The Return Of Cable Boxes That Spy On You

from the wave-to-the-camera dept

Remember the outcry last year when a Comcast exec mentioned in passing the idea of a set-top box that would have a built in camera to monitor who and how many people were actually watching the TV? The outcry over that forced Comcast to say that it wasn't really going to do that, but Broadband Reports points out that the technology behind such a plan is still moving forward -- and apparently cable companies are, indeed, interested in it. The idea is that it can show personalized ads and better target content. It's worth noting that the company behind the system, Prime Sense, seems to be trying to position it for less "scary" apps, such as being able to do "virtual touch" interfaces, so users could interact with menus on the screen without a remote (features found in some video games these days). Still, unless the end user is given total control over what info is recorded and where it's being sent, this technology seems like a non-starter.


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  1.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:44am

    I have a great piece of technology for you

    It will prevent these boxes from recording anything you don't want them to. It's called duct tape. I use it for a lot of things, and if this ever moves forward I'll have another use for it.

    A good alternative would be to set up something in line that sends 24 hour streaming hardcore fetish videos to the cable company instead. Maybe alternate that with 15 minute slide shows of goatse/tubgirl/whatever horrible things you can find. This technology would become worthless pretty quickly after that.

     

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  2.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 9:58am

    Re: I have a great piece of technology for you

    Heh. Good point. Maybe we'll start selling special "privacy protector" duct tape. ;)

     

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  3.  
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    lavi d (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:20am

    One Possible Use?

    Nielsen households

     

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  4.  
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    R. Miles (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re: I have a great piece of technology for you

    Maybe we'll start selling special "privacy protector" duct tape.
    And prevent the CONTENT from displaying?

    Besides, I own the patent. Pay me, plus licensing rights, and it's all yours.
    ;)

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:24am

    Re: I have a great piece of technology for you

    I prefer electronic tape.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:25am

    I'm sure they will find away to make putting duct tape over the camera a DMCA violation.

     

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  7.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:28am

    Re:

    I'd have to get with my attorney on the matter but it may make it illegal to sell duct tape.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:33am

    Re:

    lol. I don't think it'll work because imagine if a husband and a wife were on their honeymoon and they had one of these things spying on them. The cable companies would have huge backlashes against privacy issues and such and so would the government.

     

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  9.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:44am

    You know what? Do it.

    I, as a red meat eating American, enjoy sitting in front of my television, garbed only in a gimp mask and knee high tube socks. It's usually around 10am on a Saturday after a heavy night of drinking that I like to sit spread eagled on the couch, with my feet on the glass reflective coffee table, ceiling fan blowing my nuts in the wind, while I do my damnedest to chase my dogs out of the room with my gas.

    So my advice? Go ahead and watch. Putting a camera in my home does nothing other than challenge me to come up with new and inventive ways to gross out the illegal immigrants you're going to be paying below min wages to watch me in all my glory.

     

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  10.  
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    Ron (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:55am

    Re: You know what? Do it.

    OK, this made me laugh.
    But, I wonder when the company will figure a way to disable the cable boxes when no image is being recorded by the camera? So, to watch, you gotta be watched.
    Oh, new revenue stream: the cable companies can have a channel that randomly displays what's being captured by some other cable box camera. It would be a whole new entertainment idea: streamed casual voyuerism.

     

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  11.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:58am

    Hmmm .....

    If they do this I think I will just send the cable company a bill every month charging them for "MY" premium channel ... GRIN

    Also alternates to duct tape
    1- Mirror
    2- Fat senior lesbian porn
    3- Barney Videos
    4- ....

     

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  12.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: You know what? Do it.

    Fine. Make my channel the all nutsack channel.

    The reason that ideas like this are stupid is because for every forlorn sheeple out there that will nod their head, assume that big business and big government have their best interests at heart, and go along with an idiotic idea like a PRIVATE GODDAM COMPANY POINTING AN EFFING CAAAAAMMMMMEEEERRRRAAAAAA INTO YOUR LIVINGROOM.....pant pant pant....sory, anyway, for all of those people there is someone like me that's going to use your assanine little scheme to make you and your workers very, very uncomfortable.

