Would you believe that, special inaudible sounds have been embedded in webpages, and television commercials? Well, if you don’t you would be wrong – Talk about creative uses for wireless.
In India, a company called SilverPush has figured out how to do exactly that. The company embeds short, ultrasonic sounds into television commercials and web pages. Not only that, special software is snuck onto your computers, tablets and smartphones that will pick up these “inaudible” signals, and, via cookies, send what it learns back to SilverPush, which sends the data to its customers (the advertisers).
SilverPush’s position is that this is the next generation of advertising. They aren’t invisible or even clandestine about it. They openly admit that they are who they are. The company sells several products, including an audio beacon, that make up the family and the system to complete a loop that studies your interests. That data is then sent to the advertiser.
This is called cross-device tracking and is the latest fad for Internet marketers to do target advertising. It isn’t new, but it is starting to reach new heights. And if you think it is only for smart TVs, just wait. Soon IoX things like smart thermostats, smart appliances, smart socks, even smart cars will be sending data back to advertisers so they can sell you new furnace filters, toothpaste, tires and what-not.
Players include not only SilverPush, but other unknowns like File d4Info, Drawbridge, Flurry and Cross Screen Consultants. And the piece de resistance; Google, Facebook and Yahoo are doing it too. No wonder it is so easy to sneak this onto devices. So far, these are relatively dumb applications. By that I mean they aren’t really aware of each other. But trust me, they are working on that.
Retailers are drooling over this. Finally, a simple and direct way to connect TV commercials with an individual’s purchase or investigation of a product. They can directly tell if the commercial has influenced the individual to purchase the product.
So now that we know what they are doing, how can they do this without our consent? If all of these were people with little scribble pads following us around, and writing down everything we do, we certainly would object. But with this “hiddenware,” it is a lot harder to observe.
Well, in reality, we did consent. How? You know all those license agreements we never read? That’s how. This kind of stuff is embedded in every download, or software we buy, when we install it. If you read the EULAs, and you don’t agree, it won’t load. And once loaded, these errant spyware apps and devices drill down and get buried so deep they are impossible to find, unless you know exactly what you are looking for.
So, we have given all of these rights to these players somewhere along the line. And the way U.S. privacy law is currently written, these fine folks own all of that data, and don’t have to let us know what they have. All of this makes this pretty devious, especially because they go to such great lengths to do this surveillance, which is, essentially, invisible.
The FTC is looking into this. But as with most government agencies, they are at the mercy of Congress, which usually bought and paid for by the player who wants to continue this type of activity. So expect this technology to ramp up fast and hard – there is a lot of money at stake.
This surveillance economy emerged because there was no regulation for this type activity. It has become a very powerful industry and is eyeing getting into all kinds of stuff beyond computers and smartphones. The Internet of Anything (IoX) is fertile hunting grounds for these players.
This scares me a lot. Because even though I’m a pretty savvy technogeek, I don’t know the length and girth of this. The powers that be need to set some limits on how these companies can spy on us – write your congress person – oh wait, they aren’t interested in your privacy, just how the big-buck corporations like Google, Yahoo and others can extend their terms – what WAS I thinking.
Personally, the first time I get an ad for foot deodorant, I’m pitching my smart socks!