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Privacy Media Television

Tivo Tracks Superbowl Viewing Habits 543

ThePretender writes "Sprinkled in the Janet Jackson boob stories is an alarming bit of information: Tivo tracks subscribers' viewing habits. They know how many times the boob was viewed, among other good-to-have (meaning data worth $$) information. Yes, if you agreed to Tivo's privacy policy you knew they could do this, with the promise that you aren't identifiable. Put on the tin foil hats? Or just another way for them to keep your monthly fee down (snicker)." A story from 2002 has more information and makes clear that Tivo does have the capability to record every click you make on the remote control, at all times. Previously Tivo said they tracked 10,000 people for the Super Bowl, this year 20,000.
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Tivo Tracks Superbowl Viewing Habits

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  • by Mateito ( 746185 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:30PM (#8173213) Homepage
    Tivo Tracks Titillating Timberlake Tit Touching!
    • by KUHurdler ( 584689 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @05:16PM (#8173762) Homepage
      This just in:

      Justin Timberlink is going to do a follow-up free concert with Outcast on CBS.
      "Sorry Ms Jackson... OOOhhh!!!"
    • From the Simpsons:

      "[Michaelangelo's David] shows part of the human body which, practical though they may be, are EVIL!"

      Sorry for sounding a bit offtopic, but the people that are upset about this to get a life. In a country where it's okay to fry mentally ill people to death, let any eejit carry a gun, consume a huge proportion of the world's resources and invade a country for dubious reasons, exposing a bit of human flesh is greeted with the sort of outrage that you'd think would be reserved for the

      • by qtp ( 461286 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @06:54PM (#8174882) Journal
        The vast majority of the criticism has not been of the "Think of the children" hysterical condemnation school, but more a sense of outrage that this what is considered entertaining (bad dancing, crappy music, insincere patriotic posturing, crotch grabbing, fake astonishment, and showing a tit). The sheer lack of spontenaity, the absolute absense of anything remotely resembling talent, the dearth of inspired performance plus the Janet Jackson tit exposure left many feeling rather insulted, that the show was conceived by either an inexpirienced and purile mind or by a has been who is desperate to regain the spotlight.

        Think back to the rather sterile, emotionless and absolutely unerotic kisses exchanged betwteen Madonna and Britney/Christina. Same crap, nothing spontaneous, nothing titilating, nothing exciting in the least. Simply juvenalia at its absolute, unentertaining worst.

        As to why this devolution into the mindnumbingly boring realm of poor imitations of a seventh grade boy's psyche, perhaps it is evidence that the entertainment industry knows they are obsolete, they are desperate to retain the spotlight, and uncertain of when the public will realize that this dinosaur has no more new tricks to perform, and their hired talent no longer has anything with which to keep our attention. If they can't have our devotion, it seems they'll settle for dissatisfied scorn.

  • by kochsr ( 144988 ) * on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:30PM (#8173222) Homepage
    HDTV broadcast beat out the use of my tivo this year. i didn't even record the superbowl on it. HDTiVo is supposed to be coming out sooner than later for a retail price of $999, dish only. I don't think i'll be buying it right away.
  • by glinden ( 56181 ) * on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:31PM (#8173229) Homepage Journal
    If TiVo is only passing along aggregated, anonymized data on user behavior, is there a privacy issue? From the article:
    • Privacy advocates have decried such technologies as invasive, but TiVo officials say they do not pass along information that would identify individual viewers.
    While it's true that TiVo needs to collect "every click" as the first part of compiling this aggregate data, if the final data is just summarized habits of TiVo users with no individual information, is there a privacy issue?
    • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:36PM (#8173304)
      It's possible that if somebody was watching illegal content, the cops could get a warrant, grab the TiVo, and then have a log of every remote click that the TiVo heard, even those for devices other than the TiVo.

      Of course, the extent they could do this is very limited. TiVo units perge this data every time they make a call-in, and once the call is completed TiVo doesn't keep the association between the log file and who sent it unless they have flagged the user's account for support reasons. Also, I know of no real court cases where cops have actually tried to get TiVo data used as evidence...
      • by cK-Gunslinger ( 443452 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:46PM (#8173424) Journal

        It's possible that if somebody was watching illegal content, the cops could get a warrant, grab the TiVo, and then have a log of every remote click

        Exactly what kind of "illegal content" is your TiVo going to be playing? Only that which is broadcasted/streamed to your unit from giant media conglomerates. I fail to see how "8:45pm - Channel 725 - 0:13 minutes - volume_down x 3" is going to help convict anyone of anything? Even if you use your TiVo to control your DVD/VCR, how can button clicks associated with your zip code be used for anything?

