Amazon granted a stalking patent

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Amazon have just had their “stalking” patent granted in the US. Back in 2007 they submitted a patent for a mobile device to track your movements, predict based on where you’ve been where you’re likely to go next, and then send you adverts for shops, restaurants or other businesses that they think you’re about to pass. If Amazon get the technology right they could possibly figure out where you’re heading before you’ve even decided to go there!

The “System and method for providing advertisement based on mobile device travel patterns” patent was applied for way back in 2007 and granted on 6th December. The patent shows just how far in advance Amazon’s thinking was four years ago and how they plan to break into the paid advertising market.

Now everyone has smart phones and you can be tracked by your mobile whenever it’s switched on. Even if you don’t have GPS enabled or don’t make a call your mobile still checks in with the nearest mobile mast and of course there’s WiFi hotspot triangulation.

It’s not just your mobile phone though – Amazon are happily selling the Kindle, reportedly at a loss. Many retailers have suggested the loss is made up for by future Amazon purchases, but what if the cost of your Kindle is subsidised by tracking your whereabouts to send you paid advertising?

I can’t think of anything more annoying than being bombarded with discount coupons to my mobile phone, but if Amazon know which is my mobile device I might not even be able to opt out of seeing the adverts – In addition to ads sent direct to mobiles the patent also discusses displaying adverts on an electronic display device so potentially the adverts could be flashing up around me as I walk!

I can see the benefits of this though, if I’m in town with the kids and Amazon can predict that they get hungry after an hour so I usually take them for something to eat a discount voucher for McDonalds could sway me across the street from Burger King (N.B. I wouldn’t visit either on my own!). If I’ve just been to a mobile phone shop there’s a good chance I’m interested in a new mobile device so perhaps Amazon could tempt me with a voucher for the mobile phone accessories shop further down the mall.

This is of course just the sort of online technology which could help make shopping on the High Street an interactive engaging experience. Mary Portas sit up and take note… there’s lots of cool online stuff that could help the High Street, not kill it.

Do you want not only to be tracked but have Amazon predicting where you’re likely to go in the future or is this a step too far? Is this useful contextual advertising based on your likely preferences or is it stalking?

You decide, but you have been warned – if you don’t want to be tracked turn your mobile off!

5 Responses

  1. I can’t imagine anything worse. I wonder how long it will take to have an adblocker app for smartphones.

  2. Sounds awful, its already a pain that the default adverts on Ebay, Hotmail and others suggest you go to sites that you have already visited. (ruining many an opportunity for surprise gift hunting) I think the terms stalking is definately apt. Glad I don’t use my phone for much more than phoning and texting.

  3. From an advertisers point of view it is a good idea IF it works well.
    The facebook ads that are “tailored to your personality” are a load of crap. As for the ads that follow you around, they generally annoy me simply because I have been to a site and decided not to buy from it, no amount of flashing banners are going to make me go back, in fact I now avoid sites I know that use them.
    On the plus side it is good to click through on the ones that I currently have an issue with and add “I was checking my email and your banner ad reminded me to email you AGAIN with regards to my problem”

  4. Amazon’s ‘recommended for you’ suck bigtime, can’t imagine this will be any better.

  5. Thinking about the “Kindle”. Just think nostalgically about the Paper Books. No Adverts on them, No way you can be traced, Just a quality product that should with good treatment last a lifetime and give you many hours of enjoyment and in regards to many paper books facts and figures and information as well.


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