Google Gets Patent for Using Background Noise to Target Ads
By John P. Mello Jr.
Google, on Tuesday, was awarded a patent for “advertising based on environmental conditions.” In other words, Google has patented the technique of using environmental factors gathered through a device’s sensors to target ads at users.
“When determining what ads to serve to end users, the environmental factors can be used independently or in combination with matching of keywords associated with the advertisements and keywords in user search queries,” the patent reads.
“A web browser or search engine located at the user’s site may obtain information on the environment (e.g., temperature, humidity, light, sound, air composition) from sensors. Advertisers may specify that the ads are shown to users whose environmental conditions meet certain criteria.”
So Google can now deliver targeted ads to users based on their surrounding environment. For example, the patent notes, temperature information gathered by a phone’s sensors can be used to flash ads for air conditioners (if temperatures exceed a certain thresholds), or winter coats (if the temperatures fall below a certain benchmark).
Sensor info isn’t the only environmental information Google wants to analyze with the patent. Google also wants to analyze background information:
“An audio signal that includes a voice instruction from a user of the remote device can be received, and the environmental condition can be determined based on background sounds in the audio signal,” the patent reads.
In other words, if you’re at a sports event and you call GOOG-411 for info about a nearby restaurant, Google will be able to identify the sporting event based on background noise heard through the handset’s microphone, and ads related to fans of that sport will be pumped to your phone.
Similarly, if you’re at a concert and you make a phone call during intermission, Google will be able to determine your musical taste based on the background noise (such as musicians tuning their instruments), as well as GPS info collected by the handset. This will allow Google to push ads for albums, tickets, and musical equipment to your phone.
If and when Google decides to implement the patented technology, it says it will respect the privacy of its users by allowing them to turn off the environmental monitoring application.