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Salon: When Big Brother Knows You Watch "Big Brother"

Sep 11, 2000, 12:23 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Damien Cave)

"Even if you've always wanted to be a Nielsen family, ensuring that your television watching habits help shape programming, would you really want a company to know each and every time you flip to 'Felicity?'"

"TiVo's CEO Mike Ramsay wants to use that information to sell targeted advertising and aggregate data to the networks about TV viewing habits. Sure, you'll get some benefits when you buy TiVo's set-top box ($399), and sign up for the monthly service ($10) -- like the chance to search for programs you want, save up to 30 hours of programming and even fast-forward through the commercials. But don't forget: While you're watching your favorite programs, the [Linux-based] TiVo is watching you, recording every channel click and timing how long you spend watching "Family Feud" and noting every Pampers ad you skip."

"Many people don't seem to mind. In fact, some like the service so much that they're cracking the box open and adding more memory. And Ramsay, a thick-throated Scot and former Silicon Graphics senior vice president, remains convinced that the TiVo will radically change the way advertisers, networks and viewers interact. All this from a glorified VCR?"

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