      • It's possible that if somebody was watching illegal content, the cops could get a warrant, grab the TiVo, and then have a log of every remote click that the TiVo heard, even those for devices other than the TiVo.

        Tivo can only coordinate current broadcast/cable channel viewing habits, so how could it record that you were watching illegal content?
      • The key phrase being "get a warrant". Yeah, I know to gov't is trying to get around that, but that's another discussion.

        But if the cops get themselves a real warrant from a real judge, they're welcome to look thru my tivo logs.
    • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:38PM (#8173334) Journal
      The trouble is that the information is being collected at all. So while most regular users might trust TiVo, it's important to know that they could, in principle, collect very complete statistics concerning your viewing habits. Either by accident or by subpoena, those records could be released.

      By contrast, if you created a TiVo equivalent from a home computer with a TV tuner card, it would be completely anonymous -- nobody would ever know what you watched unless they had access to your machine.
      • So? they collect your're viewing habits of shows that are broadcasted publicly. It's not like there broadcasting illegal information.

        When TiVo starts sending what I watch through my VCR/DVD player, etc . . . then we have an issue.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      First, TiVo says they only track it by zip code. You don't completely have to take them at their word, since it's been analyzed. But the thing is, TiVo changes their "privacy policy" at the drop of a hat. And once they change it, you have no recourse but to agree, or to stop using their "service." And if you do stop using their "service" (which is to say, you stop paying them to not disable the hardware you've already paid for), you don't get any money back, unless you can find someone willing to buy it

    • by theguru ( 70699 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:56PM (#8173535)
      I'm glad Tivo logs what I watch, and presumably sells the rolled up info to marketing types. In fact, we should all be glad for this! The next time our favorite show is about to be canceled, just remember, they would have known you were watching if you had been using a Tivo.

      I watch a lot of obscure shows on cable. I'm glad the people who decide if they want to renew those shows have an additional source of information than the traditional Neilson family to know if people are watching.

      Two questions though: Couldn't my cable company do the same thing with my digital cable box?

      Are the Tivo watching habits really worth anything. Right now, as I sit here at work typing this message, my Tivo is on. It has no idea if the power to the TV is on or off though. It THINKS the digital cable box is on channel X, but I could have turned it or the TV off, or changed the digital box with a different remote. Does Tivo try to guess if I'm really watching the show on channel X right now by seeing how long it's been since I changed the channel/paused/used rewind/etc? I'm sure there are times when I spend several hours on a single channel and don't press any Tivo remote buttons.
    • Google records all its search queries and serves up those statistics. Most people think that's cool. But as long as the database doesn't store any customer-identifiable info, it shouldn't be a big deal. Google logs could track your search habits, which is a much more dangerous bit of information, but we're not worried about it.

      Although I did have a momentary, "Holy crap! They can track in THAT much detail?" shock, it doesn't really raise my bloodpressure.
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:31PM (#8173234)
    TiVo Watches the Super Bowl [slashdot.org]... oh, wait, that was about TiVo and the Super Bowl of Two years ago...

    See, TiVo's had their semi-permeable privacy policy since they started, as documented on /. by...
    TiVo Data Collection Ramifications [slashdot.org]
    TiVo To Sell Customer Data [slashdot.org]
    Nielsen to measure TiVo usage [slashdot.org]

    So, if this is shocking news to you that TiVo was able to quickly crunch the data and figure out the most rewound moment of the Super Bowl broadcast, you haven't been paying attention. They had this capability for any massively watched program since day one. It was part of the design of the system.

    TiVo offers a detailed data service to broadcasters which lets them see by timestamp within an episode what moments people watched, rewound, and skipped. Rumoredly, TechTV's The Screen Savers bought that service once for just one episode, and it ended up proving that their managers where right about what people wanted to see a little more than the actual content-making staff wanted to hear.

