FCC Gives Arbitron The Thumbs Up To Track Your Every Move

from the fun-for-the-whole-family dept

It’s only been three years since started testing out its portable people meter that is supposed to automatically track whatever media you might be consuming at any particular time. Engadget points out that the device has now snagged the all important thumbs up from the FCC for the device. Of course, it’s a bit creepy to think that some company is monitoring everything you watch, so Arbitron has apparently come up with a few numbers to show just how little people actually value their media monitoring habits: $5 per month with occasional bonuses here and there. Might not compare to the big tax break some have discussed for giving up your right to privacy — but it is interesting to see a growing recognition that your privacy has a price.

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Comments on “FCC Gives Arbitron The Thumbs Up To Track Your Every Move”

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JOSH K (user link) says:


This will actually be a cool idea. More true and real to see what exactly is being listened to and watched. Now it will not be a bias study unlike in the past where you truly dont know what was really being listened to pending on someone who has to either vocalize the truth or make it up as emberisments would reflect the annswer. This will give a definative answer that cannot be made up.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Doesn’t this seems like spying to you? It’s interesting how no one seems to care for the Bill of Rights. Meh, $5 a month seems fair enough to give up something everyone takes for granted anyways!”

Nope… not spying at all. This is something that you would choose to carry. Not something that you would be arrested for not carrying.

And that’s the difference, as someone above pointed out. You can choose to give up any of your rights any time you want. When you stop talking about your opinion, you just temporarily gave up your right to free speech.

As long as you are carrying this thing around by choice, they’re not spying. You’re informing.

discojohnson says:


so let me get this straight: if this is set up at a coffee shop and i’m listening to a copy of that a friend lent me, it’s monitored and recorded. now because this information is useful to both XXAA’s they’ll subpoena it on the regular and hunt us down because we _could_ be consuming the media illegally. yeah, you’ll see me carrying one of these around—inside a shoebox in the closet. good idea to know what people are actually watching/listening to (like TiVo) to know what works and what doesn’t…but i’ve just told these fools that for $5 a month i’ll let you sit behind a bush waiting for me to listen to the new gnarls barkley CD i downloaded to see if i wanted to buy. no thanks.

Beefcake says:

Voluntary = Useless

Unless I’m missing the point, this seems pretty weak. It’s the same principle as a Nielsen device, with the same drawbacks. The fact remains that you can’t make this mandatory (at least for now, I hope), and if it’s voluntary you’ll only get data from the type of people who like to have their lives and decisions monitored (like foreigners, reporters working on HP stories, and Republicans).

Radioguy says:

Slow down a little here.

I’m in radio and this isn’t a case of big brother watching…it’s hopefully an improvement on a very weak method of capturing ratings information. It also won’t capture anything but radio listening because it picks up a signal that is encoded inside the radio broadcast to identify which station you’re hearing…so don’t worry disco, you’re gnarls copy is safe (unless big brother’s monitoring this list…oh-oh). The device is something you’ll sign up for and carry around. That’s why they pay you them big bucks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Slow down a little here.


As farr as I know, all entertainment mavericks are competely in denial of the fact that you have a choice to not consume their crap. They actually think you are compelled to consume “something” and they just try to optimize their crap to make you want more of whichever flavor you subscribe to.

I watch neitherTV nor do I listen to music radio. (I do lsiten to NPR…)

AvyTech (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Slow down a little here.

I gave up on TV until recently when they created Heroes. It’s my new drug. I have cable bundled with my internet so the TV is on a lot, but that’s typically background noise or Sci-fi/Discovery/DIY etc. Hmmm… guess I do watch TV.

Scratch all that.

I watch 2 TV shows: Heroes and Battlestar Galactica… everything else is background noise. If they monitor it all, I’d rather volunteer my ratings to those channels.

(note to self: only post after 7pm, when you make sense)

J says:

Re: Re: Slow down a little here.

Actually, yes Arbitron does want to measure folks who don’t listen to radio. If you are listening to satellite or internet streaming or any form of media, that would be captured too. Or when you are in the grocery store. You may not choose what you are listening to, but you are exposed to it. (Hence the somewhat recent influx of in-store advertisements-you are a captive audience.)

Keep in mind that the meter measures your exposure, not necessarily your choices.

And wearing the meter is a choice. If you are asked to participate and you WANT to participate, then you participate. And, for example, they aren’t measuring “Mr. Jones” and “Miss Smith”, per se, but a man 42 years old, black, who makes $120,000 a year and a woman 28 years old, white, who makes $45,000 a year.

You are, for all intents and purposes, anonymous.

AvyTech (user link) says:

Strength in Numbers

Once upon a time there was a show called Firefly. It got cancelled because of low ratings. Those ratings were biased because only Nielsen families were reported. Millions of geeky and not so geeky people had a show they loved snacked away because they weren’t married with 2.5 kids and a dog named spot, so their viewing habits didn’t count.

I like the idea of this device. It’s voluntary and has nothing to do with downloading illegal mpegs/mp3s/etc. It’s based on TV and radio habits.

There are plenty of TV shows that got no respect from the big wigs (despite having TONS of faithful fans) because John and Jane Doe’s family was watching 7th Heaven and Friends. Both fine shows, but still… I think you get my point.

Under-Informed says:

How do they want to listen?

What exactly does this do, then? Will someone listen on the other end and try to determine what I’m listening to? Will someone listen on the other end and try to pull out private conversations I’m having with my spouse? Will I have to take off my headphones or ear buds when I listen to an iPod so they know what I’m listening to? If I play a diddy on the piano or guitar, will they think I’m watching The Little Mermaid?

I’m wondering how they will tell what song I’m listening to, or what movie I’m watching, or whether I’m listening to the original song, or a remix by someone else?

How do I know their music-identifying software doesn’t also record what I say, or the grunts and groans I make in the water closet?

Anonymous Coward says:

Years ago I was contacted by a local radio station to do a listener’s journal for which I got I got $5. What Arbitron is doing is basically the same (although how and what data it collects is of concern). What will be interesting to see is how this will play out. I expect there will be people scamming Arbitron and turn it into a big money-maker. I wonder how many particpants will be deceased, illegals or fabricated through identity theft.

Anonymous Coward says:

now hang on a minute..listen to what you are saying…this device doesn’t just monitor you – it monitors you & everyone you come in contact with & work- if you come into my home wearing one of those things and dont ask my permission..you’ve invaded my privacy- no matter what level its MY choice..so i’ll throw you out on your ear… i still believe in civil rights to the smallest extent … give up a thread and they’ll reel in 10 yards… don’t be swayed by currency that is dwindling.

k says:

just a thought

I am one of those nut jobs who wore the meter for less than a month. I was promised $55-$90.00 a month, which would have helped my family. If, I had known it was only $5, I would have told them to kiss my ! I have never watched Jerry Springer. I watch mainly public television and History. Hardly watch TV or listen to radio and told them that. This company is bogus, constantly calling me and sending me emails.

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