Big Brother alert: Microsoft wants to know how many friends you’ve got in your living room
By Mic Wright
November 9th, 2012
One of Microsoft’s latest patent applications is a humdinger. It proposes to turn the Kinect camera into a snitch for movie studios, reporting back just how many friends you’ve got in your living room and what they’re watching. Think that sounds alarmist? Here’s what it actually says: “The users consuming the content on a display device are monitored so that if the number of user-views licensed is exceeded, remedial action may be taken.” It’s that blatant – a system to spy on private viewing habits.
If put into practice, Microsoft’s plan could mean that the film you’re watching suddenly stops playing if it detects that you’ve got more people squashed on to the sofa than the licence allows. You’d then be prompted to buy a more expensive licence to keep watching. It’s as if Big Brother had built 1984’s Telescreen not to monitor the population but to ensure no one was pirating the Two Minutes Hate.
In all likelihood, Microsoft will struggle to actually apply this patent in the real world. While copyright holders would be delighted, customers would be turned off by such a draconian system. But that’s what’s interesting about this application and patent applications in general: they often reveal what companies would do if they could get away with it. The black and white drawings and blandly technical language can cover immoral, scary and downright evil ideas.