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Google Patents Detecting, Tracking, Targeting Kids 115

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the well-maybe dept.
theodp writes "A newly-issued Google patent for Rendering Advertisements With Documents Having One or More Topics Using User Topic Interest describes how to detect the presence of children by 'using evidence of sophistication determined using user actions' and tracking their behavior using the Google Toolbar and other methods to deliver targeted ads. Which is interesting, since the Google Terms of Service supposedly prohibit the use of Services by anyone 'not of legal age.' The inventor is Google Principal Scientist Krishna Bharat, who is a co-inventor of another pending Google patent for inferring searchers' ethnicity, reading level, age, sex and income (and storing it all)." Ok I'll be the first to admit that this is greek to me. Someone smart figure this out and post a comment translating patentese into english.
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Google Patents Detecting, Tracking, Targeting Kids

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  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:19AM (#22829348)
    Which is interesting, since the Google Terms of Service supposedly prohibit the use of Services by anyone 'not of legal age.'

    That's not remotely interesting. This is just a patent, one of many that companies like Google hold, for a variety of reasons. Now, if Google implements this capability, especially in violation of their own Terms of Service ... that would be interesting. But for now it's just a curiosity.
  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:35AM (#22829494)
    Perhaps I'm wrong, but after scanning this, it seems ridiculous and inflammatory that this is posted as "GOOGLE IS TRACKING OUR KIDS!!!". Doing a couple searches, I didn't see anything on "age", and the only thing that "child" brought up was:

    Further, a given topic might be divided based on degrees of expertise or sophistication. For example, a user interested in the topic "volcano" could be interested in a basic introduction to volcanoes (a novice), a technical understanding of volcanoes (an expert), or be interested in a tourism information regarding volcanoes (some sophistication). Different sets of one or more ads can be associated with the different levels of user expertise in a give topic. Using evidence of sophistication determined using user actions for example, ads targeted for novices, average sophistication, or experts (e.g., children, tourists, scientists) may be served and rendered.
    Oh yeah, very evil.
  • by Cap'N Crapper (833990) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:35AM (#22829506)
    It's worded that way to say "you can't use our crap if you aren't an adult" in legalese.
  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @10:37AM (#22829516)
    Well, 1) it's probably legally required to have something like that in there, and 2) it's probably in there not for something like web search, but for things that you have to sign up for (GMail, Base, etc).
  • Uh, visiting a website DEFINITELY doesn't constitute forming a binding contract. My (completely unprofessional) understanding is that if I can use the services without having to verify my identity, then I probably haven't formed any contract, and if I'm not forced to even be aware that there IS a "contract" then I certainly haven't agreed to anything.

    Merely looking at something does not bind you, generally speaking, but you could at least in theory be bound by looking (NDA anyone?) and you almost certainly do have a contract with Google.

    The whole point about a contract is that a good or service is offered and you accept that offer with "consideration" (giving up some property, doing something or refraining from doing something) being exchange for that. In this case the service is obvious and you accept a contract when you click "Search Google" or even "I'm Feeling Lucky". Your consideration is agreeing to their Terms of Service (which is mostly about refraining from doing something).

    As to being aware that the contract is being made, you are presumed to know that you are entering into a relationship with your service provider (Google). This makes quite a bit of sense really. If you pay a guy to clean your car and he doesn't, he's might be guilty of a crime but that won't give you your money back. You need to sue him because you had an understanding and he didn't hold up his end of the bargain. That's a contract and it doesn't matter if you don't know his name.

    It is generally considered that if your attention is brought to the existence of terms (for example by a link to "Terms of Service", or by text on a bus ticket saying "Issued subject to terms and conditions") then your use of the service indicates your acceptance of those terms. This is particularly true where you use the service repeatedly - you have ample opportunity to discover and question those terms but you keep coming back. So you must be OK with them.

    NB: IANAL but I am a law student, albeit from Australia.

  • not just children (Score:4, Informative)

    by penguinbroker (1000903) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:51AM (#22830018)
    ftfp: "Different sets of one or more ads can be associated with the different levels of user expertise in a give topic. Using evidence of sophistication determined using user actions for example, ads targeted for novices, average sophistication, or experts (e.g., children, tourists, scientists) may be served and rendered."

    This is simply an extension of what google already does at the page level. Instead of settling for targeting ads based on the contents of the page, google would like to tailor ads based on what the user is specifically looking at on a page. The above quote denotes the fact that they are likely to find correlations among certain demographic and age groups.

    "In this example, one or more ads associated with topic 1 might originally be rendered in association with the document 1410. If a user were to follow the link 1414a, interest scores of one or more ads associated with topic 2 could be increased. In this case, upon returning back to document A 1410 from document B 1420, one or more ads associated with topic 2 might now be rendered in association with the document 1410."

    The previous quote from the patent shows how google would use your recent browser history along with whatever tags they associate with a page to serve 'relevant' ads. This is similar to what I expect google to do with the doubleclick data they will be receiving shortly.

    On a more ominous note, the following claim is a bit unsettling and reminds me of http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/03/21/1511240 [slashdot.org]. Who's letting all these guys control cameras in our houses?

    "9. The computer-implemented method of claim 1 wherein the actions of the user monitored are selected from a group of user actions consisting of (a) cursor positioning, (b) cursor dwell time, (c) document item selection, (d) user eye direction, (e) user facial expressions, (f) user expressions, and (g) express user topic interest input. "

    Ummm, somebody at homeland security just wet their lips....
  • by celtic_hackr (579828) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:56PM (#22834078) Journal
    While EULAs have stood up in court, these have all been click-through or open a sealed envelope agreements. In order for a contract to be binding there has to be a positive recognition by both parties. I find it implausible to believe that merely using Googles search or map services or any service that doesn't require registration will ever be found to be part of a binding agreement in any court in the USA. Not only that, the burden of proof that any particular individual in a household agreed to a contract is going to be on Goggle. Also, I think that if Google uses this patent, they may actually violate Child Protection laws and if I ever catch anyone tracking my child's internet activity I'll prosecute. And if the police won't do anything, I'll hire SCO's lawyers to go after them for 60% of anything they can squeeze out of them. Or some other equally sleazy and hungry litigator.

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