    If that means having my girlfriend playing ring toss with a set of jelly donuts and my erect wang while I watch Sunday NFL Football, so be it.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:05am

    I'm making a new tin foil hat right now!

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:09am

    Re:

    So you make the hat after inviting the aliens to read your mind?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Re: You know what? Do it.

    Ring toss with jelly donuts sounds like a losing proposition...just sayin'...otherwise, I'm in full agreement :)

     

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  16.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You know what? Do it.

    "Ring toss with jelly donuts sounds like a losing proposition...just sayin'...otherwise, I'm in full agreement :)"

    Wow, I didn't even think of that. I might as well have said Bismarks.

    I prostrate myself before your culinary prowess.

     

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  17.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re:

    Which aliens ....

    the ones from the south of the border??

    or the Hulu ones??

     

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  18.  
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    Sean T Henry (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:23am

    In Soviet America, cable TV watches you!

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:28am

    Re: I have a great piece of technology for you

    I love the idea of a Digital Picture Frame in front of the camera :D

     

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  20.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:29am

    Re: Hmmm .....

    Goatse cutout, pointed to ensure the brown eye is always facing the camera?

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:34am

    Re: Hmmm .....

    A lava lamp with a mirror behind it. That way if the camera is designed to detect motion and not work upon the lack of motion at least a lava lamp will always provide motion.

     

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  22.  
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    B Rye on the Fly, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:34am

    Dumb

    They have IR redirectors on the market...So I'd point the box at a wall and use the redirector for my remote.

    When I worked at a local cable station this same scenario was the butt of all our jokes...I cant believe they are doing this!

    It's bad enough with Tivo tracking every little nuance about you....

     

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  23.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:39am

    Simple Solution

    Small square of duct tap over the camera. Problem solved.

     

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  24.  
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    DJ (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re:

    Maybe that would be a blessing in disguise.

    If these companies start invading people's privacy and get sued for millions of dollars FOR EACH OFFENSE, they'll go out of business.

    That'll open the door again to the competition, thereby eliminating many of the monopolic (is that a word? It is now) strangleholds that cable companies have.

    Hooray for back-door capitalism!! (pun intended)

     

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  25.  
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    Nice Try, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:48am

    Can we say Direct-TV revenue will increase ;)

    This goes forward I will be doing one of the following:
    - Discontinue TV service completely, Direct TV here I come.
    - Discontinue all digital services. Don't need cablebox, can we say TIVO or record via Multimedia server. Only the very basic service.

    Also, I will be putting a photo up a directly in front of the camera of a guy and Rosie five brothers.

    Seriously, invasion of privacy.

     

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  26.  
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    DJ (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:51am

    Re: Hmmm .....

    "charging them for "MY" premium channel "

    Unfortunately for some of us, this wouldn't exactly do much to counteract the bill...

     

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  27.  
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    DJ (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 11:56am

    Re:

    Hmmm, while I doubt that anyone here disagrees with you, you have some problems with your arguments that I'd like to point out for you.

    1) "Discontinue TV service completely, Direct TV here I come." Direct TV is still TV so that argument makes no sense whatsoever.

    2) "Don't need cablebox, can we say TIVO...."
    You still need a box for TIVO so that argument makes no sense whatsoever.

    3)"Rosie five brothers" WTF???????

     

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  28.  
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    Trickyny, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 12:00pm

    Re: I have a great piece of technology for you

    I would totally set up a lcd screen in front of the cable box showing all sorts of filthy stuff if I found out there was a camera in the cable box watching me. Thanks for the idea!

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 12:10pm

    The camera will analyze the viewers to determine if they are the licensees of the broadcast, in order to prevent unauthorized viewing (i.e. Super Bowl parties).

    Therefore placing duct tape over the camera constitutes circumvention of an access control device, a clear violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

    You'll be hearing from our lawyers.

     

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  30.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re:

    "Rosie five brothers"

    Brother to Rosie Palm.

    I'm with him on this one. If they did this, I would be thinking of the worst thing I could put in front of the camera. Or something funny as hell so the person watching it spits out their coffee all over the equipment and breaks it.

