The things you find on the Internet are all at once amazing, ridiculous and sometimes downright scary. While scrolling through my Google+ stream tonight I ran across a post from one of my followers about NBC revealing Netflix’s secret TV rating system. The basic point of the story he posted is that Netflix doesn’t use Nielsen ratings as the major networks do and that makes it difficult for the networks to know what kind of competition Netflix is handing them. That isn’t what caught my eye, though. What caught my eye was the post’s initial comment.
I read the article but I could care less about the content once I read that companies have software that spys on us using the microphone on our phones.
I clicked through to the article and found the portion where it talks about software that can track “viewership by capturing the soundtrack of the programs they watch”. After clicking some reference links and doing some quick Internet research I was able to find the company referenced, Symphony Advanced Media. The company is a media analytics company that tracks metrics for just about anyone who needs something tracked and has some connection to media. The way the company does this is through their “patented” technology that lives inside their smartphone/tablet app. The app basically uses the mic on your phone or tablet to listen for any of the shows or media that the company is trying to track.
But that’s not the total extent of it, the company also has full access to all of your social media accounts and communication when you use your smartphone or tablet. If you Tweet, post to Facebook or Google+ about the product they’re tracking, they will know. Now, we have to be clear that it sounds like you’ll have to have their app installed in order for this to work, but why would you agree to give strangers total access to basically your entire digital life? Here’s Symphony Advanced Media’s official video describing their services.
The privacy concerns over this software are huge. Even if you’re duped into participating in their form of data collection with TOC’s that promise no nefarious shenanigans are taking place. Do you really want a company collecting all of your digital behavior? What’s stopping them from collecting more than what they’re claiming to collect? Analytics and understanding how customers use products is important in a lot of ways, but it seems people are giving up more and more of their privacy for companies to collect that data. Are you really OK with that?
What do you think of Symphony’s software? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.