A startup called Pudding Media is launching a new VoIP service that will be completely free. The only catch is that the firm will eavesdrop on your calls to display advertising that's related to the conversation:
Voice recognition software monitors the calls, selects ads based on what it hears and pushes the ads to the subscriber’s computer screen while he or she is still talking.
A conversation about movies, for example, will elicit movie reviews and ads for new films that the caller will see during the conversation. Pudding Media is working on a way to e-mail the ads and other content to the person on the other end of the call, or to show it on that person’s cellphone screen.
“We saw that when people are speaking on the phone, typically they were doing something else,” said Ariel Maislos, chief executive of Pudding Media. “They had a lot of other action, either doodling or surfing or something else like that. So we said, ‘Let’s use that’ and actually present them with things that are relevant to the conversation while it’s happening.”
The company’s model, of course, raises questions about the line between target advertising and violation of privacy. Consumer-brand companies are increasingly trying to use data about people to deliver different ads to them based on their demographics and behavior online.
Pudding Media executives said that scanning the words used in phone calls was not substantially different from what Google does with e-mail.