Are you watching your TV or is your TV watching you? Thanks to
new technological developments, such as digital cable, you may soon
have a more intimate relationship with you best buddy–the
Consider this scenario; you and your next-door neighbor are
watching the same show on cable TV, you in your house – she in
hers. At the station break you’re treated to back-slapping, ex-NFL
players touting the latest twist on the same old mass-brewed beer,
while your neighbor sees a commercial for a fine wine, fermented
delicately in hand-crafted vats of aged, extinct oak.
Fine by you, right? You’re a beer drinker and she’s a wine snob.
You don’t want to hear about all the products out there, just the
ones you’re interested in. As Edmund Sanders reports in the
Los Angeles Times, this is what new target marketing
technology can now do–program certain ads toward certain consumers
through information gathered by viewing habits. This may seem like
a simple convenience to you, but is there a darker side?
Certain watchdog groups, such as the Center for Digital Democracy
in Washington, D.C., believe theres a potential for abuse lurking
in this new technology. The Center’s president, Jeff Chester,
claims that cable companies will be able to collect data on
customer’s viewing and purchasing habits without their permission
or knowledge. It only takes a little science fiction-tainted
imagination to conjure up all kinds of evil ‘Big Brother’ scenarios
resulting from this practice.
‘We’re creating a dossier society,’ says Chester. ‘These
surveillance systems are being deployed without a public debate,
and viewers may not understand what kind of information is being
collected or how it’s used.’