The Wall Street Journal has a story about some creepy software. (See the story here if you can’t read it on the Wall Street Journal site.) A media research company called Integrated Media Measurement (IMMI) has created software for mobile phones that would be able to record and identify every snippet of audio around you.
IMMI embeds its software into the cellphones of the company’s 4,900 panelists. The software picks up audio from an ad or a TV show and converts it into its own digital code that is then uploaded into an IMMI database, which includes codes for media content such as TV shows, commercials, movies and songs.
IMMI’s database then figures out what the cellphone was exposed to by matching the code. Cellphone conversations and background noise are filtered out by the software, IMMI says, since there is no “match” in the IMMI database.
To get a handle on the effectiveness of a given ad, IMMI’s data can show, for example, when a panel member is exposed to a movie trailer on TV and whether that same consumer later goes to see the movie. Similarly, IMMI data can show if a panelist watching a promo for a TV program will later watch the show, either on TV or online. IMMI thinks it can expand that idea from films and TV shows to consumer products like shampoo or toothpaste. It is testing its technology with a national grocery store chain.
The marketers say conversations are filtered out by software currently, but who is to say what would happen in the future if many people take up the company’s offer of free cell phone minutes or cash payment for using this software?
In the UK, marketers are already using mobile phones’ GPS technology to track individuals. Here’s a story on the ways other ways US companies are trying to use GPS systems on mobile phones to create advertisements. In fact, there has been a disturbing increase in the use of surveillance technology in everyday life. Another story: Companies are “equipping billboards with tiny cameras that gather details about passers-by — their gender, approximate age and how long they looked at the billboard. These details are transmitted to a central database.”