Nielsen Research Now Tracking Your Thoughts in the Name of National Security

Nielsen Media Research, known mostly for their television ratings data have announced that they are now supplying data metrics and information to aid the federal government's "war on terror."

MediaPost reports that Jon Mandel, president of NielsenConnect spoke at a conference where he mentioned a number of consumer information databases at their disposal that will be used to "counter terrorism." The data available to Nielsen include the ability to track purchasing spikes of prescription drugs and monitoring and tracking of brainwave activity and biometrics research that can reveal how people react to advertising (or presumably other psychological stimulus.)

Thought police, anyone?

"I don't know what this is going to unleash, but we're going to unleash this stuff and you guys are going to have to deal with it," he forewarned.

Mandel didn't disclose which branch of the federal government Nielsen was working with, but it's fairly easy to deduce that its most-likely the Department of Homeland Security.

OK... am I the only one that's just a wee bit concerned that this is way, way, WAY too Orwellian in nature?

Tracking what people watch on television is one thing. But tracking how someone reacts psychologically to what they are watching, and using this technology with the Department of Homeland Security in an alleged effort to stem terrorism makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Of course I am probably just paranoid. Our government wouldn't do anything to violate our constitutional right to privacy for their own agenda, right?


Anonymous said...

Massed electrical potential of the CNS, "brain waves" if you will, amounts to such a weak signal that it can be measured only by placing a number of highly sensitive electrodes directly on the subject's scalp. Exactly how do you think Neilsen is going to be able to do this?

The Judge said...

Im not saying that Neilsen will directly be able to read your mind through the box sitting on top of the TV, but that they are experimenting with the technology to measure thought patterns in response to visual stimulus, which they will then share with the Department of Homeland Security.

This is in addition to providing a lot of other data and information with the feds about what you do and what you watch in the privacy of your own home.

Simey said...

I think you've really got the wrong end of the stick here, and conflated two concepts which aren't really related. Looking at statistical patterns of data is one thing. When you read the article, they are not examining the religious or ideological beliefs of individuals. They are just using data such as drug purchasing to detect possible 'spikes' that could indicate a long-term biological attack. For example, a spike in upset-stomach remedies could indicate an infected water supply. In the UK such monitoring is not required as they have an integrated national health system that would detect such patterns automatically.
The 'brainwave' stuff is an entirely different topic, and is the latest 'fad' from marketing companies. It is very basic stuff, and in its nascent stage. All it seems able to do is measure 'preferences' for things, and there is much controversy in academia regarding its usefulness or validity. The idea that it is 'reading your mind' or uncovering whether you're a terrorist or not is just alarmist fantasy.
Besides, in the original article, no connection was made between this and the counter-terrorism work.
I think you have taken 2 and 2 and added them together to make 17.

The Judge said...

The original article mentioned the various forms of "consumer information databases" that Neilsen would be sharing with the feds. Among those metrics are "disease plume tracking" and Neilsen's "recently acquired NeuroFocus unit... which measures brainwave activity and biometrics who reveal consumer insights and market intelligence for clients."

Giving the feds access to any data Neilsen acquires using this technology means that DHS can start tracking how people think in response to specific stimulus.

In this case, its a commercial. But the technology could easily be applied to other control stimulus, like perhaps measuring exactly how effective a governmentally controlled propeganda program might be and how to modify it for greater effectiveness.

Call it alarmist fantasy if you will, but there is the potential for exploitation of this data for other purposes that weren't discussed.

Simey said...

Sorry for taking so long to respond to your last comment; I was too busy being bombarded by government-sponsored propaganda. Which, errrr... doesn't actually exist.

I think the last line in your comment pretty much sums up your approach, and how it is alarmist fantasy: "the potential for exploitation of this data for other purposes that weren't discussed".

Yup. You can't really report on an evil government plan which doesn't and probably won't exist. If you want to go down that road, you can invent anything you want.

Head over to the US Department of Agriculture website, and you'll see that they've just awarded $623 million to improve electricity supply and infrastructure in rural areas.

Of course, using your journalistic technique (and what with the US Government always being up to something evil, of course...) it is clear that this money isn't just for electricity and agriculture, but could be used to make special electricity death ray beams to kill innocent Muslims. Like you know. It could happen. I mean it probably won't. But I'll report it like that anyway because it could.

I don't mean to be sarcastic, but wading through this badly conceived conspiratorial guff is getting terribly depressing.

Many governments across the world are doing bad things which should be reported; there is so much material there that there is simply no need to veer into the realms of alarmist fantasy. The facts are alarming enough.

The Judge said...

Dont you think its incredibly naive to assume that our government doesnt do bad things? In light of EVERYTHING that has come out in the past few years? From the the usurping of executive powers, the elimination of habeus corpus, the approval of torture for interrogation of prisoners...etc?

With that in mind, dont you think its just at least a little bit suspicious that the federal government would be utilizing Nielsen's data for counter-terrorism tactics? Dont you think that this kind of data on our own population is a rather big violation of our own personal freedom to privacy?

I'm actually enjoying this little debate, so please don't think I am taking offense to any of your words.

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