Between Facebook and MySpace and personalized Web sites and an onslaught of confessional TV talk shows, you have to wonder if the concept of personal privacy is an anachronism.
A Silicon Valley startup is betting that it is. Pudding Media is testing a free Internet phone service. The catch is that the company’s software eavesdrops on the conversation and, in response to certain keywords, posts related ads on the caller’s computer screen.
To more tightly focus the ads, Pudding Media asks for the subscriber’s sex, age and ZIP code, among other details. The founders say that the calls aren’t recorded and the company doesn’t keep track of the keywords, but that’s not to say that a subsequent service won’t.
Google already monitors its Gmail for information of interest to advertisers without a great deal of outcry. Pudding Media CEO Ariel Maislos told The New York Times that young people are less concerned with privacy than older people and that “the trade-off of getting personalized content versus privacy is a concept that is accepted in the world.”
Sadly, he’s probably right.