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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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  • Ads by Google... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:15AM (#22829316)
    We already know Google is at its core an ad delivery company. At least, that's the main revenue source that powers the feel-good things like search. And what makes ads work is targeting. No use selling things that the user isn't interested in. And for that matter, no use selling things that only adults would want to kids. So, the news here is that Google's got a patent on what they've been trying to do in this space all along.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      its refreshing to see people call google on what their CORE business is.

      its to sell ads (push them) at eyeballs. all else is a con just to get the ads pushed at you.

      all you folks who are 'proud' to be working at google, do you actually realize you are just part of a modern mega-Advertising Machine? and how many googlers run ad blocking software at home? (hypocrits!)

      each day at google, I would assume that you come home and say 'today I helped the internet push more ads at people. cool.'

      (sigh)
      • by TheMeuge (645043) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @12:46PM (#22829972)
        "do you actually realize you are just part of a modern mega-Advertising Machine?"

        So fucking what? Is it better to be a part of a modern mega-Car-making Machine?.. or a modern mega-Paper-pushing Machine?

        At its utmost core, advertising is doing a very important job - connecting people who would like to buy something, with the sellers who are offering something for sale. Like it or not, but advertising, in whatever form, is an integral part of a market economy. The fact that advertising is obtrusive and annoying, is not any more an inherent property of advertising, than killing innocent people is an inherent property of a sword (I was going to say "gun", but realized where I was).

        If anything, you should be PRAISING Google for furthering the idea that advertising can be profitable WITHOUT being intrusive, and disruptive. As opposed to spamming you with images or sounds hawking products you're not interested in, Google politely shows you products that their software thinks you might be interested in (to the best of their ability to determine this).

        Only communist-pipe-dream hippie would think something wrong of such an approach, or would think it shameful to work at such a company. Ultimately, everything is relative, and I'd rather have Google than many of its competitors.
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          "At its utmost core, advertising is doing a very important job - connecting people who would like to buy something, with the sellers who are offering something for sale. Like it or not, but advertising, in whatever form, is an integral part of a market economy."

          You are correct in the sense of conveying important information about products and services.

          But modern marketing and advertising have gone WAY beyond that by CREATING demand for their products. Modern advertising is much more about convincing you th
          • by Anonymous Coward
            It is a false premise that demand creates supply. A product/solution must first be defined before a demand is even suspected to exist. Demand drives sales and growth and demand is created by marketing. Marketing is just demonstrating whatever is necessary to sell a product. Traditionally it has been word of mouth, but modern day society has many more 'trusted' sources for marketing. The problem with today's marketing is that they are selling frivolous crap - pink cell phones and new software versions.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dachannien (617929)

          Is it better to be a part of a modern mega-Car-making Machine?.. or a modern mega-Paper-pushing Machine?

          While advertising does help to connect sellers with buyers, it does so in a skewed way that can decrease the information available to one side (the buyer, when the seller is doing the advertising). A lot of advertising is done in a way that unfairly represents the product or service in a positive light, in some cases in a rather subtle manner (hot chicks in beer ads, for instance).

          So, considering that a large portion of advertising is intended to deceive people, yes, I would say it is better to be part of

          • It could be that I'm posting this late at night, but hot chicks in beer ads doesn't seem very subtle to me.

            Pardon me if this is your point...
            • Well, the subtlety I was talking about is that beer ads suggest to the viewer that ample sex with gorgeous women is in store for them if they drink the advertised product, but they never actually say it (because it's obviously not true).
        • The problem with advertising isn't just that it is annoying when when we aren't interested in the product, or even that it might be deceptive. Advertising plays a large role in creating and shaping what we desire in the first place. It also contributes to our notions of identity and our sense of the things we should own in order to think of ourselves as successful and happy. Targeted advertising can be abused. Think of Joe Camel and the targeting of children by cigarette companies using cartoon-y ads. Think
        • At its utmost core, advertising is doing a very important job - connecting people who would like to buy something, with the sellers who are offering something for sale. Like it or not, but advertising, in whatever form, is an integral part of a market economy. The fact that advertising is obtrusive and annoying, is not any more an inherent property of advertising, than killing innocent people is an inherent property of a sword (I was going to say "gun", but realized where I was).

