Big Alan is watching you… on YouView
Catch-up box will report all your programme choices so broadcasters – and the neighbours – learn your habits
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Monday 23 July 2012
Until now, what you watch on television has been a matter between you and your television set. Apart from high-profile pay-per-view events such as boxing matches, broadcasters don't know what you are viewing. They simply beam a signal into homes.
A new television service which allows viewers to catch up on shows from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 will change all that. Chaired by Lord Sugar, YouView allows broadcasters and their commercial partners to know exactly which programmes you are watching, and when.
An internet connection from the box to the outside world tracks individual choices and reports the data back to the company, gathering similar information to that collected online by Google. YouView will use the material to build up a profile of each user.
The company – some of whose employees worked for Phorm, a US technology firm accused of developing advertising spyware – hopes to become as popular in British living rooms as Sky. Priced at £300 with no further television subscription, its box will be sold by John Lewis, Currys and other retailers later this year and offered by internet service providers as part of phone and broadband packages.
Prospective viewers, however, may not be aware that the technology will record each channel being viewed. Each time you change channels or start/stop recording a programme, YouView reports back to headquarters via the internet connection, telling the company what it is you are watching and what you are doing with the box.
The profile might contain information such as the type of box being used, when you first used YouView, your internet address, which programmes you have watched, and whether you prefer sports, news or cookery programmes and so on.
YouView, which publishes its data-usage policy in a click-through link at the bottom of its website, has been reluctant to answer detailed questions about privacy. It told The Independent that the data from each box would be anonymised and "only relates to the device and is mainly technical in nature", adding: "YouView doesn't sell advertising so it doesn't use data for behaviourally targeted advertising."
However, information will be passed to third-party companies, allowing the introduction of advertising targeted at certain postcodes; previously, advertisers have been able only to target audiences in much broader areas.
Other likely applications are features such as "What's hot in your area" showing what neighbours are watching, with percentages for each show displaying, for instance, that 40 per cent are watching Downton Abbey, 31 per cent Strictly Come Dancing and 3 per cent shows on gambling or pornography.
Review: Of Mice and Men
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
Arts & Ents blogs
Best TV shows on Netflix: 26 series worth bingeing on
Game of Thrones rape scene: George R. R. Martin says 'whole dynamic' was different in the book
The best movies on Netflix: 32 films that will end your endless scrolling
William Shakespeare's 450th birthday: 50 everyday phrases that came from the Bard
Eurovision 2014 contestants: Meet all the acts from Molly Smitten-Downes to Conchita Wurst
Ukip election posters: Nigel Farage defends 'racist' campaign anti-immigration campaign ahead of Europe elections
Ukip leader Nigel Farage defends employing German wife, at launch of anti-immigration poster campaign
Is Britain really a land of God? Furious debate after David Cameron claims we are a Christian country
An open letter to Nigel Farage: you may smile, but I am not seduced
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
David Cameron's constituency office calls police on food bank campaigners Bishop of Oxford and Reverend Keith Hebden
- 1 William Shakespeare's 450th birthday: 50 everyday phrases that came from the Bard
- 2 David Cameron's constituency office calls police on food bank campaigners Bishop of Oxford and Reverend Keith Hebden
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 4 Women take on Bear Grylls over 'sexist' male-only desert island show
- 5 Malaysia Airlines flight MH370: Concerns grow among search officials that missing jet ‘may have landed somewhere else’