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Advertising Privacy

Ad Networks Using Inaudible Sound To Link Phones, Tablets and Other Devices (arstechnica.com) 223

ourlovecanlastforeve writes with a link to Ars Technica's report of a new way for ads to narrow in on their target: high-pitched sounds that can make ad tracking cross devices and contexts. From the article: The ultrasonic pitches are embedded into TV commercials or are played when a user encounters an ad displayed in a computer browser. While the sound can't be heard by the human ear, nearby tablets and smartphones can detect it. When they do, browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.
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Ad Networks Using Inaudible Sound To Link Phones, Tablets and Other Devices

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  • by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @02:37AM (#50928725)

    And why can a rogue website or app access the microphone? Oh yeah cuz android.

    • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @02:51AM (#50928757)

      Oh yeah cuz android.

      And cuz iPhone. It works on both.

      • by cfalcon ( 779563 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @04:05AM (#50928955)

        If an app wants microphone access in ios, it has to explicitly request it. You get a popup and have to ok it. If you don't, it doesn't have access. It can refuse to work, if it wants, but fuck them.

        Does that happen in Android? I feel it does not, and you probably can, in the latest version, explicitly disable mic access or something? An android user can correct me.

        I will say that questions like this:
        http://stackoverflow.com/quest... [stackoverflow.com]

        SO question:
        "
        1- I want to record.
        2- User disallowed.
        3- I want to record again.
        4- I call requestRecordPermission:
        5- It simply returns granted=NO (without prompting for permission)

        Can I prompt the permission Alert to user somehow?
        "

        Make me VERY happy to see answers like: "There's no way to do this"

        "I want to spam the user with access requests that are full screen OS level stuff until he says ok. How can I do this?" -> "Nnnnnnope!"

        Anyway, if Android doesn't do this, that's sad, and hopefully they will soon. If Android and Ios both do this, I don't see how most programs will be able to get mic access at all in the first place.

        • by greenfruitsalad ( 2008354 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @04:53AM (#50929063)

          Google do this all the time. EVERY EFFING TIME you install an application from non google-play source, it asks whether you'd like google to scan your applications for potential threats. there's no "Decline forever" option. google treat themselves differently.

          • by TheRealHocusLocus ( 2319802 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @08:09AM (#50929491)

            there's no "Decline forever" option.

            Yes there is. It is called death and is a part of nature.

            Well people --- you're just in a pickle because you've let 'em abandon THE SWITCH. How was grandpa sure he could get some shut-eye without the vacuum cleaner going round in circles? How'd we know that when we flicked on that AM radio, the batteries in it would be just as good as we left it? When we put down the phone how'd we know the gub'mint wasn't listening? We had honest to God switches, little bits of metal with springs that snapped 'em so far apart those electrons would just stay put.

            Now all you have are little copper titty-buttons on the sides of things, and you've got chipsets to manage the buttons, see? And everything is really connected all the time to these chips, and it's all programmable. It's all flashable. It's all exploitable. There was a time when people liked switches on things because they liked control. You could actually beat your competition if your thing had more switches than your competition's thing, even if some of them were silly. But something changed, and now consumer focus groups and product design engineers try to eliminate as many controls as they can. When we started seeing switches disappear from things we thought engineers were stupid. Turns out engineers were doing it because they thought people were stupid.

            If you think you have a Power button that's an actual Power button --- well you don't really. There's probably a timer in there somewhere I could exploit to tell your thing to turn on again. And why would I bother? I could just take control of your thing and make it sing and beep like it's shutting off and once you see that dark screen you'd be none the wiser.

            Sometimes I used to send a WAKE-on-LAN packet to my buddy's computer the moment he sat down at his desk in the morning, just as he was reaching for the power button. He'd hear the computer beep and withdraw his finger, puzzled. Took him a while to figure out what was happening.

            We now worship the Golden Calf of the Software Sandbox... and we expect our devices to be on their Super Duper Boy Scout Best Behavior. Hope that works out for everyone, but I don't want to hear any whining when shit happens. Google offering a 'Decline Forever' button,

            Shoo Google, don't bother me,
            Shoo Yahoo, don't bother me,
            Shoo Amazon, don't bother me,
            Nothin' ever turns off
            and I ain't gonna pay
            gimmie everything for free.