          Yes...

          If anything, you should be PRAISING Google for furthering the idea that advertising can be profitable WITHOUT being intrusive, and disruptive. As opposed to spamming you with images or sounds hawking products you're not interested in, Google politely shows you products that their software thinks you might be interested in (to the best of their ability to determine this).

          Yes...

          Only communist-pipe-dream hippie would think something wrong of such an approach, or would think it shameful to work at such a company. Ultimately, everything is relative, and I'd rather have Google than many of its competitors.

          Wait, what? Can't you just make your argument without saying stupid shit like this? I was nodding along until you went all ad hominem to make this terrible point. There are very good reasons not to want Google to do this, and even a rootin' tootin' gun-toting libertarian swashbuckler should be able to see what they are. Do we constantly have to advance the collection of our private reading habits into massive online databases? Do we constantly have to push the boundaries of what people a

        • by jhol13 (1087781)

          advertising [...] is an integral part of a market economy.

          If free markets were to work, you would not need any advertising as the buyers would have complete knowledge (of all products) and would behave rationally.

          But then you were talking about "market economy", whatever that is.

          opposed to spamming you with images or sounds hawking products you're not interested in, Google politely shows you products that their software thinks you might be interested

          Your starting point is wrong: spam sells so it must, by definition, be interesting. Makes all conclusions based on that invalid.

          [...] communist [...]

          I wonder if there is a libertarian/liberal/free trade proponent who does not yell "North Korea" in every tenth sentence while nicely forgetting Somalia.

        • It's all fun and games until the FBI starts trolling through peoples google profiles. In a way it's worse than being able to see your library records, since google knows most everything you're interested in or have even been curious about. Of course if one is worried about their privacy, it'd be easy to make a firefox plugin that does random google searches to foil the google-bot's attempts at profiling you.
    • Re:Ads by Google... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @12:20PM (#22829784) Journal
      I agree with you. They are making their products more valuable to advertisers by targeting better than anyone else, and not in an obtrusive way, but a smart way.

      Another thing that I find interesting: if Google is truly a do no evil company, they can use these patents to stop others from using them for bad things. I hope that is the case.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by jpdzahr (1260592)
      "tracking their behavior using the Google Toolbar" is just another form of SPYWARE as I've suspected all along the Google Toolbar lets Google know what your looking at, how long you visit a site, what all your interests and habits are, what's been bookmarked, in fact it's like Alexa's Toolbar and it's a form of Corporate Big Brother is watching us. Today it may seem trivial however once Google can catalog a person's Web traffic they can then profile a person and make a lot of assumptions whether valid or no
      • So don't install it. As with Alexa, they make it no secret that they're collecting information through the toolbar. If you don't like those terms, then why use it?
      • it's a form of Corporate Big Brother is watching us
        A Big Brother that you can uninstall is no Big Brother.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by denton420 (1235028)
      I dont really mind if google collects detailed information about my every action.

      They are such a great company!
  • Very odd text from the ToS:

    "2.3 You may not use the Services and may not accept the Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google, or (b) you are a person barred from receiving the Services under the laws of the United States or other countries including the country in which you are resident or from which you use the Services."

    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.

    Am I right? Or have we entered some parallel dimension in which simply looking at a piece of content makes you bound by a contract? I'm going to sneak into museums and install my own paintings with arduous terms of viewing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Cap'N Crapper (833990)
      It's worded that way to say "you can't use our crap if you aren't an adult" in legalese.
      • Parent pretty much has it. This technology would allow google to make some sort of determination whether the user in question was not an adult and thus either keep their targeted ads clean, or bump the user off the service pending some other form of age verification. I'd assume they'd simply screen the ads for children browsing; rather than piss off the huge number of adults who have child-like random click syndrome by taking away their email. Looking at it from that angle, now google can sort of claim t
    • 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).
    • Disclaimer: IANAL I think that the contract is not accepted by visiting google, but by using their search you agree to the terms and services; (ie. their services.)

      From google:
      2.2 You can accept the Terms by:

      (A) clicking to accept or agree to the Terms, where this option is made available to you by Google in the user interface for any Service; or

      (B) by actually using the Services. In this case, you understand and agree that Google will treat your use of the Services as acceptance of the Te
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Disclaimer: IANAL I think that the contract is not accepted by visiting google, but by using their search you agree to the terms and services; (ie. their services.)

        No, it says I understand and agree that Google will behave that way. But it says nothing about what happens in court.

        The "understand" bit is probably intended to make that happen. But as an English speaker (in other words, not a lawyer) what that says to me is that I comprehend that Google thinks we have a contract. And, I agree that Google will behave that way. But I do not agree that Google and I have a contract. Whether that interpretation would hold up in court or not I don't know, I suspect that giv

      • by gomiam (587421)
        (B) by actually using the Services. In this case, you understand and agree that Google will treat your use of the Services as acceptance of the Terms from that point onwards.

        Which makes no sense whatsoever, anyway: you need to read the ToS to know that just using the service is considered by Google an acceptance of the ToS.

      • by MttJocy (873799) *
        The last one seams to me like it could be argued for quite some time in a court of law it seams to me unless they actively thrust the terms and conditions in your face before you use the "services" perhaps using a cookie to remember if the user has accepted them before (Interesting argument here over the fact the cookie only identifies the browser in some configurations not the user of the browser, especially if more than one user has the same system login) then it seams to me it would be difficult to claim
    • It doesn't say you're forming a contract. You can't form a contract where one of the parties gets nothing in return anyway (though you could argue that because your clicks and eyeball time are of value to google, which they clearly are, that compensates google for the content and services).

      It says Google isn't responsible for anything you do and you're not bound to the terms of the TOS if in your jurisdiction you're not old enough to be presumed to understand something that has rules that may not be explic
    • 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.

      • 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
        • by Mjec (666932)

          While EULAs have stood up in court, these have all been click-through or open a sealed envelope agreements.

          Use of a service can be an action that constitutes acceptance - see, for example, Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball [1983] 1 QB 256 [wikipedia.org]. Not US authority, but regardless.

          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.

          Well, as I understand it the technology has the capacity to guess a person's age based on their behaviour... not a breach of child protection law by any stretch of the imagination. And in any case, any contract between Google and the child would likely be void due to lack of capacity to enter into the contract.

          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.

          I'm glad I'm training to be a

          • Sorry, but I'm fairly certain that English contract law doesn't apply to the USA, and it wouldn't be an admissible case, unless it predates 1782, and thus could be considered possible American common law. From what I've seen of cases in USA, visiting a website that doesn't require a login or click-through agreement doesn't rise to the level of the legal technical definition of "genuine consent" or of "agreement" not to mention there is no "consideration" given. Therefore this "contract" doesn't pass three o
            • by Mjec (666932)

              Sorry, but I'm fairly certain that English contract law doesn't apply to the USA...

              I'm not saying it does. I'm not an American law student, I'm an Australian law student. I was referring to Australian authority (which in this case is actually inherited British authority). Contract law in the USA is actually quite similar to contract law in the Commonwealth, especially with regards to the formation of a contract. Partially this is because that's fundamental law that was developed in the early seventeenth century (and before) in England, partially this is because of international law [wikipedia.org].

              From what I've seen of cases in USA, visiting a website that doesn't require a login or click-through agreement doesn't rise to the level of the legal technical definition of "genuine consent" or of "agreement" not to mention there is no "consideration" given. Therefore this "contract" doesn't pass three of the six "required" parts that make any contract legally binding.

              O

              • Sorry, forgot you were Australian.

                However, American contract law has changed considerably from the days of old. I was being facetious when I said perhaps I was using the wrong terminology. Judges in America frequently change contracts that appear before them, especially if it is badly written. It's a common practice in America. Which is why most corporations in the US now require arbitration or trial in their home state.

