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In Soviet US, Comcast Watches YOU 404

cayenne8 sends us to for a blog posting reporting from the Digital Living Room conference earlier this week. Gerard Kunkel, Comcast's senior VP of user experience, stated that the cable company is experimenting with different camera technologies built into its devices so it can know who's in your living room. Cameras in the set-top boxes, while apparently not using facial recognition software, can still somehow figure out who is in the room, and customize user preferences for cable (favorite channels, etc.). While this sounds 'handy,' it also sounds a bit like the TV sets in 1984. I am sure, of course, that Comcast wouldn't tap into this for any reason, nor let the authorities tap into this to watch inside your home in real time without a warrant or anything."
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In Soviet US, Comcast Watches YOU

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  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheMeuge ( 645043 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:15PM (#22820432)
    This would be useful for determining who's on the end of the cable line, using bittorrent. The FBI can then go ahead and break their doors in, during an early-morning no-knock raid.

    They can then go ahead and develop technology to determine who's watching the commercials and who isn't... and then apply a flat per-minute fee for not watching advertisements.

    Alternatively, they can charge a per-viewer fee for pay-per-view events. After all, if you crap 20 people around your HDTV to watch a $40 boxing event, isn't it logical that you should pay extra for every extra person who's watching it?

    Heck, there's all kinds of useful things a company could do with this information.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:18PM (#22820498) Homepage

    The RIAA and the MPAA will love this. At last, content can be licensed to the individual, not the device. "Pay per viewer", at last.

    And you can't cover the camera; if it can't see you to identify your biometrics, your licenses won't validate.

  • I don't like this (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:32PM (#22820686)
    It used to be my only complaint about all the sex on TV was falling off, now I've got to worry about an audience. Maybe I can charge them for it, like selling power back to the electric company?
  • Re:So that's what (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BradleyUffner ( 103496 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:51PM (#22820988) Homepage
    My box has a firewire port on the back. I plugged it into my laptop once and it was detected as a video for windows device. After digging around for some drivers i was actually able to watch the video coming off the box directly on the laptop. In doing some research for this it looks like all set top boxes made after a specific date are required to have this built in by the FCC.

    It would have been even better though if it acted as a tv tuner card that you could use to change channels on the box from the computer.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:30PM (#22821540)
    Charging per viewer is EXACTLY what this would be for. They don't care WHO is in the room, they want to know HOW MANY people are in the room (they'll probably charge for Pets Of Unusual Size too).
    The content companies already want you to have to buy a separate copy of a song or movie for every device that you want to play it on (iPod, TV, Car, computer); they would love even more to be able to charge a separate fee for every person who views/listens to their (not your) content too!
    There's already a law in place that you can't show the superbowl on a screen 56" because they assume that many people must be watching on a screen that big, and they want to charge you beyond the millions in ad revenue. []
    I would not be surprised if high-end TVs started having this "feature" first.
    There is nothing in this for the "user experience" at all. That guy's title is more Orwellian than the subject of the article; "VP of user experience?!?"
  • Re:Ah well ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by More_Cowbell ( 957742 ) * on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:42PM (#22821702) Journal
    Uh, mods... this may be funny too, but someone please mark it insightful...

    Many seem to be unaware that it was once illegal not to grow hemp in these here united states.

  • by The Second Horseman ( 121958 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:46PM (#22821746)
    Wow. So how long before it's illegal to turn your TV off? Max Headroom is starting to look creepily accurate in some ways. Cable execs will know if you're "stealing" the shows by getting up to get food during the commercials. Maybe they can bill us. On the flip side is ratings - they can tell if there's someone in front of the TV or nobody watching. Overall, the networks and cable channels aren't going to like that . . . Hey, and once this is widespread, we can all be required to sit for our daily government "information" programming! Wow! And if they know thie distance, they might even be able to figure out details like approximate weight!
  • Re:Ah well ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:54PM (#22821810) Journal
    then you know what I do? I unplug the fscker, cancel my service [not that I'd deal with comcast in the first place] and go post on slashdot or something. it really isn't that important to watch TV

    I know this is going to come as a shock to you non-geezers, but you can watch TV without cable! There's satellite TV (several providers IINM) and good old trusty rabbit ears (my rabbit ears are amplified and deliver a very good picture) or roof antenna.

    When I was a kid we only had three channels, and that was in the St Louis Metro area! I'm in dinky little Springfield IL now, and I can pick up nine channels.