            I'm going to thwack off the MONSTER FRANKENSTEIN KNIFE SWITCH that I have all my modern tech wired to, and get some serious shut-eye.
            NO CARRIER

            • by nukenerd ( 172703 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @09:19AM (#50929621)
              And even when the button is actually a switch with an air gap, the push-on push-off type, you cannot see if it is on or off. With old-time toggle switches (and rocker switches, though less obviously) you could see at a glance if it were on or off.

              Last night I wasted ten minutes trying to connect my laptop to my WiFi before realising that its "Kill" button was in the "Kill" state. It does have a light in the button to show if connected, but that is not the same as being un-killed - ie the light stays off if the problem is at the wireless hub or you are out of range.

              Designers (ie the art graduate types) prefer buttons because they believe their design to be the absolute optimum aesthetic. They therefore do not want the visual distubance that would result from a toggle or rocker switch being moved into a different position. That is the way they think.
        • by jrumney ( 197329 )
          Marshmallow does this in the same granular, on demand way as Apple. Earlier versions of Android present all the permissions at install time, and make it an all or nothing choice.
        • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
          Android Marshmallow has completely revamped the permission model so that permissions are explicitly requested the first time they are needed and can be denied individually. It was possible prior to that to block the usage of certain elements of the phone, but that took more work than most people would've bothered with.
        • I can't speak for all phones, but in Cyanogenmod 12.1 (based on Android 5.1) I can go into Settings > Apps > [Specific App], and in the permissions section, touch the Modify button and there set specific permissions to "Allow", "Ignore" or "Always Ask".
        • Could this be built into phone apps like Shazam? Shazam needs microphone access. That app seems built for collecting information for advertisers so it seems a likely candidate to me. There are lots of popular phone apps that request mic access even on iOS: Skype, Telegram, Dolphin Browser, Shazam, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. We need a way to tell which apps are doing this.

          It also appears that even on iOS if you give an app microphone access then the app can access the microphone in the background:
          http://s [stackoverflow.com]

      • by antdude ( 79039 )

        And noth Windows phones?

    • Ultrasonic jammer (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CaptQuark ( 2706165 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @02:57AM (#50928777)
      Sounds like it might be time for an Ultrasonic Jammer in my house. They have them to supposedly keep pests away. I'm sure it would blanket the area and disrupt any ultrasonic tracking. Hopefully they won't bother the family pets too much. http://amzn.to/20SJgu6 [amzn.to]

      --
      • If these ads use the same frequency range as those "ultrasonic" mosquito repellants, they're only ultrasonic to people whose hearing has started to deteriorate. I can hear them just fine, thank you.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Well you do kinda bug me.

          Thanks folks I will be here all week.

        • No, they are ultrasonic to everyone who has not 'special ears'.
          If you truely can hear anti mosquito noice I would go into a research center, and ask what they pay for investigation.
          I for my part can hear bat communication sounds, nut mot their echo location sounds. And I doubt any human can, and that includes ... cough cough ... anti mosquito sounds ... as they basically mimic bats echolocation and scare the mosquitos away.
          I know no other person that has ears like mine, nor does any of the few ear doctors I

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        I am kind of suspect about the whole thing being a marketing scam targeted at investors. Nearly everyone carries electronic devices, hence you create a massively contaminated data base, with false links created from device to device. Sure for spy vs spy crap, tracking a device and it's contacts with other devices but even then how brief and how often ie catch public transport with a long route and end up with hundreds even thousands of connections to people with no association (over a year hundreds of thou

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @03:02AM (#50928787)
      Starting with Marshmallow, you can disable microphone access on an app-by-app basis.
      • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

        Ios just disallows until you allow access explicitly, with a prompt. Does Android just grant permission by default?

        Either way, it sounds like there's a workaround on Android, and that this will have a very low success rate in ios.

        Also, just to be clear- "pairing" computer with phone, against my permission, with ultrasonic, is pig disgusting. There's absolutely no way that either Apple or Google should allow shit like this on their respective stores. This is vile spyware for certain.

        • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @04:48AM (#50929047)
          the question is why does a phone intended for *human* consumption even allow frequencies beyond human hearing?
          • Makes no sense, does it? It costs more money to make a speaker or mic that covers more octaves.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 14, 2015 @06:22AM (#50929225)

            Phones and speakers cover frequencies beyond human hearing because they're physical objects. Making something that can record 16kHz with good fidelity but won't record 20kHz at all would actually be quite difficult. Did you know that some lossy audio codecs apply a 16kHz low pass filter to the audio signal? No? If that cutoff removed frequencies which many people can hear, everybody would know about it. Youtube does that, btw. In practice there are few people beyond their teenage years who can hear tones above 16kHz unless they're very loud, and even most teenagers can not hear 19kHz or higher. But the microphones in phones and tablets have no trouble picking that up.

