August 24, 2013
Google Wants To See (And Maybe Sell) Your Soul
In a previous blog I claimed Google is enormous and knows everything. Today, upon reading several news stories about a new patent they’ve been granted, I’d like to amend my previous claim:
Google is enormous and knows everything, including what you see.
It’s no surprise that Google has a habit of using their customers as fuel cells to power their money-making monstrosity. Everything we do on a Google-owned site is being monitored and collected. The information gathered is used to develop more ads while we’re seeing the ads that have already been aimed at us.
But this is old news.
Google’s new patent allows the tiny prism on Google’s Glass to watch your eyeball to know what you’re looking at. That’s right; Google wants to use technology to stare at your pupils all day. I’m reminded of a quote that mentions something about the windows to your soul…eh, I can’t recall it now.
But, why would Google want to know what you’re looking at?
The call it “pay-per-gaze” eye-tracking (because pay-per-view was probably taken) and they plan to use it to gather more information about what Glass wearers are doing in real life.
“But Michael!” I can hear you saying while reading this in your cubicle, causing the Michael in the cube over to prairie dog his head over the top with an inquisitive look.
“Of course Google wants to know as much about you as they can!”
Ah! Very good, reader. You’ve noticed how I enjoy harping on the incessant creepiness of Google. This new patent, however, takes this creepiness to new levels of back-shivers. Yes, the computer that watches your pupil is only centimeters away and, yes, the computer then churns out data to advertisers who have reduced you to nothing more than an eyeball, but it gets worse.
The new system is also capable of monitoring the dilation of your pupils. This, says Google, can be directly tied to how you feel about something you see. So, if you see an ad that makes you laugh or smile, your pupils might dilate and become wider. This, says Google’s camera system that’s only purpose in the world is to watch your eyes and report back to Goog HQ, means you liked the ad. Based on a reaction you have no control over, Google could say you enjoyed the ad and tell advertisers to go ahead and send more to you in that style.
You didn’t have to do a damn thing about it…well, except make the decision to put those ridiculous glasses on your beautiful face.
Ah, but I almost forgot the best part, the creepiest part, the part which really turns you into a walking sensor meant solely to power the money making machine. Not only is this camera facing inward, (INTO YOUR SOUL) it’s also gazing outward to know what else you could be seeing. This part makes a little more sense, especially since Google made a BIG TO DO about how Glass is going to have Augmented Reality features built right in.
(It won’t in its earliest phase)
No, this outward gaze isn’t meant to put business listings on buildings as you walk past; it may be used to tell advertisers which ads you see in real life. That billboard up there? If you look at it, Glass knows where you are, which direction you’re heading and, therefore, which billboard you just saw. It can then take this information, combined the emotional response from your pupils of course, and ship it to the advertisers, giving them real, hard data about how many literal eyeballs saw their giant ad.
Google’s creepy, but they’re not dumb. Even in their patent application they said they’d be giving users a way to opt-out of this ad-fueling system…but I’d bet dollars to donuts they have other means to reach this lucrative end.
After all, why else does Glass exist? If Google acts only as an advertising company with aims to rake in the dough from businesses who only want to sell you something, wouldn’t it make sense to take people away from their computers and into the real world to measure their actions, behaviors and responses? Why else do you think Android exists?
Image Credit: Robert Neumann / Shutterstock