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google and internet tracking

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taken from ign

May 14, 2007 - It finally seems like Google may be putting its $23 million acquisition of AdScape to good use. UK newspaper, The Guardian, has caught wind of a patent filed by Google concerning in-game advertising. Judging by the details of the patent, the imposing Internet presence may be readying itself to monitor the games we play, and the way in which we play them.

Google believes that it will be able to track in-game behavior in order to determine crucial information about an individual's purchasing tendencies. The information gathered in this manner could then be sold to advertisers for a pretty penny, we imagine. The details of the patent state that Google will be able to monitor people playing on any game console that hooks up to the Internet, including the PS3, the Xbox 360, and the Wii.

According to the patent, "User dialogue (eg from role playing games, simulation games, etc) may be used to characterize the user (eg literate, profane, blunt or polite, quiet etc). Also, user play may be used to characterize the user (eg cautious, risk-taker, aggressive, non-confrontational, stealthy, honest, cooperative, uncooperative, etc)." Google believes that this information will allow for companies to tailor in-game advertising to make it more "relevant to the user."

Google then cited some fairly ridiculous examples of just how this might play out in actual practice. Players who explore a lot in online games, for instance, "may be interested in vacations, so the system may show ads for vacations." On the other hand, those who spend much of their in-game time communicating with others, might encounter ads for cell phones or other communication-based products. Additionally, the patent covered in-game ad delivery that was not based on behavioral clues. "In a car racing game, after a user crashes his Honda Civic, an announcer could be used to advertise by saying 'if he had a Hummer, he would have gotten the better of that altercation', etc," the patent states. "If the user has been playing for over two hours continuously, the system may display ads for Pizza Hut, Coke, coffee."

While this might all just seem like a fairly harmless method of streamlining ad delivery, the move has worried certain privacy campaigners who found the prospect of such massive data collection "alarming."

"I can understand why they are interested in this, but I would be deeply disturbed by a company holding a psychological profile," stated Sue Charman of online campaign Open rights Group. "Whenever you have large amounts of information, it becomes attractive to people - we've already seen the American federal government going to court over data from companies including Google."

Nevertheless, Google may have tapped into something that could prove quite profitable further down the line. Games like Second Life and World of Warcraft are not only massively popular, but involve community interaction, a key element in analyzing players' behavioral patterns. Virtual worlds such as these are projected to be among the most profitable sources of advertising revenue on the web. Second Life and World of Warcraft currently have 5 and 8 million subscribers respectively. A recent report conducted by analyst firm, Screen Digest, indicated that the market for virtual worlds in the west already exceeds $1 billion each year.

The one drawback to this sort of ad-tracking/delivery is that it would require game developers to incorporate Google's ad technology into their games. Nevertheless, in an industry constantly looking for new ways to rake in the dough, targeted ad delivery must seem like a pretty appealing prospect.

"Publishers are becoming more like media companies," said Justin Townsend, an executive at in-game advertising company IGA. "More games are being optimised for advertising." Of course, none of this should take precedence over privacy considerations. "Both consumers, publishers and the advertising industry are very aware of privacy issues," he claimed. "You cannot afford to be vague in these areas."

so how does everyone feel about this? remind anyone of what EA did with battlefield 2012?

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I don’t really think that it would be efficient enough to be profitable, I think that it might be difficult for a computer program to analyze your action well enough for this to work, and it would cost too much for a person to do it.

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I say we have two big brothers. The controlling politician and the cut-throat capitalist dude.

Man, it's sucks to be the youngest kid.

This is pretty much the best post in all of SD&D.

As for the subject at hand... It's invasion of privacy, and, it's really dumb.

I mean, whenever I play online games, I spend most of my time talking to people (usually because they're boring as shit, i.e. WoW). But that doesn't mean I'm a talkative person or whatever. Besides which, I've already got a goddamn cell phone.

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I think you guys are overreacting a bit. I suppose the jump to Big Brother would be more reasonableif this were suddenly used in all or even most games, but at the moment it's nothing more than a patent. Who knows how many games this is going to be used in, or how invasive it will be.

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