            • Making something that can record 16kHz with good fidelity but won't record 20kHz at all would actually be quite difficult.

              Not difficult, but would cost a little more.

            • by Prune ( 557140 )
              Bullshit, I'm in my mid-30s and I can still hear 17 kHz, and I know others in my age range who have even better hearing. I'm pretty sure most of us who didn't spend their 20s in loud nightclubs or concerts (at least not without musicians' earplugs), or nowadays blasting headphones directly into our ears, still have good high frequency hearing for another couple of decades.
          • My first question along those lines, though, is how a phone that can do this at these frequencies, has such generally mediocre audio quality for *phone calls* over frequencies *within* the range of human hearing in the first place. It's as if the audio hardware wanted to have its own special communication mechanism that the meat-creatures couldn't hear, in return for having to play autotune and ringtones for most of its life.

          • Quality. Quite simply. Speakers are not perfect right up to the point where they can't produce audible sound anymore. Even if you attempt to filter the sound and ignore the speaker issues you still have things like phase response altering well before the cut-off frequency. This is the reason CDs had 44.1kHz of bandwidth instead of just 40kHz which would in theory would be all that's needed for the limits of human hearing according to nyquist. It's also the reason why oversampling DACs product 96kHz or highe

          • the question is why does a phone intended for *human* consumption even allow frequencies beyond human hearing?

            But Audiophiles! And Golden ears!!! And 192Khz 24bits!!!!!
            Maybe you can't hear the difference, but that's because you didn't buy the necessary "Monster" polarized cables.
            It really change the warmth of sound !!!! And the ultra-sound cause harmonics!!! (*)
            (sarcasm over)
            (* = actually true depending on the installation. but has the exact opposite effect: these harmonics are distrotions and generally degrade the output quality by outputing singal that was never here in the first place)

            More seriously:
            - Technical

        • In the past, you HAD to agree to permissions before installation. (unless you used cyanogenmod)

          now, in Android 6.0, it disallows everything and asks you the first time it needs to access something. if you grant the permission, it is granted until you manually revoke it. if you deny it, it is denied until next time. if you deny it second time, it is denied forever (or until you manually grant it again).

        • Also, just to be clear- "pairing" computer with phone, against my permission, with ultrasonic, is pig disgusting.

          Also, just to be clear- "pairing" computer with phone, against my permission, with ultrasonic, is CRIMINAL disgusting. Let's not insult the pigs...

        • Think about it: how can we retaliate by saturating the adware system with phony results?

          • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

            We can't.

            It's technically possible, but it would almost need to be a DDOS (illegal) to work.

            If it isn't a DDOS, but instead it floods it with enough data to make their ads non-targeted, they have two responses:

            One, they can go public, claiming that a broad based group of people are doing this. They'll claim it doesn't affect their ability to actually serve effective ads (whether it does or does not), and they will get massive publicity and credibility.

            Second, they can ignore it and pretend it isn't happeni

      • by Intron ( 870560 )

        Starting with Marshmallow, you can disable microphone access on an app-by-app basis.

        Starting with Marshmallow, you have a setting that claims you can disable microphone access on an app-by-app basis.

        FTFY

    • Guess you aren't aware of the "hey Siri!" function...

  • by geekd ( 14774 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @02:38AM (#50928729) Homepage

    They pull crap like this and then have the gall to say adblock users are evil?

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by xushi ( 740195 )

      They're half right.

      *Adblock* is evil ("acceptable" ads, the sale of Adblock, etc).

      I've uninstalled it from any/all browsers for the whole family, and replaced that with uBlock (and uMatrix / Ghostery / Privacy Badger)

    • by Tyr07 ( 2300912 )

      Although I as far as I'm aware, none of my microphones in any of my devices a nearly high enough quality to pick up frequencies that high, in fact, my current PC mic tops out at 16 KHZ.

      So I'm not too worried about it, but at the same time, and you wonder why we are tired of all adds and block the shit out of ut.

  • by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @02:41AM (#50928735)

    IANAL, but I was wondering if this would be illegal under wire-tapping laws. A quick glance over the code (18 - US 2511) actually specified "oral" not "audio" communication. Would this then be exempt?

    I suppose any app that takes advantage of this would have a disclosure about the recording buried deep in its legalese.

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      I suppose any app that takes advantage of this would have a disclosure about the recording buried deep in its legalese.