     

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  31.  
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    D. Advocate, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 12:20pm

    Only a matter of time...

    It's only a matter of time until our rights are eroded to a point where this is not only legal, but also accepted.

    We, as lazy sheep-like Americans, have watched from the sidelines while the government is paid by big business to strip us of our rights. It's done because of the terrorists, to save the children or any number of equally emotionally charged but completely irrelevant reasons and we sit back and and take it.

    We have Stockholm syndrome. We have empathized and sympathized with the governemnt as they have led us into bondage and captivity.

    We are now prisoners of this system.

    And we either walked willingly or ignorantly into the prison, or we say idly by while the prison was built around us.

    It will get MUCH, MUCH worse before it ever gets better - IF it gets better.

    Like a beaten and abused wife, the more we allow ourselves to get used to the abuse, the less we think of it. Like an abused woman who says of her abuser: "That's just him." We now walk around saying "That's just the government." or "That's just the way it is."

    We are lost, pathetic, scared little sheep who blindly follow the shepherd... even to the slaughter.

    Don't whine and complain... get off butt any do something. Even if it's just joining eff.org and sending out emails to your representaives, do SOMETHING! ANYTHING!

    Shake off your lethargy and take some action!

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 12:25pm

    Re:

    You're probably right here. Placing duck tape over the box wouldn't be a good idea. Place the box behind a object, say picture or sculpture, so the viewing area is obstructed.

     

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  33.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    Re: I have a great piece of technology for you

    If one were to play a video from a DVD in front of the cable box, could Comcast then get sued by the MPAA for DMCA violation, since the camera is recording the analog output of a DVD protected by CSS, and would be considered an attempt to circumvent copy-protection mechanisms? Forcing Comcast to remove its camera as a form to adhere to safe-harbor provisions?

     

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  34.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re:

    They'd probably instead lobby congress for a special Duct Tape Tax that gets charged with every sale of duct tape.

     

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  35.  
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    Swim, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 12:39pm

    Re: Re: Hmmm .....

    You might be more right than you know. Did anyone read the article? Maybe I read it from /. lastnight. The camera tech used will be THERMAL IMAGING. It will laugh at duct tape....but not a hammer...

     

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  36.  
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    Yakko Warner, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 1:01pm

    Re: You know what? Do it.

    I am no longer hungry.

     

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  37.  
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    aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Only a matter of time...

    I fire off emails often. So often, in fact, that I'm almost positive Louie Gohmert's assistant has a special folder in her mailbox (probably somewhere under the recycle bin) just for emails from yours truly. You know what I get when I fire them off? Mostly nothing. A handful of time I received a canned response. Twice I actually received a response that was something near agreement (not on all my points, but a good compromise of my angry ramblings). Out of hundreds of emails that I've sent over the years that's all I have to show for it. I learned something from actually speaking to Mr. Gohmert earlier this year:

    Emails get read, categorized, and if they have an especially good soundbite they are forwarded on to the rep. A letter...an actual physical letter...is almost always read.

     

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  38.  
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    Fatduck (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re: Only a matter of time...

    Shit, so all this time I was putting anthrax in my emails, and they aren't even getting to the Senators?

     

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  39.  
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    Yakko Warner, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 1:31pm

    Guess I'll stick with analog

    I already hate the idea of cable boxes, paying more to rent an extra box and another remote to lose. I like my dual-tuner picture-in-picture TV. I just take a plain cable from the wall, plug it in the cable-ready jack on the back of my TV, and I'm done.

    I haven't seen the need to get a thousand more digital channels that I'll never watch, for more cost and more hassle.

    Although with as little TV as I watch anyway, I'm quickly converging on the point where even analog cable is just not worth the cost.

     

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  40.  
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    batch, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 1:54pm

    no way this will happen

    its an invasion of privacy. Sure, they'll put it in their TOS, but that doesn't make it legal. It also doesn't prevent customers from canceling your service or privacy advocates come down on you like the wrath of god. Not to mention crazies with shotguns just going to the local office to sort things out the old fashioned way, something I'd have to support if they tried this.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 2:12pm

    Simple solution:

    Make a video of your own. Say, a video of you making some impromptu gibbering noises. Something distinctive enough for you to claim copyright over it. Put that on a screen in front of their camera, so that they make a copy of your copyrighted work. Then sue them for 20k. But be nice, and offer to settle for 10k.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 2:32pm

    This is just at another attempt to make up another plot for Monk where he discovers that a series of house break-ins and robberies are effected by the people that installed the cable boxes and are using them to case the places and find out when the families are out.

