Google is listening to all of the other stuff that is not included in the active search, things you are not intentionally transmitting. By way of an anologue, what is the background environment of a regular old search bar Google search from a laptop? In both cases, whether via an audio sensor or search bar, you are sending the exactly same amount of information, in theory. A string of words meant to be interpreted by Google and for Google to use to return valuable results. Google, however, is grabbing everything else it can to sell the best ads it can for the most amount of money, whatever your device is sending in addition to your words. In “old” case of search, the information being used for that is finite. It is an extremely large finite, but finite nonetheless. Environmental conditions, however, would seem to be an infinite field for potential intrusion and potential creepiness. Sensor technology is the future of consumer technology, after all.
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