      More likely the app author has no clue what's going on, and merely uses a 3rd-party library to provide advertising, and the 3rd-party library is doing these shenanigans secretly for its own benefit.

    • Except that everything is legal if you put it in the right obfuscated terms of service.

    • IANAL, but I was wondering if this would be illegal under wire-tapping laws. A quick glance over the code (18 - US 2511) actually specified "oral" not "audio" communication. Would this then be exempt?

      Given that they're picking up anything happening in the room, including any conversations you may be having, I'd guess that it would be covered by the law. The fact that they're (claiming to be) discarding much of the data they're collecting doesn't give them a free pass.

      Obvious disclaimer: IANAL.

  • by eth1 ( 94901 )

    Time for a new hardware-based ad blocker [wikipedia.org]...

  • The summary mentions tablets repeatedly, but none of mine even have a microphone. So how does that work?
  • First... BULLSHIT (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 14, 2015 @02:51AM (#50928759)

    1. Mics don't pick up ultrasonic
    2. Speakers don't reproduce ultrasonic
    3. And even if these somehow did, Nyquist already limits it all

    Look at a high-end mic's response curve. Most barely get above 16 kHz, after which they drop off very fast. Compare that to any system that may be attached to a computer. Same for a loudspeaker. High-freqs are directional, meaning if you get off-axis even a little, even more drop-off. All BULLSHIT. The internet at play and the eager ignorants ready to believe anything it proclaims.

    • Re:First... BULLSHIT (Score:4, Informative)

      by Mystic Pixel ( 911992 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @03:40AM (#50928899)
      So your mic has a -3db point at 16k? OK, so all that means is your signal is attenuated.
      Solution: BPF and amplify. Nothing of interest in that range, so collateral (spectral) damage is unimportant. Add a dash of modern DSP and blizzow!
      Please retake Signals & Systems and then try again, thanks.
    • Re:First... BULLSHIT (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 14, 2015 @03:57AM (#50928937)

      Fifty years ago you would have been quite right but unfortunately the tech has been getting better. (Did I just write that?) Nowadays, speakers can easily reproduce sounds that are inaudible to the majority of the population and microphones can pick them up. Not with the fidelity of audible sound, but they aren't interested in recording hifi audio anyway. To make matters worse, we've gotten a lot better at performing mathematical tricks in software to make signals more robust against distortion. You say it cannot be done, but companies are in fact already doing this and these things are already out there, I'm sorry to say.

    • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

      There's some theories about computers that transmit across airgaps using this method, like in stuxnet level command and control scenarios, but I doubt that it's something typically needed to be worried about.

      Importantly though- isn't this a real company with a real thing? Are you claiming this is manufactured outrage to get attention? I mean, I didn't even stop to think that it might not be real. Strikes me as totally real. If it's physically impossible as you say, then "we are all of us deceived", sure

    • Also, why wouldn't motivated advertisers identify multiple devices based on Facebook logins or the like? People often login to the same services on all their devices, and I imagine that those services are happy to increase their ad revenue by selling more detailed user data to advertisers.
    • by kipsate ( 314423 )
      It's bullshit because why use ultrasound? I'm sure the sound of a commercial playing can be recognized from the commercial itself, just like Shazam can recognize a song. And to make things easier just embed a very recognizable sound in the commercial that is not annoying but is sure to be picked up and recognized.
      • It's bullshit because why use ultrasound? I'm sure the sound of a commercial playing can be recognized from the commercial itself, just like Shazam can recognize a song. And to make things easier just embed a very recognizable sound in the commercial that is not annoying but is sure to be picked up and recognized.

        Yes, exctly. I wish I had mod points. The premise of this is so stupid. If the app already has access to the microphone, then just listen to the commercial itself. The ultrasonic part is going to be so hit or miss. It's not a sound that the broadcast and TV is explicitly trying to reproduce, so it's going to be EXTREMELY hit or miss. Just think about the sound the TV is actually trying to intentionally reproduce, and how much it varies depending on different factors.
        1) audio compression method
        2) volume
        3) ty

    • by jtara ( 133429 )

      Most people can't hear 16kHz. If you are an adult, you can't hear that.

      When I was a kid, I could hear the 15.750 kHz from TV flyback transformers. Some kids could hear it. Some kids couldn't.

      They are brief tones, I would, not easily noticed. And if you can hear that high, you are used to hearing all sorts of strange sounds and tend to ignore them. Like TV flyback transformers. OK, maybe not so much any more...

