Big Brother on Cable TV

September 7, 2019 at 23:03:31
Specs: several
I expect that whenever I change the channel on my cable TV, the
cable company (Comcast in my case) keeps track of what channel
I was on and what channel I go to, and exactly what time I did it,
so they will know what program or advertisement was on and what
part of the program or advertisement I was turning off. Can anyone
confirm with actual knowledge that they do that? And maybe give
some details?

Do you know if they are also able to track when I turn the sound on
and off? The volume appears to be controlled entirely by the TV, not
by the cable box, so when I use the Comcast remote control to change
the volume, it is only the TV that responds. But the cable box might
also receive and interpret the signal from the remote. Plus, when I put
the TV on mute, it starts closed captioning. It is possible that captions
are sent all the time, and only displayed when I put the TV on mute,
but it seems likely that the captions are only sent after I send a signal
to Comcast to turn captioning on, by turning mute on. Captioning can
be turned on/off independantly of mute. So I wonder if they are able
to (and perhaps do) keep track of both whether mute is on and
whether closed captioning is on.

The last cable installer who was here said he didn't know, but he
had seen Nielsen boxes installed, so they must keep track of info
that the cable company can't or doesn't. Which was surprising.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

See More: Big Brother on Cable TV

September 8, 2019 at 10:17:31
Here is a thread that might be of interest:


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September 8, 2019 at 12:40:34
Just about every facet of our lives is being monitored - TV usage, internet usage, cell phone & landline usage, credit card usage, shopper's club cards, GPS, RFID chips in enhanced licenses & license plates, etc, etc. Plus there are cameras everywhere. Facial recognition software is improving & is being used more & more. Every photo taken with a smart phone & many digital cameras has embed the GPS coordinates, date/time. Don't forget Siri, Alexa, Google Assist & Cortana too. And these are just the things we know about.

EDIT: I forgot social media where people feel the need to post about everything they do, everywhere they go, who they go with, not to mention every thought they have.

message edited by riider

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September 19, 2019 at 00:44:57
Hi Jeff,

This depends if your cable box has a modem or not, much cheaper/basic ones don't have a modem, and so they cannot report any data back.

But it doesn't add too much to the overheads if they do want to add this functionality and with modern boxes wanting interactivity, it is becoming more common.

When a box collects data, it can be anything from simple information about what channel tunes have happened to every button press on your box. The data can be collected in real-time or reported back periodically. It goes on to servers and is associated with a box ID, attaching it to your subscriber ID, and other personal details are possible by cross-linking to the subscriber databases.

From a privacy perspective, you've probably agreed to give them everything as part of your contract, and they probably have the right to do anything they like as a result.

Importantly they usually don't care about you; you are a data point in a graph, so don't worry about the intrusion. I've had access to a database of millions of users, and I never cared about spying on anyone, I just wanted to look for patterns of interest in the data. I've never seen anyone selling individual customers data as a product. I think it would be hard because it is so dynamic. What they sell is demographic data about viewership and such to help advertising companies understand how effective their advertising is and who (statistically) it is reaching.

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Related Solutions

September 19, 2019 at 09:38:31
The post by "EmilyWilliamson" is copied from a comment
on the Quora page linked by mmcconaghy September 8.
"EmilyWilliamson" joined today. What would be the purpose
of this sort of trolling? Is the troll trying to establish an identity for
later misuse? Does the troll plan to edit this post eventually to
insert a link? I expect that The Shadow knows!

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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