    Yeah, I could get dozens of channels with cable but so what? When I had cable I didn't watch very many anyway. If there's a program on cable I want to watch I'll go to a bar (I'm usually in one anyway). I used to like The Discovery Channel before they started sucking. Instead of "The Andromeda Galaxy: little known secrets" now there's "Painting race cars: little known secrets". They have ESPN on and there's... championship POKER??? Pool? WTF is next, twiddly winks?

    At least when I was a kid there was Ernie Kovacs and Red Skelton. You young whippersnappers don't know what you're missing.

    If they impliment this I'm going to have to make another article alomg the lines of Good Riddance to Bad Tech [] about bad tech we SHOULD get rid of... maybe add it to Dog-Slow Technologies [] and rename the sucker.

  • Next reality show? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LilGuy ( 150110 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @03:01PM (#22822474)
    I could see a new reality tv show being started from just grabbing peoples' recorded activities and sending them $5 in the mail.
  • Cameras on the Wii?? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Justin Hopewell ( 1260242 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @03:52PM (#22823006)
    I'm no hardware expert, but I don't think the Wii uses any cameras, only infrared sensors. You can even use well-placed candles instead of the sensor bar and it works just fine.
  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @04:20PM (#22823324) Journal

    You're right. Being a granddaughter of a Fascist doesn't make her a fascist. Starting a neo-fascist political party because the leader of her former party denounced fascism makes her a fascist.
    While I will admit to being ignorant of Italian politics, it appears to me that she is not exactly her grandfather's fascist. Here [] is what I mean:

    "Not only Gianfranco Fini, but the entire world, including the Vatican and the pope, should beg forgiveness of Israel," Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of Italy's World War II dictator and a member of parliament for the National Alliance party, declared in an interview with Haaretz on Sunday.
    The interview coincided with the arrival of Fini, her party's leader and Italy's deputy prime minister, for his first official visit to Israel, during which he has said he intends to apologize to the Jewish people for Italy's Holocaust-era crimes.
    Now I'm not saying that I agree with her politics, but calling her a Fascist in an attempt to lump her with the perpetrators of the Holocaust is probably not fair. I might be wrong, but I hope you can understand my disbelief when I see Bush called Hitler and all Republican fascists on a daily basis.
  • by The One and Only ( 691315 ) * <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Friday March 21, 2008 @04:32PM (#22823422) Homepage
    I'm not calling her a fascist to lump her with the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Her grandfather did not perpetrate the Holocaust, either, and any role he had in the Holocaust was due to factors other than his own fascist ideology. I'm calling her a fascist because she is, literally and avowedly, a fascist politician, and there is more than adequate documentation for that claim.
  • Re:Kunkel Replies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cashman73 ( 855518 ) on Friday March 21, 2008 @07:03PM (#22824924) Journal
    After reading this Slashdot article, I posted a link to the story on my online journal []. Just a few hours later, I got a response from "comcastcares" (see link), which was basically the same text from a different person at Comcrap. I'm thinking that their PR department must be working overtime today,... ;-)

    I did respond to the post, too. I hope somebody reads it -- this company seriously needs a wakeup call,...

    My response:

    Thanks for clarifying that. Although, from reading the slashdot article on this subject today, it's clear to me that your PR department is apparently in overdrive doing "damage control" on this. While you are asserting that you have "no plans" to monitor people's living rooms, the fact remains that the technology and the capability are there to do so, and it only takes a few maligned individuals (like the same people that decided to throttle customers' bittorrent traffic into oblivion, or the guys that oppose net neutrality) to implement something scary like this. If corporations want consumers to trust them, you don't accomplish this trust through your PR department posting on people's blogs on the internet. You accomplish this trust by your actions as a corporation. Consumers don't want to be ripped off by corporations that charge over $100 for cable television service, and then raise their rates every three to four months without any noticeable upgrade in service. Nor do consumers want to be accused of being thieves of "intellectual property", and have trade groups like the RIAA & MPAA spy on us daily because they think we might be stealing music or movies or something. And we certainly don't want people that are already stealing our hard-earned money on outrageously priced cable TV service accusing us of being thieves ourselves!

    If Comcast wants my business (no, I am not a current Comcast subscriber), they need to demonstrate to me with their actions that they have integrity, and offer services that I am interested in at reasonable rates. I would also recommend a major overhaul in your corporate management. Why not start with the CEO? Methinks you also have a few too many lawyers -- you could probably get rid of a couple,... But these are just suggestions.

Always leave room to add an explanation if it doesn't work out.