      Douchebags who do this don't care if they annoy some kids and dogs with some brief sounds. It's not

    • by jtara ( 133429 )

      I imagine what they are calling "ultrasonic" isn't really very high frequency. 16kHz is good enough.

    • 1. Mics don't pick up ultrasonic

      Actually they do, on purpose.
      It's simpler and cheaper to pick-up a wider range and filter afterward.
      Than managing to produce a "perfect" microphone that has I high response on the whole range of human hearing, and drops sharply outside without causing any harmonic distortion.

      Mics that pick up ultrasonics + software filter is cheaper than high quality mic + high quality hardware filter.

      So most mics can pick up ultrasonics and do. (all it takes is one rogue software NOT to filter them).

      2. Speakers don't reproduce ultrasonic

      You subwofer might not,

    • by Khyber ( 864651 )

      "1. Mics don't pick up ultrasonic"

      Mine most certainly do Webcameras are susceptible to this. Turn on a fluorescent T5 lamp next to a webcam with a microphone. You won't hear that ballast, but your microphone most certainly will and can create beat frequency oscillations that become audible to the rest of your listeners.

      "2. Speakers don't reproduce ultrasonic"

      Yes, they do. Piezo-electric speakers do wonderfully at this, in fact, which is why they're used in ultrasonic pest repellent devices.

      "3. And even if t

  • Don't have a smartphone, don't have a tablet, and don't even have a microphone on my desktop machine -- and now, even less interested in ever owning any of those than I was five minutes ago. For the rest of you, I'd suggest hacking into your TV or home theatre receiver, and putting a lowpass filter in all the baseband audio lines so these 'inaudible' signals won't get passed through to the speakers.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Yes, just dont network the new smart display. Sneaker net to it using the USB or other input options :)
      The classic early phone home with a file list aspect was creative and now this :)
    • by MacDork ( 560499 )

      Don't have a smartphone, don't have a tablet, and don't even have a microphone on my desktop machine... For the rest of you, I'd suggest hacking into your TV

      Pfft, this guy. I don't even have a TV. Turn in your /. paranoid card.

      ;)

      • Just because I'm naturally paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me, and by the way it's Obsessive Compulsive Order, get it right. XD
      • I submit to slashdot via their PostalPost(TM) feature. That's why my posts are always at least a day late! :D
  • Again, RTFA... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Y.A.A.P. ( 1252040 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @04:07AM (#50928965)

    If you RTFA, you'll note that no one actually says this is happening yet.

    This is about a complaint filed with the FCC to prevent the use of this technology. One company, SilverPush, is cited as having developed the technology and details about it are in the public view, but that's the only case where there's even anything to cite about this form of intrusive technology.

    You can let your hackles go back to their normal position now.

    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @07:28AM (#50929403)

      Ultrasonic response is not something most devices are good at. We, unsurprisingly, tend to design your sound systems around what we can hear. Particularly when you are talking cheaper equipment the high frequency response of speakers and microphones is often not very impressive. There's also the issue that the digital audio compression we use for things, like TV broadcasts, deemphasizes high frequencies.

      So for this to work they need:

      1) A TV broadcast with sufficient audio bitrate to get their high frequency signal encoded (the AC-3 streams usually used in ATSC broadcasts can be any bitrate from 64kbps to 448kbps).

      2) Encoded in such a way by the broadcaster that the high frequencies are preserved to a sufficient amount that their signal isn't distorted.

      3) Reproduced by speakers good enough to produce their signal, but to do it at a sufficient level to be picked up (speakers roll off at more extreme frequencies).

      4) Picked up by a microphone with sufficient range to be able to receive such a signal and isn't being occluded too much be being in a pocket or something.

      5) Processed by a program running on the device, that has control of the microphone at the time the signal is playing.

      Ya... While that isn't impossible, that is not likely to work any real amount of time. To have any good chance of working you'd probably have to push the signal down in to the audible range, which would of course piss people off to hear spurious high frequency noise. Likewise for it to be of any use the user would need to have an app on their device that is running. The mic doesn't magically record everything that comes in and store it for anything to access. A program has to be running and take control of the microphone to be able to get any input from it.

      This sounds like an advertiser pipe dream, not something that has been tried with real technology in realistic settings.