     

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  43.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 2:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: You know what? Do it.

    You make many very good points here, regularly. But the thing that won me over? The fact that it took you mere minutes to think of the idea to have your girlfriend toss jelly donuts on your erect wang while you're watching Sunday NFL. Best idea ever...
    Girlfriend playing with my boner: check.
    Jelly Donuts: check.
    Sunday NFL: check.

     

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  44.  
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    Thomas (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 2:37pm

    excellent idea.

    Your 6 year old runs out of the bathoom into the living room and they see it and send you ads for Pampers. Or maybe they will resell the images, even better, then you could charge them with distributing kiddie porn and send the cable execs to jail for 50 years.

    (sarcasm)

     

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  45.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 12th, 2009 @ 2:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You know what? Do it.

    Yeah, I debated throwing a drinking beer as well in there, but I dunno...beer and donuts...it just destroyed the whole comedic illusion for me...

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 3:07pm

    Re: Re: Re: Hmmm .....

    Glass blocks infrared and so does plastic. So put duct tape with a piece of glass over it.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 3:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You know what? Do it.

    A jelly donut would fit around your wang? Sucks to be you...

     

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  48.  
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    Beta, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 3:28pm

    shame on you

    Am I the only one who likes to do wholesome things while watching television, like repackaging my large supply of powdered sugar into neat cellophane-wrapped parcels?

     

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  49.  
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    CleverName, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 5:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm .....

    AC -> "Glass blocks infrared and so does plastic"

    I disagree.

    I have taken infrared photos using a 35mm camera body, glass lense, and an infrared filter which was probably some sort of plastic.

     

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  50.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm .....

    If you want to be technical, Infrared closer to the visible spectrum will penetrate glass but the spectrum used for thermal imaging generally will not (though you really have to figure out what frequency you are talking about to get specifics. It also depends on whether the glass is surface treated to block infrared but most glass will block infrared in general). Plastic is also good at blocking infrared, even clear plastic, though glass is better.


    "In fact, the thermal imaging doesn’t even see through glass because the glass has its own thermal profile."

    http://www.prtech-thermalimaging.com/products/infrared_in_action/fact_fiction.htm

    Fo r thermal imaging one can use a negative film being that negative film. Negative film will transmit infrared (the infrared used for thermal imaging) but it will not transmit visible light very well (as you can see by looking at them, they are opaque).

    Here, this helps explain the physics.
    http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/phy00/phy00890.htm

    (I don't really want to get too technical unless you request that I do).

    In fact, if you take the glass lens off of your camera and replace it with a negative film it may capture more infrared (depending on the antenna) than before (though it will block most visible light but when translated on the screen the camera may render the image as infrared). However, the antenna of a consumer grade camera is not well suited for capturing infrared, unlike a thermal imaging camera, so it probably won't be well suited for thermal imaging.

    Try this, get a remote control and face it towards your camera or camera phone and press the button. You will see a red light, that's infrared (though you can't see it with your eyes). Yes, it penetrated the glass but that's because the wavelength is closer to the visible spectrum.

     

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  51.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:39pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm .....

    sp/though it will block most visible light but when translated on the screen the camera may render the image as infrared/though it will block most visible light but when translated on the screen the camera may render the image as visible light.

     

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  52.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2009 @ 10:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm .....

    "For thermal imaging one can use a negative film being that negative film."

    Actually, I take this back, it may depend on the film used and the specific wavelengths in question. But in general negative film is better at allowing infrared to pass through than glass is.