    The Super Bowl most rewound moment is something TiVo's been doing for years, just for the sake of putting out a press release to get the TiVo name into conversations about what we were gonna be talking about anyway the week after the event... and from Slashdot's coverage over the years, it appears to have worked.
    • by fetta ( 141344 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:35PM (#8173283)
      Agreed - the posting was way over the top for something that is old news. If you own a Tivo and didn't know this was taking place, then you haven't been paying attention.

      Now, if a story comes out that they are making my specific viewing habits to anyone, then that would be news.
      • by badasscat ( 563442 ) <basscadet75@yahF ... m minus language> on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @05:17PM (#8173774)
        greed - the posting was way over the top for something that is old news. If you own a Tivo and didn't know this was taking place, then you haven't been paying attention.

        Wouldn't surprise me if that's the problem - the original poster not owning a TiVo, and commenting on something he therefore knows little about. Everybody I know that owns a TiVo, as well as TiVo owners I've talked to on various message boards (such as at tivocommunity.com [tivocommunity.com], seems to know and be perfectly fine with this practice.

        And speaking as a TiVo owner myself, I have absolutely no problem with it. In fact, I tried to sign up to have my data collected non-anonymously - a service TiVo allows their customers to provide optionally (their web site wouldn't accept my TiVo model # when I tried to sign up). People complain constantly about the poor state of television in this country - this is how you go about changing that. If a show sucks, you don't watch it, and TiVo knows it and will tell the networks. I want TiVo to know that my viewing consists primarily of Antiques Roadshow, Once and Again reruns, The Office, Survivor and Mystery Science Theater 3000. And I want the added leverage (however small) of having an actual name attached to that data when it reaches the networks. I am not concerned in the slightest with how the networks plan to use this information, but if you're that embarrassed about your TV viewing habits that you can't bear the thought of anybody else knowing about them, then either just stay anonymous or don't buy TiVo. But they're not trying to hide anything - they post their privacy policy all over the place when you sign up.
  • VERY old dup.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tommck ( 69750 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:32PM (#8173247) Homepage
    Didn't we basically have this same story TWO YEARS AGO [slashdot.org]????
  • by skedastik ( 742241 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:32PM (#8173248)
    ... accounts for the majority of replays tracked.
  • by RobertB-DC ( 622190 ) * on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:32PM (#8173251) Homepage Journal
    From the article, with emphasis added:
    Privacy advocates have decried such technologies as invasive, but TiVo officials say they do not pass along information that would identify individual viewers.

    When gathering customer marketing research, TiVo says it does not link viewer data to their name, gender or age -- only into one big database that can identify users by ZIP code.

    What's interesting is how the article points out what TiVo does not do. They don't "pass along" information "when gathering customer marketing research".

    It's not stated outright, but that sounds like they do record all that information... but it's ok, 'cause they don't use it for marketing purposes.

    Which, of course, puts TiVo right up there with the so-called loyalty cards [nocards.org] "privacy" policies. They promise not to resell personal information, but they do gather it, and it's available to anyone who knows a friendly judge.

    The bottom line, as usual, is simple. Don't buy anything at Kroger, or watch anything on TiVo, that you wouldn't want [John Ashcroft | your wife's divorce lawyer] to find out about.

    By the way, does anyone know if Dish Network's PVR phones home about my rewinding habits?
    • It's not stated outright, but that sounds like they do record all that information

      The TiVo has been hacked, and the information it sends analyzed. According to the hackers no such information is ever sent to TiVo. Or such was the case some time ago when I last heard about it anyway.
    • If you're looking at my "from the article" quote and wondering what I've been smoking... it's not me! The reference changed!

      The Slashdot story now links here [cnn.com], but it originally looked like this:

      Sprinkled in the Janet Jackson boob stories is an alarming bit of information: Tivo tracks subscribers' viewing habits [lubbockonline.com].

