A marketing team within media giant Cox Media Group (CMG) claims it has the capability to listen to ambient conversations of consumers through embedded microphones in smartphones, smart TVs, and other devices to gather data and use it to target ads, according to a review of CMG marketing materials by 404 Media and details from a pitch given to an outside marketing professional. Called “Active Listening,” CMG claims the capability can identify potential customers “based on casual conversations in real time.”
The news signals that what a huge swath of the public has believed for years—that smartphones are listening to people in order to deliver ads—may finally be a reality in certain situations. Until now, there was no evidence that such a capability actually existed, but its myth permeated due to how sophisticated other ad tracking methods have become.
It is not immediately clear if the capability CMG is advertising and claims works is being used on devices in the market today, but the company notes it is “a marketing technique fit for the future. Available today.” 404 Media also found a representative of the company on LinkedIn explicitly asking interested parties to contact them about the product. One marketing professional pitched by CMG on the tech said a CMG representative explained the prices of the service to them.
“What would it mean for your business if you could target potential clients who are actively discussing their need for your services in their day-to-day conversations? No, it's not a Black Mirror episode—it's Voice Data, and CMG has the capabilities to use it to your business advantage,” CMG’s website reads.