Telephore - advertiser's dream or privacy
Advertising is all around us, on the web, in print, on hoardings and
even on SMS text messages. The industry is worth billions worldwide, so
it's logical to assume that anyone who can open up a new market stands
to make a great deal of money.
Hoping to find a gap in the market is Telephore, a recent
startup company with ambitious plans to place advertising within phone
calls. Telephore calls these voice ads, and they play during your
phone call to all the parties involved. And Telephore's partnerships with major
cellular carriers mean that this technology could be
coming to your phone soon.. whether you want it or not.
are not just random - they are context sensitive. Most web users will
be familiar with this type of advertising (Mobile Gazette uses it,
for example), but this is a relatively trivial technology. What
Telephore can do is analyse the content of your voice calls by using
a highly sophisticated voice recognition system. These calls are then analysed
and stored, and a database of the caller's interests
are compiled. Ads are then generated to meet the subscriber's
preferences, and these are played back in call at a
says that the exact technology that they use is secret,
but an insider from the company has given us an overview
of the way it works (pictured left - click for a larger
Calls are intercepted from within the carrier network
(so the carrier itself must be involved), and are then
processed through a complex system which eventually
leads to "network reinjection" where the ads
are played back within the call.
Telephore are very
pleased with this advertising technique, and they hope
that their upcoming partnerships with several large
carriers will lead to a substantial amount of revenue.
According to Telephore's marketing department, the
ads are unobtrusive and actually aid in the flow of
conversation, see the example below.
Almost inevitably, various individuals and campaign
groups have come out against the Telephore system. One
criticism is a simple on - why should subscribers get
ads in any case? Telephore claims that the ads are a
benefit to users as they actively target the needs and
interest of individuals.. and therefore the voice ads
are something that people will actually want.
critics say that the privacy implications have not fully
been considered. In particular, the way that Telephore
will play ads based on past conversations to other people
you are speaking to is a serious issue. For example,
if you call your doctor about an erectile disfunction
problem, then Telephore may well play back ads for Viagra
during subsequent phone calls.
Telephore say that they have addressed this problem,
partly through a comprehensive audit programme, but
mostly by moving operations offshore when privacy laws
are more relaxed. Telephore's press
releases show that the company is confident that
they are not doing anything wrong.
Somewhat disturbingly, their website alludes to partnerships
with companies [providing treatment] for medical
conditions, marital aids, pornography, gambling, alcohol
and firearms as being particularly popular, which
will be a worry for many people. The site also features
a large number of scantily-clad women, which is surely
The rumour are that Telephore has scored contracts
with several well-known mobile networks, so there is
a good chance that you will get to experience this new
form of contextual advertising sometime later this year.
- we discover an even more sinister truth about Telephore..