      At first, I thought, "Is the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal not enough of a "major news outlet" for Michael?" Then, I compared the articles... the Lubbock newspaper didn't even mention the now-famo
  • Me (Score:5, Funny)

    by savagedome ( 742194 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:34PM (#8173277)
    I am not sure if that statistic includes me 'coz I haven't un-paused my Tivo yet :)

    • Re:Me (Score:4, Funny)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:46PM (#8173422)
      I am not sure if that statistic includes me 'coz I haven't un-paused my Tivo yet :)

      In the case of the SuperBowl booby, they won't even need to track people online. They just have to measure the incoming rash of remotes coming back under warranty for repair of the replay button.
  • by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:35PM (#8173286)
    They did it last year, they did it the year before that. They stated in their initial company releases that this is what they intended to do.

    And you know what?

    -DirectTV pay-per-view tracks what I watch...
    -My ISP knows what web sites I've requested...
    -My credit card company knows what I spend my money on.
    -My hospital shares its information with my insurance company, which in turn shares its information with my company. (Because they have to pay their share of the bills)

    It's my TV viewing info... I don't care. If anything, if they sell my viewing habits and realize that Firefly and Farscape are more watched than My Big Sweaty Boyfriend... That's a GOOD THING!
    • The scary thing is... the TiVo data surveys tend to prove that "we" rewind to any moment Britney Spears is on the screen, and "we" won't miss a minute of dumb reality shows...

      Apparently, what people say they watch and actually watch are not the same sometimes...
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:35PM (#8173291)
    alarming bit of information: Tivo tracks subscribers' viewing habits.

    This is unacceptable. From now on, I'll keep my Tivo box disconnected from the phone socket.

    Just try to track my boob viewing habbits *now* mssrs Tivo! Ah! That's turned you white hasn't it, hey, hey?
  • by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:35PM (#8173296)
    Since Bush's State of the Union address.
  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:36PM (#8173307)
    Any anonymization Tivo claims to perform on data uploaded by an individual's Tivo unit is rendered utterly and totally worthless by the medium by which the data is transferred - a landline. Only an idiot would believe that Tivo doesn't use ANI information to tie data to individual users, even if the actual clickstream data being uploaded doesn't have include a serial number.

    The marketing opportunities are too valuable to the company for them to ignore the possibility of selling detailed, individual viewer data as a revenue stream.

    "Tivo: It's like Gator, for TV!"


    • by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:51PM (#8173485) Homepage Journal
      whats to gain by going lower then Zip code? nothing.

      What TiVo provides in an acurate count of what people watch, each within a small segment of an advertised area.

      Any finer data is worthless.

      TiVo:"hey this address watches Bud Commercials, call budwieser and let them know! this way budwieser can try to sell this ONE houshold beer. Of course since it is so individual, it will cost $5000 a six pack."

    • My TiVo doesn't make a phone call to communicate to the mothership. It uses my broadband connection.

      Now in my case, that's a DSL line, but there's no call setup going on, so ANI is not an issue.

      Can they still track me? Of course they can. Do I care? Not particularly. I wasn't even watching the game at home. If they are checking on me, they are probably bored spitless. "Oh geez, he's watching Angel again."
  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:36PM (#8173311)

    > A story from 2002 has more information and makes clear that Tivo does have the capability to record every click you make on the remote control, at all times.

    Fortunately, they still don't have the ability to track what your other hand is doing, at any time.

  • I LIKE It (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Crispin Cowan ( 20238 ) <crispin@nOsPam.crispincowan.com> on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:37PM (#8173319) Homepage
    I like it that Tivo can track my viewing habits. That way, when I don't watch yet another trite and lame episode of "Friends" and instead choose to watch something interesting [farscape.com], perhaps the morons in network programming will get a fucking clue.

    Crispin, always wanted to be in the Neilson ratings
    Crispin Cowan, Ph.D.
    CTO, Immunix Inc. [immunix.com]

    • After 10 years of Farscape, I'm sure that would become trite and lame as well.

      Although, hottie blueish grey alien chicks or jennifer anniston... dilemas dilemas.
  • Alarm? (Score:2, Funny)

    by volkris ( 694 )

    What alarm?

    This is a non-story.
  • much more reliable (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Savatte ( 111615 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:38PM (#8173327) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I'd much rather have Tivo tracking users than networks relying on nielson ratings. This can only hurt shows like Malcolm In The Middle and Everybody Loves Raymond, two shows people "love" but nobody watches. With accurate ratings, these shows would have ratings lower than enrollment in daycare at neverland ranch.
  • by Aaton ( 216314 ) * <slashdotNO@SPAM230volts.net> on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:39PM (#8173337) Homepage Journal
    The offical press release from TiVo [tivo.com].