                Ok, there are three conditions required for a contract to exist which may be questio

            • by monxrtr (1105563)

              you are granted the "right" to use their "service" and if they have posted on their website the terms of service, you'd better read and agree to them before you use the service. Otherwise you might have agreed to something you didn't intend.

              Even then, it doesn't necessarily imply a valid contract. I can state: reading or quoting this ToS, any and all content included and/or related there of, binds the user to compensate me $1 BILLION per each additional use, as tracked and recorded.

              You can't shout from a public soap box that continuing to listen or use the shouted content binds somebody for continuing to listen. Publicly open websites, publicly open business stores, cannot contractually bind anyone, no matter what bullshit their lawyers spew.

              • Thanks to recent cases, clicking "I agree ..." is considered legally binding now according to US legal precedent. There are at least two such famous cases supporting it. However, Google's search service isn't requiring a click or any direct agreement. That isn't to say that none of Google's services have no such explicit agreement. If you explicitly agree to any terms of service on the internet beware...
    • by JohnSearle (923936) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @12:03PM (#22829672)

      ...and if I'm not forced to even be aware that there IS a "contract" then I certainly haven't agreed to anything.
      This reminds me...

      I used to work for Sprint as a crappy CSR (Customer Service Representative) back when they forced you into contracts for making any sort of changes to your account (esp. price plan changes), and I can say that customers were not always (or even commonly) aware as to their entering a binding legal agreement. There were a lot of times when a customer would call up to cancel, and you state that they'll have an ETF (Early Termination Fee) due to a previous price plan change; they were shocked and denied that they were told anything, and usually went on to claim that they are legally entitled to be warned of this.

      Even though it was blatantly obvious that our staff, not to mention the under-trained overseas non-English speaking staff, were not informing the customers of this fact, we were informed that we had to tell the customer that their claims were meaningless. We had no records of our staff NOT informing them that a contractual obligation came with the account changes, so we can only assume that they were told. A verbal contract is a binding contract, and the website has the full details of the contract extensions, if they bothered to go search. So basically we were told to tell them, "too fucking bad!"

      Nowhere in my CSR training did they state that we had to inform the customer of contract extensions, and the retention rate of employees was terrible... so one can only assume that very few people in the building were doing their jobs even remotely correct. (These are all obvious reasons for the exodus from Sprint by their customers)

      How does all this relate to the OP? It highlights the casual disregard by big business of their legal obligations. If there is no record that you were not informed that a contract was required, then the business can only assume that you were under one.

      - John
      • by Adambomb (118938)
        I don't know john, i've worked in several industries at this point and i can easily state that the standard service industries like cable and telecom are leaps and bounds beyond in terms of disregard of their legal obligations. For google, their terms of service have no direct relation to their income. No activation charges, no ETFs/LTCCs, no "HEY WANT A FREE PHONE?! SIGN HERE!".

        You're definitely not wrong about the standard services industries though. In canada, ALL the major telecom companies operate this
        • I think the point of my reminiscence was with this line:

          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.

          Where the parent was speaking of a contract not being binding if he is unaware. Whether you are aware of the contract, or not, seems to be beside the point with most companies. The f

          • by Adambomb (118938)
            Ahh mistook who the OP was the way threads were nesting at first. My Bad =D

            The thing i always wonder is how well such things would hold up in court in the EULAs and whether they ever had. We had in the TOS of the company i worked for that they actually werent liable for the actions or mistakes of their customer service reps. I would LOVE to see that in court.

            I've never once been able to find a case of someone contesting these things though, beyond the SAF/911 class action here in canada and the current expr
            • Actually, I'm a Canadian as well... Sprint outsources a lot of their work to Canada, and one of their branches was in Ontario.

              Unfortunately I don't know of any other court cases going on that challenge these types of situations. In fact, from the article you presented:

              "There are not that many people out there prepared to buck the establishment," said Toronto lawyer Margaret Waddell, who is involved in a class action against a bank for the transaction fees on its cash advances.

