September 25, 2007

Pudding Media’s monitored VoIP calls raise privacy concerns

Permalink: Pudding Media’s monitored VoIP calls raise privacy concerns
by Lin Freestone

US-based Pudding Media has announced that it will offer free VoIP calls to those willing to let the company's voice-recognition software monitor the conversation for keywords. The tracked keywords will then be used to trigger targeted on-screen ads for the duration of the call.

Pudding Media is building a platform that opens new advertising opportunities, allowing consumers to immediately receive and respond to offers related to topics they are discussing. At the same time, Pudding Media’s technology allows any communications provider – mobile carrier, Internet telephony service, even Web publisher – to offer new ad-supported calling plans.

Pudding Media claims that its platform marries telecommunications and advertising to benefit everyone. Consumers could gain a cool new dimension to their calls with more interesting, timely information and advertising that seamlessly bridge their virtual and real-world experiences; brands reach consumers with more targeted, relevant offers; and communications providers gain a new revenue stream.

To try out the beta version, consumers can simply visit www.thepudding.com, enter a phone number and make a free call to any number in North America. When certain keywords are spoken, interesting and timely news, entertainment, and offers are displayed on the screen. For example, a consumer talking about films may see links to trailers, reviews and show times for nearby cinemas. A sports fan talking about a favourite team may see commentary and game statistics on a computer or handset screen.

Advertisers can select from tens of thousands of keywords that, when spoken, will generate promotional advertising, or the sending of entertainment and information directly to a consumer. Marketers will have opportunities to display offers as well as information about their brand or service to consumers during their conversations.

Even though it is widely acknowledged that most web surfing is monitored in some way, most consumers still consider the monitoring of voice communications as a direct assault on privacy. Pudding Media has addressed some of these concerns by revealing that the keyword information is discarded after every call, but it will be up to consumers to decide whether or not that provides enough privacy.

 

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