11.30.2015
news

Your Phone And Your TV Are Great Communicators (With One Another)

When your television talks, your phone listens.

At this point, it should be common knowledge that "Big Brother" is watching our every online move. A digital footprint is more like a trail of breadcrumbs leading directly to our email inboxes, online shopping histories, binge-watching schedules, and porn-consuming habits. (Shoutout to the NSA. I know you like Master of None as much as I do. I swear I'm not ordering all that GrubHub just for me. Really? You would have swiped left on her? Picky.

Each time we use the Internet, on any device, they know

And its only getting crazier. According to a recent filing from the Center for Democracy and Technology, an organization advocating for the civil rights and cyber security of the world's online citizens: Telecom companies and marketers can now employ a new technology, SilverPush, that establishes and documents links between our devices via "audio beacons," or silent digital signals. 

via GIPHY

Basically, if the SilverPush code is present on any of your devices via apps or open content, SilverPush decides if each device belongs to you, records the relationship, and then packages it up in a profile with other identifying data in order to send you targeted advertising created around your interests and online behavior. The ways in include cars with bluetooth enabled systems, tablets, wearables, smartphones. At this point, assume that even your roomba isn't entirely unsusceptible to corruption via SilverPush. 

Here's where it gets cool, but also unsettling. The technology has been adapted for television advertising. Code is injected into the ads being broadcast on screen and sends out audio beacons, hoping our devices are doing their best impersonation of Jodie Foster a la Contact in our pockets. As reported in The Atlantic;

"Any nearby devices running SilverPush software will be listening for the beacon—if a device hears it, it records the match, allowing the company to figure out what ads users watch and for how long, and add that information to the user’s profile."

What seems to really be upsetting people is not that this technology exists for marketing purposes. That's a given. Instead, a fear of a complete and total invasion of privacy and the possibility for use in government surveillance is setting off alarms. 

It's been reported that SilverPush claims to be addressing these concerns, asserting that the audio-tracking is only live in India (despite the company opening offices in San Francisco and the Philippines) and that executives are working with the proper authorities to identify regulations in this new space.

When those proper authorities are the very same authorities that conspiracy spotters are leery of, it's easy to imagine a dystopian future where our devices betray our locations to an army of government drones. It's also easy to pull out the credit card and be alive and participating in such inspiring times—where new technologies emerge daily, with the potential and ambition to revolutionize industries and disrupt the status quo. 

We'll say it again: Bring on the drone pizza delivery! Smartphone, hear me loud and clear: P E P P E R O N I.

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