Wed, 11 Jun 2003 02:58:36 GMT

Color Me Creeped Out.

Researchers Can Track Our Every Media Move

“Technology is hurtling along, offering a wide assortment of Orwellian options to gauge viewing and listening preferences. As with medicine, however, those advances are coming faster than we can sort out their implications and decide how much information we all want our corporate big brothers to possess.

So enter, in a closely monitored test under way in Philadelphia, the 'portable people meter,' or PPM. It's a device the size of a pager that people carry around with them, picking up encoded signals in the media they consume. The individuals need do nothing, with the PPM automatically identifying what the users are watching or what radio station they're listening to.

Creepy, you say? Not so, says Arbitron, which is conducting the trial with the cooperation of Nielsen. After all, the current TV ratings sometimes require letting people install boxes in their bedrooms, and the radio version, almost Jurassic by today's standards, asks you to keep a diary of your listening habits.

'What we're asking people to do is less invasive than allowing meters in their homes,' said Roberta McConochie, Arbitron's director of client relations for the venture, who recently briefed research executives in L.A….

Nevertheless, I felt a chill drift up my spin when McConochie cited the device's ability to track which “retail environments” people patronize — using the same silent code to cross-reference what stores they shop in with their viewing patterns — or perform a similar trick linking TV viewing and movie attendance. Without being paranoid, it all sounds a little like 'The Matrix,' minus the slow-motion….

Yet whether you dread or embrace it, the day is coming when media consumption will be indexed with buying patterns to form one vast database — all in the name of conveying more precise targeting data to those who see the public as a commodity to be bought and sold. That's terrific news for advertisers but a bit scary to anyone inclined to question if Rupert Murdoch and other guardians of pipelines into the home can be trusted not to abuse the privilege.” [Chicago Tribune]

[The Shifted Librarian]

yup, i was telling people that i could pretty much do this now with some software that i have, and they nod along….