Microsoft Hands Big Brother the Keys to Your Family Room November 9, 2012Posted by geoff in News.
In a lot of lame sci-fi and horror shows, CRT TVs are used to watch people for nefarious purposes. It’s ridiculous – just because TVs can create images doesn’t mean they can sense them – but somehow the notion of symmetry has some fundamental appeal to both writers and gullible audiences (“it must go both ways: if it can make pictures, it must be able to see pictures”).
But now Microsoft has developed a way of taking us into that world for real, using their popular Kinect system:
One of Microsoft’s latest patent applications is a humdinger. It proposes to turn the Kinect camera into a snitch for movie studios, reporting back just how many friends you’ve got in your living room and what they’re watching. Think that sounds alarmist? Here’s what it actually says: “The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken.” It’s that blatant – a system to spy on private viewing habits.
For those not familiar with Kinect, it’s a user interface for the XBox 360 that can sense your body movements so that you can play games without a controller. Now Microsoft proposes having it watch you when you’re not playing a game, count the number of bodies in the room, send that info back to some licensing server, and determine whether you’re in violation of license rights for the media you’re enjoying.
This is creepy, but it’s nothing like what could happen ten years from now. As camera and image processing technology improve, they could expand their data gathering to include who you are, what you wear, what you eat, what you play, and who you’re making out with on the couch. In fact, I doubt that those technologies need to improve at all – I think all the component capabilities are well within the state of the art. They just need somebody to put them together.
This is the sort of situation where Microsoft could start off by saying they can give you commercial-free media access if you just let them data mine your family. It’s worked online, so why not via your TV? And from there…?