      People seem to think that ultrasonic communication is some kind of magic. It isn't. I mean it can be done, no question, you can encode information in sound, and you can do it in sound frequencies above human hearing. However that doesn't mean you can do it with any arbitrary device, or under arbitrary conditions.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        On the other hand, how much information do you really need to pass? I'm thinking a magic header and an ID over a ten second ad spot, say 256 bit max. At 16384 Hz that's 64 times/s*10s = 640 times. All you need is a little residual bias and you're good. That said I don't know why you'd limit yourself to only using the high band, you could implement something like Cinavia [wikipedia.org] for ads which seems like a much more advanced version of the same thing. I think that covers 1-4. As for 5. you probably need some kind of

      • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

        This sounds like an advertiser pipe dream, not something that has been tried with real technology in realistic settings.

        What? The article claimed that a dozen companies had products that do this, and that SilverPush is the industry leader having been doing it for over a year and a half. It made it sound like a real technology.

  • yeah, and I'm sure that everyone's devices will be operating so in spec, and the algorithms designed so carefully, that there will never be any possibility that the harmonics bleed over into the audible and drive everyone within hearing distance nuts with the annoying sounds? Great idea!
  • People who design, build and profit from things like this do not deserve to eat, pay rent and taxes or... erm... breathe.

    And neither do the sites that advertise this way.
  • by grumbel ( 592662 ) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Saturday November 14, 2015 @05:57AM (#50929179) Homepage

    News about ad networks doing evil tracking and such comes up all the time, but I have to wonder what all that data is any good for? I don't use ad block and yet all the ads I see tend to be either be pretty unimpressive and untargeted. They might know that I am male and they might be clever enough to show video games advertisement on a video game site, but that's about it. In a lot of ways the targeting makes the ads actually worse, as they end up covering a far narrower range of products and lead to a lot of repetition. Youtube can be notoriously bad at this, showing you the same ad 20 times in a row. There are also some ads that are extremely personalized, but they are unimpressive in the other direction, Amazon ads for example will just show me products that I just watched on their site. So won't show me anything new, just stuff I am already familiar with.

    Never seen ads that actually extrapolate my behavior and interest and end up recommending me a product that I would actually be interested in buying. I found good old untargeted advertisement on TV or magazines far more useful for that, as that showed a lot of products that I didn't even know existed.

    • Exactly.

      browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.

      There is so much to go wrong here (wrong from theadman's viewpoint). You get no choice about how long you watch a TV ad - they last as long as they last, and I am probably out having a piss. And they have the same ads on many differnt channels and they bear no relation to the TV programme. All it might tell the adman is how much TV I watch.

      And how does the sound link devices together? The TV advert cannot send an individual ultra-sonic code to every TV receiver, so millions of devices belongi

  • by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Saturday November 14, 2015 @09:21AM (#50929627)
    This practice of spying on people should be made illegal and with severe penalties for any company that uses this type of method either directly or through a third party.
  • ... they'd tie the devices together themselves.

    .
    So this scheme is an explicit admission by the advertisers that they are doing things to customer devices that customers do not want done to their devices.

  • While the sound can't be heard by the human ear, nearby tablets and smartphones can detect it.

    First of all, other than ethics, this is awesome technology... Truly, ad- and porn-sellers are at the forefront of it all.

    But is this really true? I mean, speakers and microphones are both designed to produce/recognized sound useful to humans (except some exotic devices meant for dolphins, I suppose). Making them do a reasonably good job on the entire human-audible spectrum is a non-trivial task already and differ [ecoustics.com]

    • "Why would a designer of a mobile phone bother with the frequencies, which a human can neither produce nor hear anyway? It certainly increases the costs of both the design and each individual device"

      I think it's more an accidental ability of tiny little cheap electret microphones and piezoelectric speakers, rather than something designers explicitly asked for.

      The designers of smartphones and tablets mostly want "cheap" and "as small as possible". It just happens that smaller audio components have an easier

  • by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock&poetic,com> on Saturday November 14, 2015 @11:55AM (#50930183)

    Yes, what about the poor children with their sensitive hearing, and dogs, cats, chickens and cockroaches ... An advertiser who elects to disrupt their lives with horrible noises should be ashamed (and sued).

    Hey, don't pretend that you haven't any chickens in your house. We can hear them via the microphone installed in your thermostat, we can see them from your television and we can smell them via your smoke detector.

  • I guess the voices weren't just in my head...

  • In addition to things already mentioned (nyquist, speaker/mic response, mics not turned on) the really big reason this won't work is because almost all commercial audio transmission is highly compressed in the frequency domain. Inaudible frequencies got unceremoniously tossed to reduce bandwidth.

I've got a bad feeling about this.

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