Salon: When Big Brother Knows You Watch “Big Brother”

“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

“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?”