              A note on Sprint's TOS [nextel.com] wit

      • We had no records of our staff NOT informing them that a contractual obligation came with the account changes, so we can only assume that they were told.

        Fortunately Sprint is not the final arbiter of the facts, a jury is. And fortunately, in the case a civil action, those training methods, retention rate, and , I assume, even polling employees would all be admissible (the person would have to prove it was more likely than not he was not warned.)

        IANAL, so maybe it is not that easy. But I think most time

        • Fortunately Sprint is not the final arbiter of the facts, a jury is.

          Actually there is no jury.

          From Sprints Terms and Conditions Sprint's Terms and Conditions [nextel.com]:

          Instead Of Suing In Court, We Each Agree To Arbitrate Disputes We each agree to finally settle all disputes (as defined and subject to any specific exceptions below) only by arbitration. In arbitration, there's no judge or jury and review is limited. However, just as a court would, the arbitrator must honor the terms and limitations in the Agreeme

  • Uhoh (Score:2, Funny)

    by the children (1000266)
    Think of us!!!!!
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:19AM (#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 catwh0re (540371)
      I was thinking this is more of a defensive patent for google. A policy against targetting children (perhaps by enforcing this patent) is a good way to stave off government internet regulation
      • Quite possibly. Targeting kids would do nothing to enhance Google's image. Matter of fact, in our current political climate it would stupid for any company to do that.
  • by Thyamine (531612)
    So how soon after this will we see a lawsuit from an adult that was detected as a child, and now is seeking damages for mental anguish or low self esteem or whatever.

    Stupid software patents leading to stupid lawsuits. Gotta love our patent and legal system.
  • Google will probably claim that their software somehow prevents children browsing to pro-paedophile or pornography websites. Then it will be "okay" to track kids and bombard them with ads, because they're just "protecting the children".
    • by Ilgaz (86384) *
      And thousands/millions of Google Adwords having/paid "fans" will defend them. Perfectly legal pyramid scheme for you.
  • by DrEldarion (114072) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:35AM (#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 theodp (442580)
      From the pending patent:

      [0068] The UPI attributes 420 may include information concerning user background and interests such as, for example, geographic information, age or age group, topics of interest, reading level, income and other demographics suited for targeting advertisements.
    • by kenh (9056)
      Exactly - I can walk down the street and identify children as a distinct group from adults, and tailor my interactions (or lack thereof) with them based on that assessment. Google thinks they have come up with a way to infer that same information and tailor their responses accordingly. How Evil .
    • by kesuki (321456)
      so now, everyone who's a 'novice' is a child now? does that mean if i google basic wiki articles i'll be getting hasbro ads?

      there are a lot of things i have an above average understanding of, but there is no shortage of subjects in which I'm still at a novice level of understanding. google, and wikipedia are the first tools i turn to to find information when I'm lacking... does that mean they'll be skewing ads to think I'm a child?
    • by Reziac (43301) *
      My first thought was that if they think lack of online sophistication means the user is a kid, they're going to be marketing toys to a lot of grannies.

  • Full Metal Jacket:

    "easy, ya just don't lead 'em as much!"
  • by romanval (556418) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:38AM (#22829524)
    #1 Find the average tagged keyword of a searched resulted and clicked-thru website

    #2 gather enough of these searches and you'll have a composite of the searcher's general interests

    #3 cross references their general interest with the average gender, socieconomic, racial, and/or

    #4.. Patent!!!

    #5... Profit???

    So if you want to screw up that system, a person should just search and click thru something completely random, like businessman searching pokeman websites, a musician searching physics research, or a slashdotter searching for ED pills :)

  • I could imagine the inverse results of this system being used to find grown-ups preying on kids.
    Or even build in to certain sites to prevent this from happening.
  • by Oktober Sunset (838224) <sdpage103@yahoo.co . u k> on Saturday March 22, 2008 @12:09PM (#22829730)
    They've been detecting, tracking and targeting kids for years.


