big google is watching you

The current buzz about Brazil sueing google for obtaining user data (see e.g. washington post or AP) or this years message about China give an even more stale flavour to a technology which was discussed in a rather recent article in MITs Technology Review .

Summarizing – the technology is about compressing auditory information down to a few bytes – hence it provides so to say a hash code or fingerprint for audio recordings. According to the Technology Review:

Google research director Peter Norvig predicts that the prototype, which uses an audio identification technique invented outside Google and applied to a uniquely large database of recorded sound, will eventually evolve into a product.

–means: Google would want to listen to what you are listening in your living room in order to provide matching web content.

What could this be used for? E.g. Imagine you have a TV game show and the talk master says: “You can participate at the game if you switch on your googleMii!!” (or another fancy word for this product which works in combination with your Computers microphone) If you then switch on your micro then google would listen in 5 second chunks into your living room, produce a hash code (if you want: a number) for each chunk and compare that code with given hash data (of e.g. a given TV jingle). This way the Google app knows what you are watching and can provide matching web services (like an interface for the TV game). This could well become the long sought key to “interactive TV” (and a competition to e.g. IPTV)

The information google would store is not your living room sounds but just the hash code. Thats what they say. And indeed already for reasons of data storage this sounds plausible….at least for the generic case. But well – the micros are open. And to have the information to what you were listening is also not bad.

Probably not only for this reason the french and german government are pushing out 400 million Euros in order to develop their own semantic web services, in particular the search engine Quaero. However it doesn’t sound as if Quaero may be the end to all evil: It is still intended to be commercial and it is not clear to me who gets all the collected information and how much public control will be possible.

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