    To get more technical whenever radiation is transmitted you have a distribution curve. Humans emit infrared due to body temperature but we also emit visible light, microwaves, ultraviolet light, etc... However, we emit these with less intensity than infrared. There is a distribution curve, certain frequencies are emitted with the highest intensity and as you deviate away from those frequencies the intensity will tend to get lower. This is generally true for all things that emit radiation. When you put glass in the way it changes the distribution curve and decreases the amount of infrared being transmitted through. However, glass blocks the most radiation at certain frequencies and as you deviate away from those frequencies the amount of radiation it blocks decreases. It doesn't block visible light very well but as you move away from visible light and move within the infrared spectrum towards the frequency that it blocks most effectively more and more radiation will be blocked. This is true for anything that blocks radiation. High energy radiation like X - Rays or gamma rays may require thick layers of heavy metals like lead to block them. But if you use duct tape and glass you will pretty much block a substantial majority of both infrared and visible light (I'm not sure how well duct tape blocks infrared on its own so that's why I threw in the glass since I can see that duct tape blocks visible light pretty well).

     

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    CleverName, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 5:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Hmmm .....

    Umm, ok.
    I do not know what particular frequency range the STB sensor is sensitive to. Clearly, glass and plastic do not block the entire range of infrared. As you pointed out, an opaque material may not block well either. Possibly there will be a market for infrared blockers.

     

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    nooneinparticular, Aug 13th, 2009 @ 6:48am

    I guess I'm technically challenged

    Is there software sophisticated enough to interpret what the camera reports into something meaningful? Seems like a person at the other end would have to interpret what is seen. Labor costs would go through the roof.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 13th, 2009 @ 7:11am

    Re: I guess I'm technically challenged

    I suggest throwing some combination of "NSA", "The Patriot Act", "Fort Meade",and "Echelon" into a Google search and do some fun reading...

     

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  56.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 7:28am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Monopolistic.

     

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  57.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 7:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: You know what? Do it.

    ...maybe that's part of the excitement...? O.o

     

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  58.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 14th, 2009 @ 7:35am

    Re: Re: Hmmm .....

    Using motion to detect if people are watching TV? Seriously?

    I mean, think about that for a second...

     

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  59.  
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    Dr. A, Oct 16th, 2010 @ 3:07pm

    It is true, NSA can tap the cable box technology and watch and here U from the camble box. The camera is in the

     

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  60.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2012 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Simple Solution

    If so how would you be able to change channels with the remote?

     

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  61.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 5th, 2012 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Simple Solution

    How would you be able to change channels?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  62.  
    identicon
    Red, Aug 26th, 2013 @ 8:49pm

    Re: I have a great piece of technology for you

    There's no solution like the Red Green solution.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  63.  
    identicon
    hans, Nov 28th, 2013 @ 10:29pm

    digital penetration

    badBIOS, Facts, speculations, and misunderstandings

    First there was Stuxnet, then there was FLAME, the latest weapons grade malware is badBIOS accidentially discovered by Dragos Ruiu 3 years ago. More on the discovery in section 2

    http://learning.criticalwatch.com/badbios/
    ##

    remotely monitoring and altering brain waves

    http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPT O%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=16&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=3,951,134&OS=3,951, 134&RS=3,951,134

    United States Patent 3,951,134

    Abstract

    Apparatus for and method of sensing brain waves at a position remote from a subject whereby electromagnetic signals of different frequencies are simultaneously transmitted to the brain of the subject in which the signals interfere with one another to yield a waveform which is modulated by the subject's brain waves. The interference waveform which is representative of the brain wave activity is re-transmitted by the brain to a receiver where it is demodulated and amplified. The demodulated waveform is then displayed for visual viewing and routed to a computer for further processing and analysis. The demodulated waveform also can be used to produce a compensating signal which is transmitted back to the brain to effect a desired change in electrical activity therein.

    ###

    "The monster is out of the bottle."

    The monster was never in the bottle, but above, below, and around us. Do you think this is really just a struggle between human beings? There is much more at work here.

    Outcome #3: Your friends are here.
    Aaron Cross: Yeah. Don't you think that strange? Wolves, they don't do that. They don't track people.
    Outcome #3: Yeah, maybe they don't think you're human.

    - Bourne Legacy

    ===

    "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

    - Ephesians 6:12, The Bible

    ===

    "We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false."

    - William Casey, CIA Director (from first staff meeting, 1981)

    ===

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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