Monday, September 24, 2007

Ad-supported phone service listens to calls to customize advertising

Does this creep you out?

Is there any difference between this and Gmail's ads?

Company Will Monitor Phone Calls to Tailor Ads Star-News Wilmington, NC

Pudding Media is introducing an Internet phone service that will be supported by advertising related to what people are talking about during their calls.

Companies like Google scan their e-mail users’ in-boxes to deliver ads related to those messages. Will people be as willing to let a company listen in on their phone conversations to do the same?

Pudding Media, a start-up based in San Jose, Calif., is introducing an Internet phone service today that will be supported by advertising related to what people are talking about in their calls. The Web-based phone service is similar to Skype’s online service — consumers plug a headset and a microphone into their computers, dial any phone number and chat away. But unlike Internet phone services that charge by the length of the calls, Pudding Media offers calling without any toll charges.

The trade-off is that Pudding Media is eavesdropping on phone calls in order to display ads on the screen that are related to the conversation. Voice recognition software monitors the calls, selects ads based on what it hears and pushes the ads to the subscriber’s computer screen while he or she is still talking.

A conversation about movies, for example, will elicit movie reviews and ads for new films that the caller will see during the conversation. Pudding Media is working on a way to e-mail the ads and other content to the person on the other end of the call, or to show it on that person’s cellphone screen...


Anonymous said...

I found this creepy at first. Its interesting that our collective initial impression is more negative when the "listening" relates to phone calls or voice vs data. On reflection, I don't see this as any different than the email approach. I don't see a privacy issue here, so long as - no human listens, no recording is made of any conversation, and no record is kept about what ads went to who (other than aggregate info). In other words, so long as it is all in real time with no individual records being kept.

On the other hand, how would we react if Canada Post used scanning technology (assuming it exists) to read the contents of letters within envelopes, and deliver targetted ads with the mail?

Anonymous said...

... and, of course, what are the protections that recording, tracking, and listening do not take place now or in the future. Once the technology is in place, will "authorities" be able to change the rules. You don't know if you have nothing to hide if you don't know who you are hiding from, now and later.