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TiVo’s sale of consumer data is questionable

Advertisers now have a new outlet to market products in consumers’ houses. But the profitable technique stands in the way of products consumers have bought to avoid advertising.

TiVo, maker of digital television recorders, will start selling the statistical viewing habits of its customers to various advertisers. At the same time they promise that the customers that their privacy rights will not be violated.

However, with only a company’s promise as means for insurance, some customers are not convinced that they will be protected. Steps are being taken to assist in reassuring that the customers’ rights will not be violated.

TiVo mimics the basic functions of a VCR, allowing the viewer to record, rewind, and fast-forward through cable TV shows. TiVo also gives the viewer the ability to eliminate commercials from a program, which has advertisers complaining to the company that it causes major profit loss.

Replay TV, a TiVo competitor, experienced the wrath of disgruntled advertisers when they introduced a feature on their devices that allowed the viewer to skip a commercial entirely by not recording it. Faced with a lawsuit by the advertisers , Replay TV decided to remove the function from future models of their devices.

In this way, not only do advertisers win the legal battle, but future customers are forced to live by advertisers’ viewing standards.

With the information purchased from TiVo, advertisers can tailor their commercials to the individual viewer, showing them specific products they would prefer.

When TiVo connects to servers to download programming information, it also uploads the data about what the viewers have watched, as well as what they have skipped over. With this information, TiVo hopes to cash in by pleasing the companies that are responsible for the very shows they are airing.

TiVo assures that the only information sold will be based on zip codes. So for instance, advertisers for Neutrogena will have a general idea of how many viewers in one area are watching Friends repeats.

The information will allegedly be kept separate from the specific details of the account holder. And, while viewers can request to be left out of all statistical studies, there is no guarantee it will take effect immediately.

Whether or not TiVo can be trusted is something only time will tell, even if this this is likely to enhance the viewing experience. Either way, it is commendable that viewers can opt out altogether.

Viewers can contact TiVo to request that they be kept out of all statistical information gatherings at (877) 367-8486.