    Bad taste? Nah, you guys love it as much as you love dead baby jokes.
  • GET OFF MY HOMEPAGE!!!
  • Having spent many of my younger years chasing down children while working at an after school program, I can honestly say that if google has figured out an algorithm for detecting, tracking, and targeting kids they deserve a freaking fields medal.
  • One potentially dangerous future implication: 1. Not only kids, but people of different psychological types (i.e. likes, weaknesses classified) -- doesn't Facebook already do this? 2. If a potentially malicious entity has access, there you go: viruses/trojans which target not only vulnerabilities in computers, but those in people too... not only viruses, but more sophisticated attacks by intelligent entities as well. Oh well.. its always the same.. everything can be put to good AND bad use...
  • 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.

    Okay. "Google is working on ways to read your mind."

    It's part of their plan for world domination, but in an evil-free way.

    • "What are we going to do today, Brin?

      "Same thing we always do, Larry ... try and take over the world!"
  • Wait, Google Patents [google.com] is detecting, tracking, and targeting kids? I knew there was something fundamentally wrong with the USPTO -- it's those damn kids calling the shots in there!
  • not just children (Score:4, Informative)

    by penguinbroker (1000903) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @12:51PM (#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....
  • False Positives (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hemogoblin (982564) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @12:53PM (#22830032)
    I predict lots of false positives on FBI Agents.
  • by melete (640855) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @01:49PM (#22830496)
    ...then you probably shouldn't be making up ridiculously misleading headlines. If you A) actually read the patent application and B) understand ANYTHING about the terminology used, you'd realize that there's nothing about "tracking and targeting children" in it. It's about Google extending their applications of graph theory to determine demographic data about their viewers. This has been, after all, their core competency ever since they were founded.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      He didn't write the headline and admitted he didn't understand the patent, but thought it might be of interest to /. readers. Would you rather he simply didn't post the article? Or are you deludedly hoping that /. gathers an array of technical advisors who will vet any submissions for which the editors aren't completely comfortable in understanding the material?

      I think it's quite likely this was the only submission on this patent, and I think it was a good move to post it. What's more, because the patent do
  • As I skimmed the patent material, I began to wonder whether

    • Web advertising isn't living up the promises that have been made
    • Google needs bullet items for its patents slide for the next Wall St. Powerpoint presentation
    • They can really patent of system of tracking of words (ngrams, where n=1) when there've been thousands of papers in NLP and IR discussing every conceivable mechanism for handling ngrams for 10 years or 20 years?

    Frankly I'm not impressed with the quality of any company's system to div

    • Isn't the purpose of a search engine to find what I ask for, and not do magic tricks about what I'm thinking?

      Yes, and No. Yes, a search engine should find what you are looking for. However, a kid searching for "pussy" is probably looking for information about felis catus, while an adult quite is quite likely not to be. So no, I would say some degree of magic tricking is necessary to discern the two. And while Google provides a very good search engine, but don't lose track of their primary mission - advertising. The magic tricks are far far more useful in this arena.

  • by Alsee (515537) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @03:05PM (#22831000) Homepage
    Someone smart figure this out and post a comment translating patentese into english.

    I'm no patent lawyer, but I think I've learned enough to do a reasonable job. There are two patents linked, I'll do the quick easy one first.

    Patent 1:
    A method for determining user profile information for a user, the method comprising: a) determining initial user profile information for the user; b) inferring user profile information for the user; and c) determining the user profile information for the user using both the initial user profile information and the inferred user profile information.

    WTF! Software patents are bad, business method patents are bad, but this is just INSANE!

    (a) you have an existing profile for someone.
    (b) You "infer" profile information for someone.
    (c) You use the old info plus the new info to UPDATE the profile.

    We want a patent on updating a profile.
    Well, ok, we only want the patent when you "infer" information and update a profile.
    We want a patent on the very idea of "inferring" information to update a profile.

    Yes, this patent really is worse than the "method of swinging sideways on a swing" patent.

    I want to scream. Can I scream on the internet? Can I strangle someone? Please?

