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Google Patents Detecting, Tracking, Targeting Kids 115

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.
  • 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.

  • 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 :)

  • 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.
  • by jpdzahr ( 1260592 ) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @12:57PM (#22830060) Homepage
    "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 not. Yes I understand the collection of data is used for advertising proposes however how far will Google go with this private and personal data? I for one prefer some privacy even in my own family so why would I want strangers to have access to my data? [] As a working stiff this is as outrageous as placing s SPY CAM in someone's home or office without them knowing.....Google is out of control and stepping way over the line in the collection of peoples data through their Toolbar.
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2008 @01:58PM (#22830556)
    "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 that you have needs that can only be met by consumption, particularly of their product. That's the insidious part of our free commercial speak - it's gone way beyond providing information to let us make more intelligent choices (and perfect information on the part of suppliers and demanders is a requirement for a free market system to produce an optimal outcome). And then there are the outright lies.

    Unfortunately, absent rigoruous censorship, there's no way to separate responsible advertising from irresponsible advertising.

  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Saturday March 22, 2008 @02:50PM (#22830882)

    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 a modern mega-car-making or paper-pushing machine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2008 @05:23PM (#22831834)
    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 does involve age it inherently targets children as a group - just as it targets senior citizens as a group. It's a misleading headline but not entirely inaccurate.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 22, 2008 @11:25PM (#22833656)
    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. That is a economic inefficiency in that it limits true innovation and creates material waste. However, it is always possible that otherwise useless product designers may eventually stumble on to something redeeming and building a bigger market to employ more designers is more chances.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 23, 2008 @02:49AM (#22834588)
    By releasing free, but non-open source software they are monopolizing the market. The only reason for setting the price to zero and still require total control is to sell related services or destroy the competition, it is not altruistic. Same as Windows bundling IE, Google is attempting to destroy the value in competing in the market. Google is doing this to keep you using their site as 'the Internet' and devaluing sites that only provide single services - ie. to compete with any software Google has you must provide the same large set of other software and services and have the same ad model. Since Google has a big chunk of current users and ad campaigns, how much can you bet on beating them? How much marketing and many new and innovative actual features must your software continually release? Would there ever be a break-even point?
    Since anyone can distribute and modify FOSS, it actually prevents monopolies and lowers the market entry barriers for related software and services.

    A monopoly is a monopoly, and the only monopoly that should be tolerated is a limited government. Or if this is truly a free market, you can vote with your dollars... oh wait.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.