Google Patents Background Noise: No Privacy!

    March 21, 2012
    Shawn Hess
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High-tech device users beware! Google has just patented the technology to filter sound, humidity, temperature, and various other factors from sensors on our devices to analyze and send us more relevant advertising. Google says it will respect our privacy with the new technology, but I think we should evaluate what is truly implied with these patents.

Number one, this confirms it is possible to detect a lot more about our environment via a cellphone conversation that just GPS coordinates. Second, someone is already experimenting with recording and using this data. Third, you can’t analyze background noise without taking note of the foreground noise, otherwise known as our cellphone conversations. Take a look at this diagram from their patent:

So essentially the patent office has given Google the green flag on technology that invades our privacy in one of the most fundamental ways. I don’t think a promise from a large corporation like Google is enough to set my mind at ease that they aren’t eavesdropping on my personal conversations. What gives them the right to invade people’s privacy in this way.

I guess we’re back to the same old argument, ‘how much is too much?’. Are targeted ads really worth giving a corporate giant access to your personal conversations? I don’t think so. Let’s see what others had to say:

@RoscoeMcLean: Creepy. But innovative. Google patent: Background noise from phone calls could be used to target ads http://t.co/zSuhO2kH 13 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

Privacy issues be damned. #Thisiscool. Google patent:Background noise from phone calls could be used to target ads: http://t.co/S6Ys5xhQ #in 15 hours ago via Tweet Button ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

Invasion of privacy anyone? Background noise from phone calls could target ads http://t.co/ydTaOoOs 16 hours ago via Flipboard ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

As a marketer, this is a bit much. RT @johnhcook Google patent: Background noise from phone calls could help target ads http://t.co/i90XwByy 17 hours ago via TweetDeck ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

Google patent: Background noise from phone calls used to target ads http://t.co/UqHJ4pjU (via @toddbishop) – This may violate “do no evil!” 15 hours ago via Tweetbot for iOS ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

Very cool – Google patent: Background noise from phone calls could be used to target ads: http://t.co/OTB6paXz #marketing #advertising 43 minutes ago via TweetDeck ·  Reply ·  Retweet ·  Favorite · powered by @socialditto

  • Pronost

    Nice to know their developers are not getting borred but is google going to pay for my data bill from my cell phone. how are they getting away with this kind of stuff. People bitch about microsoft but google is the new F.. evil in the world.

  • Admiral Quality

    Didn’t Batman invent this?

    Also, what good is knowing the humidity and temperature in my pocket?

    • keb

      They will be able to tell if you wet your pants and can provide you with an advertisement for Depends.

      My question is how do they gain access to your phone in the first place?

  • http://www.LAokay.com Steven G

    Actually background noise might be interesting. Not while you’re talking on the phone tho, that would be annoying. I think it could actually create a better user profile tho, but I would tread carefully and test this before it launched to the mass public. I think in Google’s rush to always improve they have to be lacking in the testing department. They can’t possibly make as many changes as they boast and test them to the point that they are certain what they are going to release isn’t going to do more harm than good.

    Anyway, background noise could be anything. The problem with this background noise profiling is that Matt Cutts at Google often eludes to the well known fact that background noise in user behavior skews statistical analysis and thus website rankings (since we all know user behavior plays a part in swaying rankings). Now Google wants to use background noise and environment conditions to determine which ads might be more tailored to the user. I just think there is a lot of room for error to occur and it should be up to the user if they are even going to allow such profiling to occur or not.