    Is show some more detail about what commercials were most watched also...

  • by Wee ( 17189 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:39PM (#8173339)
    I'd much rather they pass along anonymous ratings data based on actual viewing statistics of a random cross-section of TiVo-owning Americans than opinion surveys of people named Nielsen (or some other small group). I know there's more to it than that, but you get the point. A statistically meaningful sample is a good thing.

    I just can't help but think that if real viewing stats were used as predictors of progamming popularity, we might have more stuff like Firefly, Mythbusters, Penn & Teller's Bullshit, etc. and less Everyone Loves Raymond, Friends, Frasier, or a million indistinct reality TV shows.

    If it keeps shows I want to watch on the air longer, then let them see what I'm watching and recording, I say.


    • "I just can't help but think that if real viewing stats were used as predictors of progamming popularity, we might have more stuff like Firefly, Mythbusters, Penn & Teller's Bullshit, etc. and less Everyone Loves Raymond, Friends, Frasier, or a million indistinct reality TV shows."

      What you really mean to say is "I just can't help but think that if real viewing stats of Slashdot readers only were used as predictors of progamming popularity, we might have more stuff like Firefly, Mythbusters, Penn
  • by egomaniac ( 105476 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:39PM (#8173341) Homepage
    I am utterly failing to be either surprised or alarmed.


    Ummmm ... so? Yes, I would be concerned if they said "Matt Hooper, 26, of Colorado Springs replayed the Janet Jackson breast scene a record 126 times. Sales statistics in the area also show an unusual spike in hand lotion and tissue purchases."

    They haven't said that, or anything remotely resembling that. They have said "Tivo users watched this particular segment of the Superbowl more than anything else." So?

    Yes, Tivo could do something horrible with my personal information. But then again, Hustler could also publish a big long list of everybody that subscribes to it, complete with home addresses, but they don't. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but at some point we just have to have some level of trust in other people. Tivo has said that my information is kept anonymous, and has given me no reason to doubt their word, so I don't see a big problem with trusting them.

    And before you start the "oh-my-god-what-an-idiot-for-trusting-a-big-compan y" standard Slashdot response, think about what you have trusted companies with. How many companies have your name and address? Your home phone number? Your bank account information? Your credit card information? Why did you trust them with such information, if no companies can ever be trusted?

    If you have used a credit card, you must trust every single store at which you have ever swiped your credit card at least as much as I trust Tivo. If you have ever applied for a loan, you've coughed up your bank account information. And you're worried about someone knowing what television shows you're watching?
  • by IdleTime ( 561841 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:39PM (#8173343) Journal
    Here are a few links to a page on Norways biggest Newspapers website that show all the picture uncensored and even have the uncensored movie of her. Oh yes, it also includes the streaker that nobody in the US saw.

    Click on "Neste Bilde" to see the next picture [www.vg.no]
    Video [www.vg.no]
    • I saw the streaker yesterday on Pardon the Interuption. It was a pretty wimpy streak considering he had this odd puffy thong on. If you're not prepared to go full monty, don't streak.

      From the long TV shot, I couldn't make out what was written on his back. It looked like a domain name. Anyone catch it?

      Back to Janet's boob- I used my Tivo to fast forward through the entire aweful halftime show and didn't even know about the flash until Monday. When was the last time Janet had a hit song? Like 10 years
  • by Murmer ( 96505 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:40PM (#8173351) Homepage
    I'm not so concerned about Jackson's partly-revealed tit (she was wearing a pastie, people, there was nothing to see there that doesn't make the cover of SI once a year) but I swear to God, seeing Mike Ditka talk about how much better his wang works with his new pills is going to haunt me until the end of my days.

    I am going to be scarred for life.

  • by Str1derv7 ( 614229 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:40PM (#8173354)
    I don't know about you guys but I wouldn't mind Tivo tracking me, in fact, I think I want it to. It'd be nice to track the statistics of some of the shows I like, possibly keeping them on air longer. This could be a good thing.
  • MoveOn.org's Boycott (Score:5, Interesting)

    by limekiller4 ( 451497 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:40PM (#8173358) Homepage
    Some of you may have heard that CBS refused to air the winning MoveOn.org's " Bush in 30 Seconds [bushin30seconds.org] " ad. Just prior to the Superbowl, MoveOn.org asked their subscribers/readers to boycott [moveonvoterfund.org] CBS by switching from CBS during the commercials to CNN, who were airing their 30-second spot.

