If you have ever stood in the rain wondering where the nearest umbrella
shop is, then the latest Google patent may interest you. The search
giant has secured intellectual rights to a system that would serve ads
based on environmental conditions. Google said forward-looking patents
were useful for its portfolio, but it had no current plans to act on it.
But privacy advocates have warned it could set a dangerous precedent.
The patent potentially paves the way for a mobile phone fitted with
sensors that would allow it to record data such as temperature,
humidity, light, and sound or air composition, which would trigger
relevant adverts. The patent would allow Google to search offline data
as well as online.
Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, is not
impressed. 'Not content with collecting vast amounts of information from
your online activities, it seems Google are looking to start exploiting
the offline space as well. Patents like this may never come to fruition,
but they force us to ask ourselves: how many aspects of our lives will
advertisers try to exploit, and where will it end? This is an attempt to
turn our devices into personal spying devices, just so a company can try
to sell you a coat on a cold day.'
Patents are the new battlefield for tech firms, and as well as seeking
to gain as many device-specific patents as possible, many are also
lodging forward-thinking ideas to future-proof themselves.