Nielsen Is Stalking Me

My free cell phone came via FedEx yesterday. It’s a so-called Smart Phone. It’s no iPhone but you know, at 1000 monthly minutes, unlimited text and data free for 2 years, I’ll take it. (I figure the iPhone should be about in its 3rd generation cycle when I’m finally ready for it.)

Dear Research Panel [Person],

We’d like to personally welcome you to the **** Research Panel and thank you for agreeing to participate. You are now a member of a select, nationwide panel of consumers chosen from millions to represent the radio, television, and movie preferences of hundreds of people with similar backgrounds. Your participation as an **** Research Panel [Person] will help to influence the future direction of radio, television, and movies in America …

Cingular Smart Phone 3125 clamshellIf their aim was to make me feel important, valued, a member of a select few, even influential … I guess they’ve somewhat succeeded. Anyway, they must have a lot invested in this if they’re getting people to commit for 2 years–or if not then as long as they can (we’re told we can send it back any time we want). I was just lucky to have been randomly selected, while living in 1 of 6 metro areas they are conducting the study.

I’m a part of a sample. I knew that Statistics class I took the summer-after-Sophomore was worth something.

Of course, there’s no free lunch. And if I were one of those Patriot Act-hating, privacy rights-wielding citizens, there’d be no way I’d consent to participating in this. “So what’s the trade-off?” you ask.

There’s software installed on this free phone. I’m required to carry it with me at all times, even inside my home. It records, in short bursts, media I’m exposed to (music, theatre, radio, tv) and sends the encryption somewhere to be compared against a large database. This ultimately tracks the effectiveness of advertising on me. Does the fact that I’ve seen the Transformers trailer 6 times as opposed to the trailer for The Next LiLohan Movie only 3 times make it more likely I’m going to go see Transformers? And would I be more likely to pay to see it in the theatre or wait for the DVD?

Cingular SmartPhone 3125 open

Crikey, am I crazy enough that I’m actually getting giddy at the idea of personifying a minute fraction of those “Nielsen ratings” I had only heard about–but had always wondered how they were collected. Yeah, since I was a kid. Who’s Nielsen? And who gave him the authority to know all this about us? I imagined like, factories of tiny people implanted inside random television sets all over the country, who phoned into Mr. Nielsen not only what shows and commercials we were watching, but also what we were having for dinner.

Meh. I guess I’m over that.

So, it follows that they had to give us some consolation as to our rights not being violated. That we weren’t totally selling ourselves down the river. So, of course there’s a Privacy Policy stating our phone conversations are not being recorded. Only media is getting encrypted and transmitted. That, and no cell phone bill was enough for me to say, “sure.”

I’ve only got a couple complaints–well, if I were complaining. Other than the fact that they could’ve maybe given us a free iPhone to use, I’ve already graduated to 3G speed–on a phone I ended up liking very much. And the Gmail Mobile app, might I say right here, is an excellent application. Learning new phones disrupts my rhythm. The free phone’s data speeds, like the iPhone, are also only as fast as Edge. The other: It runs Windows Mobile 5.0. My computer is a Macbook. But you know, fortunately there’s The Missing Sync so I can still take advantage of the syncing capabilities with my non-PC.

Bluetooth Beacon transmits that the media I'm watching is from home.

I’ll be excited to update how that goes. For dates and appointments, I am still tied to an At-a-Glance I actually carry around in my purse. (There are still things I benefit from using pen and paper with, believe it or not– I tend to like being able to recognize my handwriting as I recollect events being scheduled.) With The Missing Sync, I’m excited to be able to sync up with iCal and address book–so I’ll definitely be using that more. My iCal had crashed and gotten reinstalled following another app installation (beta, of course) so this will be giving it another go.

I had thought that work would be the only place I’d have to put up with windows. Guess I’ll just suck this one up. With no cell phone bill in my monthly expenses, it’s a good chance to buy a pair of shoes every month put the difference into my savings account. 😉

Love,
*e