    Presumably, Tivo knows precisely how many people actually went through with it.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:50PM (#8173468)
      personally, i'm very glad they didn't play the moveon ad. god knows, i wouldn't want my kids exposed to a controversial issue such as the so-called 'budget deficit' among the hours of violence, boobs and commercials for beer and hard-on pills.

      bravo, CBS, for keeping our children safe.

    • Yeah, but would TiVo bother to report survey data that when the margin of is error factored in leads to the possiblity that negative people did that?
  • I'm in favor of how Tivo handles this. I want the networks to know what I like. I want advertisers to know what commercials I actually watch. That way they can actually write stuff I want to watch.
  • The exercise revealed a 180 percent spike

    I am sure that it doesn't account for my Dad's Tivo or else it would say 180 percent and counting...

  • pet monkey Artemis who continually switches the TV to Cinemax After Dark. I am asleep when this is happening and cannot be held responsible for what my monkey is doing. He also watches HSN during the day and has ordered over $614,000 dollars worth of Hummels and commerative plates.
  • This isn't new, other than the updated number of people they're watching. Not reading the ToS of a PVR is like not reading the EULA for your OS. Besides, unless you're ashamed of what you watch (jerry springer, pr0n, etc.) then you can rest assured you are voting for the shows you watch. They'll know that I didn't start watching the superbowl until the 2nd quarter, and that I fast-forwarded through the dumb commercials, and replayed the good ones. I give it 2 years before the Tivos are the popular versi
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:52PM (#8173494)
    What I wonder is if TiVo is supplying the networks with information on commercial skipping, in return for not being sued for allowing such skipping?
  • by johnlcallaway ( 165670 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:54PM (#8173513)
    When it is all said and done, all this did was prove once again why we should limit nudity, most people look much better with their clothes on, include Janet. Seeing her boob was quite a letdown, I'm not surprised that the SuperBowl ratings sagged a bit.

    Ms. Jackson needs some support, and I don't mean from her family. One would think that they could implant some convictions to prevent this sort of droopy moral character in the future. We need more pert personalities to provide better role models for our country.
  • Worried? No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Krieger ( 7750 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @04:54PM (#8173516) Homepage
    I have to say in general that I don't trust corporations, however I don't feel the need to bolt on my tin foil hat after this revelation.

    I do think that disclosed practices (such as anonymously monitoring for viewing habits) isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm certain that Tivo has found and created new features based on viewing the tracking information.

    I also think that Tivo stands a decent chance of displacing Nielsen's as a premier rating service. And as long as it is done anonymously, it is a god send. As I think that Tivo would more accurately reflect "real" viewing habits. (And of course possibly give it a geek edge, so that our favorite programing gets better ratings).

    The second Tivo transitions over to a non-anonmous tracking service, is probably the day that their company headquarters will burn down. Outraged geeks will storm the place.

    I think Tivo is continuing to walk on the correct side of a very tenuous debate over usability, tracking, and privacy invasion.

    The comparison to Microsoft has to be made... If this were Microsoft I wouldn't trust them to track it, as they have a history of repeated violations of their own policies, written and stated. Whereas Tivo does not have that same history, that I am aware of.
  • Many people have already shown that they don't care about this type of data tracking, so I won't go on about that.

    However, no one has noted the obvious: TiVo is a business! They do things like this to *gasp* make money. Leave it alone people.
  • Unplug the phone (Score:4, Informative)

    by andy@petdance.com ( 114827 ) <andy@petdance.com> on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @05:02PM (#8173610) Homepage
    You could unplug the TiVo from the phone.

    Sure, I rewound the Janet thing a dozen times while my wife and I discussed if that thing was a pasty or tassel or what, but TiVo didn't include me in the 20,000 because our TiVo isn't hooked up to the phone.