    I'm sure some people are looking at the patent and reading the abstract - the abstract doesn't matter. The description doesn't matter either. And I'm sure people are looking at the additional claim numbers, well in this case they don't matter either. The way patents work each claim number is like a separate patent. Claims 1 through 64 are like 64 separate patents all filed on one form. If claim 1 is a patent on the wheel and a claim 2 patent on a super-duper laser powered 4 dimensional wheel, claim 2 generally doesn't matter because ANY wheel already violates claim 1.

    The way you read a patent is you read claim 1, and then you also check up on any claim number that does *not* mention an earlier claim number. A claim that mentions an earlier claim number is a dependent claim already covered by the lower number claim, and can be ignored. A claim that does not mention an earlier claim is like a new independent patent and you have to check that it might cover something claim 1 didn't cover.

    Patent 2:
    You have to do everything below to violate the patent.

    A computer-implemented method

    Software.

    Software is not patentable, but this is the magic patentese phrase for software running on a computer. So in patentese this is patentable.

    for generating a document with optimizable topic-relevant ads,

    Software that inserts targeted ads.

    the method comprising: a) for each of a plurality of document regions of the document, determining a topic,

    Patentese has an issue with non-specific numbers. It has fancy language for "one or more". This text saying a document might be treated as a "one or more" regions. For example you might consider each story on the Slashdot front page as a separate region.

    So, make a list of One Or More topics in One Or More sections.

    wherein the plurality of document regions are intrinsic to the document, and thereby independent of how the document is being viewed and of a user viewing the document;

    That is essentially patenese for "webpage".

    b) using at least the determined topics, associating, with each of the plurality of document regions, a different set of one or more topic-relevant ads;

    Software that picks One Or More targeted ads relevant to One Or More parts of the page.

    c) determining, from among the plurality of topics, a topic interest of a user;

    The page talks about cars and shoes, pick one.

    d) adjusting the scores of the ads using at least the determined topic interest of the user;

    Rank all of the selected matching ads. You have to do so at least in part based on the "topic of interest", but you can rank base on other stuff too. W
    • by Reziac (43301) *
      Whilst reading your explanations, I had the thought that this patent isn't at all about IDing the user type. It's about convincing advertisers (Googles REAL customers) to pay differential ad rates, ie. higher rates for presumed-better-targeted audiences -- whether it actually works in Real Life or not.

      (As I note up above, if they think lack of online sophistication is indicative of a juvenile user, they're going to find themselves marketing toys to a lot of grannies.)

  • This patent is just a sample of the tracking and targeting that Google is doing. They talk about "anonymous" tracking, but give the content and patterns of access they can do a good job figuring out who you are and what you interests are. They are looking at your web surfing, email, chat, bookmarks, etc. Google toolbar and desktop are there so they can spy on you when you are browsing anywhere.

    If the government was spying on you like this there would be a revolution. Google is completely unaccountable a
  • Did anyone else read the headline like Google is wireless tracking kids and targeting them with a big bullseye?

    -0--
    We are all not as smart as all of us.
  • ...this could be the end of l33tspeak :'(
  • Software patents are evil as they are dishonest in regards to the genuine nature of software.

    See: Abstraction physics [abstractionphysics.net] for an expose of the genuine nature of software.
  • Someone smart figure this out and post a comment translating patentese into english

    FYI to what you posted, the "Rendering advertisements with documents having one or more topics using user topic interest" contradicts the content of the post: US-7,346,606 is not on children. The word 'children' shows up a single time, at an irrelevant example within parentheses towards the end. I wished the editors were less sloppy. theodp might have made a mistake; we all can err; but then the editor ought to have noticed t
  • Initially I object to the thought of profiling in general, but if it's truly done properly and accurately, hypothetically the search results we get will be more relevant to what we want and we might actually find useful ads, which as far as I'm concerned wouldn't be bad.
  • The summary makes it sound as if Google is detecting kids because they perform more sophisticated searches.
  • I saw prior art for this in Apocalypse Now. You just don't lead them as much.

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