Chatting under the influence

Are you ready to bend over and let the marketing world jam its fist up your butt just a lil’ bit farther?  Then be the first to sign up with Pudding Media, who offer free phone service if you let them eavesdrop on your phone conversations so they can serve up related advertising on your computer.  Their CEO is apparently very excited about this, because he’s found that they can actually influence what you talk about:

Maislos said that during tests he noticed that the content had a tendency to determine conversations.  “The conversation was actually changing based on what was on the screen.  Our ability to influence the conversation was remarkable.”

Yes, truly remarkable.  It’s not enough that they monitor your phone calls, but they want to influence them as well — maybe steer it towards more interesting topics like your favorite dishwashing liquid or that fabulous Pepsi you had the other day.  So we’ve pretty much accepted that our government snoops on our calls (via AT&T, fuck you very much), and the next logical step is to allow advertising douchebags to snoop as well.

On a side note, I use Gmail daily and love it to death — and it serves up automatic text-based ads based on the contents of my emails.  Some paranoids out there decry this as evil, and Google as evil, blah-blah-blah…it’s the same shit we’ve been hearing since the beginning, and so far these text ads have proved to be harmless. (Other email services do the same thing, but people still bash Google.)  Regardless, by now people should know that nothing is private on the internet and email is no exception — choose your words and topics wisely. The difference with this phone-sniffing business is that these are conversations, not emails.  People talk more freely on the phone than they do via email, the words just spill out and there’s no time to edit or delete before someone hears it. And that’s the way conversations should be.  Nobody should put their private phone conversations up for scrutiny, by machines or people, for a little free phone time.  I hope this new company goes down the toilet fast.

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  1. I always wondered how the ads on yahoo could know to entice me with the promise of Tom Waits ringtones! They’re reading my email, and probably keeping track of every search I do too… Geesh. I probably agreed to it when I signed up and clicked that little “I agree to the terms of service” box without reading the whole thing.
    I guess it’s ok, I never click on ads anyway. And I let Giant Eagle record everything I purchase there so they can give me coupons I want. I wonder what other nefarious purposes these incredible databases could be used for?

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  2. Tracy:
    Interesting you should ask! A few years ago, when I was in grad school, a supermarket chain in the Seattle area raised all their prices, then required you register for a “discount card” so you could buy some of their products at “lower prices”. Aside from that kind of bullshit, I oppose these cards (I have ’em, but in one case, I gave them a blank application, and in another, got a barcode sticker from someone on the Internet who wanted to be Safeway’s biggest shopper).
    People thought I was being silly (except for Barry, who was my roommate at the time :), but in the same week, a story broke about how a customer of a different chain in the midwest slipped on a wet floor and shattered his knee-cap (ouch!). During the litigation process, the grocery giant looked at his shopping history (you guessed it…. he had one of those magic cards), and noting that he consistently bought large quantities of wine, used that info to get the lawsuit thrown out. The guy claimed he entertained a lot, and that he wasn’t drunk on the day of the accident. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? I’m sure this man (and anyone else) didn’t intend for his information to be used in this manner (I’m sure he loved the coupons though).
    All I can say is, beware of those who collect personal information on you. Even the most innocuous information (“I mean, who the hell cares if they keep track of what groceries I buy???”) can be used in a pernicious manner.
    As far as Internet privacy goes, there isn’t any. It’s an amusing concept, but it just doesn’t exist. All these stories about people being busted by the authorities for crimes they brag about in their MySpace profiles (how stupid can you be?), as well as those whose web browsing activities have come into play in getting them arrested/convicted for various things, are proof of that.
    Of course, people are already eavesdropping on your cell phone conversations with the help of low-tech devices (right, Barry? wink wink), and your cell phone signal can be tracked whether you’re talking on it or not.
    Peace,
    MyK Hell

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  3. Well, the old cell & cordless house phones (pre-digital) were wide-open to snooping, but now that everything’s digital it’s a bit beyond the reach of amateurs. I personally would never use, say, a modified police scanner to pick up the 800mhz cell frequencies and listen to conversations bouncing off a nearby cell tower. I mean, that would be wrong. 🙂
    Anyway it’s pretty bastardly for grocery stores to withhold sale prices from you turn over your personal info for a “savings card.” Of course we use one, but we made up bullshit info when filling out the form. Tee hee!

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  4. Being that I work in a grocery store, I have to say that the cards are a pain in the ass, but then again I have used them to help customers as well. There are lots of advantages and disadvantages for the cards. But if I had the choice I would rather not have them.
    Things I’ve used the card number for:
    A desperate customer needs a copy of an old receipt for her expense account.
    A regular customer needs to return something expensive and doesn’t have the receipt.
    A crackhead customer needs to return something so I ask for the number and they don’t have one and no receipt, of course so I refuse the return.
    A crackhead customer needs to return something so I ask for the number and they don’t have a receipt so I check the number nothing jibes so I refuse the return.
    A customer didn’t get something in their cart so I look up the reciept to see if the customer was actually charged for the item.
    and the list goes on and on…
    All the above is still possible without the card but it sure makes it a hell of a lot easier (2 minutes worth of work as opposed to 20 minutes or more).

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