by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 21st 2008 9:01am
Broadband Reports points us to the news that Comcast has been experimenting (internally only) with putting cameras into DVRs in order to determine who and how many people are watching. Comcast lays out the reasons why this might be useful -- such as recognizing if a child is watching, so that child content filters are automatically turned on, or merely recognizing certain preferences based on who's watching. However, the creepiness factor of such an offering is quite high, and I doubt many people would be comfortable with such a camera -- especially coming from a company like Comcast that's been getting blasted for its traffic shaping efforts. Besides, it will be too tempting for marketers to avoid misusing such a technology. Nielsen, for example, has been trying to come up with all sorts of ways to figure out if people are really watching commercials or TV shows, or if they just leave the TV on and are doing something else. Think how tempting it would be to "spy" on people to get a sense of what they're really doing. If such a system was going to work, the homeowner would need to have full control over the camera. If it acted just like a computer webcam, with the individual having full control over how it was used and how it could be accessed, then people might be more comfortable with it (plus, conceivably it could open up the ability for people to do video chat via their TVs). But if it's sending any info back to Comast, it's going to make people exceptionally uncomfortable.
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