There have been a lot of futuristic patent applications making the news lately. Google is up next with one the company calls "Advertising Based on Environmental Conditions." Essentially, it boils down to technology that would listen to your calls to analyze background conditions in order to push relevant advertising your way.
For example, say you are at a concert and you make or receive a call. The technology could theoretically ascertain the crowd and music noise in the background and push you ads for new music or products sold by bands. Or, if you make a search for the weather in your area — you could receive ads for swimwear or shorts.
Surprisingly, this patent was actually originally filed for back in 2008, but it is likely making the news now as concerns over personal privacy dominates headlines and consumer awareness.
Google raised eyebrows not long ago by making announcing it would be compiling your search and personal data in one place in order to better target search and advertising. While we are increasingly more familiar with this kind of web based targeting — the idea of technology listening in to our phone calls takes data mining to a new level.
There is other language in the patent application that talks about similarly analyzing the backgrounds of photos.
Google has been quick to point out that just because a patent is filed — one of thousands they submit each year — it doesn't necessarily mean it will come to reality and shouldn't be considered a final or implementable feature.
Google also points out that should something like this be considered in the future, there would be clear instructions on how to manage privacy settings and/or opt-out altogether, much like they have with their search changes.
Even if the many of the ideas don't come to fruition, what is clear is patent ideas dreamt up now paint a picture of a future where our digital devices are increasingly bigger conduits for gathering personal data in all kinds of unique ways.
The question is, is the ability to have highly relevant information pushed to us fulfilling enough for us to value the feeling of having something always looking over our shoulders?