Cellphone Can Trigger Ads from Text and Voice Calls

31 October 2007

SCHAUMBURG, Illinois: US cellphone colossus Motorola revealed Tuesday it had developed new intuitive software able to scan user's text messages and calls, then pass the relevant data to advertisers.

The software will search for and detect specific words in text messages and voice calls, for example words such as "food" or "hungry". It can also pinpoint the user's current location.

"We have a technology which allows us to understand not only where that person might be, but also to understand what their interests might be," says evp/cmo Kenneth C "Casey" Keller, Jnr: "You figure out if the person is going for dinner or shopping and trying to find a particular retail outlet."

That data can then be used to send selected individuals ads for restaurants in their area - an Orwellian scenario that raises highly sensitive privacy issues, as the company accepts.

"I don't know how you would do this as an unsolicited effort," says Keller, stressing that Motorola would use it only with customers' consent, perhaps in return for call charge reductions.

The news disturbs such disparate parties as the UK Information Commissioner's Office and transatlantic lobby group Privacy International.

Says the latter's director Simon Davies: "We have deep concerns about this kind of technology. The phone companies may be talking about opting in to schemes but down the line it is more likely you will be penalised if you don't sign up."

According to Informa Telecoms & Media, a provider of business intelligence to the global telecoms and media industries, cellphone ad revenues worldwide are expected to exceed £5.5 billion ($11.33bn; €7.87bn) by 2011.

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff