X-raying the behavior of people, not data


It’s both groovy and scary that MIT researcher Sandy Pentland has figured out how to track your chance of success in life with a cell phone. Think of behavioral targeting on steroids, and you get the idea.

Just as internet advertisers now use “data mining” and “click streams” to follow your online web visits to serve you targeted ads, the MIT idea is to use a cell phone to track your movements, social connections, and even the tone of your voice for “reality mining.” New cells phones can monitor GPS location, movement (with accelerometers), thus motion and body language, and tone of voice — things Forbes notes can determine the outcome of negotiations and purchase behavior. For example, MIT studies have found that evaluating the tone of a salesperson’s voice can predict outcome of a buyer saying yes with about 89% accuracy. Sandy notes, “Humans have a kind of second language that we’re not conscious of, a signaling language.”

In essence, this type of tracking will create a real org chart of humanity — who travels where, connects with whom, and communicates in a way most likely to make transactions or productivity or flu outbreaks happen. On the positive side, ad personalization and economic studies will be empowered. On the negative side, privacy will be a thing of the past.

(Photo: Meredith Farmer.)

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