  • Link to stats (Score:3, Informative)

    by sckeener ( 137243 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @05:08PM (#8173670)
    Here's a link to the stats [tivo.com]

  • by jemenake ( 595948 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @05:08PM (#8173676)
    They know how many times the boob was viewed...
    Good. Now that they have the viewing popularity, in all likelihood, we'll get to see *both* boobs next year.

    Of course, next year, her nipples will have little stickers that say "Drink Pepsi!" on them... but hey, life's full of compromises.
  • by phorm ( 591458 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @05:10PM (#8173698) Journal
    If you really don't want them to be 100% aware of your habits generate some random noise.

    The modern method would be an IR-equipped laptop which can change channels/volume/etc randomly while you're away (just have your TV volume down).

    Or you could do it the old fashioned way (tape a few dozen remotes to the ground of a small room, put a few dozen cats in room... or just tape remotes to cat's feet).
  • by ReidMaynard ( 161608 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @05:28PM (#8173903) Homepage
    American men who watch football like women's breasts.

    Especially when we've^M^M^M^M they've been drinking.
  • I activated my ReplayTV's "Content Skip [replayfaqs.com]" feature, so the machine automatically skipped all the dull football content and played only the adverts.

    I hope somebody tracked that.
  • by phamlen ( 304054 ) <phamlen@@@mail...com> on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @05:37PM (#8174017) Homepage
    I just keep my Tivo unplugged from the phone line. Tivo can only transfer the data if you plug it in (to either the phone or the internet.)

    Admittedly, my Tivo has been complaining forever that it needs to make a call - but that doesn't seem to affect anything. (They claim it needs to make a call to "get the latest updates and channel information" - but so far it hasn't been necessary)
  • Hack Your TiVo! (Score:4, Informative)

    by lophophore ( 4087 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @07:09PM (#8175006) Homepage
    This is yet another good reason to hack your TiVo.

    Once properly hacked [9thtee.com] you can telnet to your TiVo and purge the keystroke logs! (in /var/log, where else!?) Not to mention the other nifty capabilities, like web-based control [lightn.org] and Video Extraction [sourceforge.net]...

  • Some Thoughts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TSage ( 702439 ) on Tuesday February 03, 2004 @08:20PM (#8175627)
    It's interesting to see how many highly moderated posts are behind Tivo 100% as long as it remains anonymous. Personally, I'm OK with a company doing this as long as they're completely upfront about it (which Tivo is), although I'd be a little wary (again, that's just me).

    However, this honestly seems to be one of those moments where Slashdot, as a community or group, becomes somewhat hypocritical. Note: individual posters agreeing with Tivo are not necessarily being hypocritical and this isn't me trying to lecture anyone who does support that company. Please allow me to explain why I think this.

    Look at other cases where companies, or even governments, can or do collect anonymous information (or information that is then only handled in an aggregate way) and Slashdot usually cries out against them with the usual tinfoil hat jokes.

    RFID tags is one such example. These are inherently benign and don't have much connection with an individual. Say you have a coat with an embedded with a chip which when read says, "CoatCo Coat, black, large" to the reading device. What if a reading device read that each time you walked into a store and that store then showed companies in an effort to get more direct marketing? It is essentially the same thing, as long as anonymity is kept.

    "Ah ha!" some might say. "But hooking it up to video-cameras and receipts with my credit card, they can identify me readily." This is all quite true, but you could say the same with Tivo; they could correlate your credit card number, address and telephone number if they wanted to. Obviously, many people would not agree to such an invasion of privacy and Tivo probably would not succeed in doing so, nor am I trying to suggest that Tivo is just waiting for the right moment.

    Now, RFID tags are not exactly the same as Tivo watching television habits. One big one is that you choose to watch Tivo, but you may not necessarily be knowingly choosing to have a RFID tag in your merchandise. But I think the comparison is still valid. Too, I find Tivo recording my information somewhat more disturbing than someplace finding out I prefer some type of jacket; in the store I'm in a public place and therefore have a lower expectation of privacy (people can see and recognize my jacket with their eyes), while at home it's somewhat unnerving.

    Just to reiterate, Tivo is not "wrong" or "right" in this case. This is a personal issue between customers and a company. I just wanted to point out that perhaps Slashdot as a whole is giving Tivo a little bit of an easy ride. Then again, perhaps they've earned it for seeming (I don't own one) to respond so well to their customers.


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