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New Ad Technology Tracks Consumer Movement 263

Posted by michael
from the wallets-with-legs dept.
mingrassia writes "Over at CNN: New technology tracks consumer movement, flashes messages and calls out to passersby. Meet the Human Locator. It's a new technology developed by Canadian ad agency Freeset Interactive that purports to detect when humans are near, track their movement, and then broadcast messages directed at them on a nearby screen. Conspiracy theorists can relax, however. The Human Locator can't yet identify, say, obese pedestrians and then bombard them with images of a cheeseburger and fries."
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New Ad Technology Tracks Consumer Movement

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:41PM (#10164980)
    In Minority Report. Next thing you know I'll have to change my eyes.
    • identifying you and your eating habits is what the RFID tags are for
      • Bring on the edible RFID tags which lodge in the eaters gut!

        By the time you have waddled up to the counter, your favorite happy fun meal will be ready for you!

        Ths convenience!
    • by cgenman (325138) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @09:40PM (#10165504) Homepage
      I went to the grocery store the other day, and as I was walking up close to the door the darned thing opened for me. It was the weirdest thing ever. Then, when I got to the other side... It closed.

      Creepy.

      • by krogoth (134320) <slashdot@garandne[ ]et ['t.n' in gap]> on Monday September 06, 2004 @02:57AM (#10166887) Homepage
        Here's your chance to get on the slashdot frontpage! Submit something about how stores... no, the government... wait, the Illuminati, that's it, are tracking you, and using their telekinesis powers to open doors in front of you. They're only doing it in stores now, so it can be explained away with technology, but it's only a matter of time before they have total control over us.

        That would be about as accurate as this story, so you should have no trouble getting it accepted.
    • I'm just waiting for the day some bastard goatse's a electronic bill board overlooking a highway... lets hope they're smart enough to keep them "unplugged" from the net. It could happen to your (net) fridge - good way to keep people away from the fridge tho... we shall call it the goatse diet. Keeping fatties thin. U G H .
  • or yet... (Score:5, Funny)

    by vistic (556838) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:44PM (#10164988)
    The Human Locator can't yet identify, say, obese pedestrians and then bombard them with images of a cheeseburger and fries.
    ....or yet identify a slashdot geek and advertise case mods, acne cream, video games, and dating services.
    • I require none of those. you clearly fail.
    • by evslin (612024)
      ....or yet identify a slashdot geek and advertise case mods, acne cream, video games, and dating services.

      Or how about a new copy of 1984?

      /ducks
    • To paraphrase an Australian sketch comedy show.

      Can you imagine if the store keeper turned up the "Directness" setting.

      "Get in here ya fat mole!"

      Shocked at that comment he tries to turn up the "Political" option.

      "Fat moles welcome!"

    • Or you're out walking your dog or just happen to be carrying a long stick and it advertises miracle eye treatments and Braille Books.

  • by terrymaster69 (792830) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:46PM (#10164993)
    So they've finally found a way to bring pop-up ads into the real-world...

    I guess it was only a matter of time. Now I need some kind of pop-up blocker!

    Hmm...maybe a tinfoil hat will work??

  • No big deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MiKM (752717) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:46PM (#10164997)
    I don't see why this is revolutionary technology. This could have been done for years, with basic motion-detector technology. I also don't see why this would make ads any more "localized" than any other print billboards. I don't see why people would mind a billboard talking to them either, it's not as if they haven't heard any other recorded voices being played back.

    Anyways, this technology seems redundant and pointless. Researchers should spend their time working on something useful than coming up with a billboard that lights up when you pass.
    • Re:No big deal (Score:2, Interesting)

      by BarfBits (94167)
      At first glance at "consumer movement" I thought
      about a revolutionary toilet device that examined
      what consumers were, well, consuming. And then
      an advertisement would flash in front of the captive
      audience. I guess that would be too revolutionary.
      • I thought about a revolutionary toilet device that examined what consumers were, well, consuming

        Just stick ads for Metamucil [metamucil.com] or Imodium [imodium.com] on the inside of bathroom stall doors. Chances are the toilet device would find out that most are either constipated or have diarrhea anyway.

    • This reminds me of when I was at a checkout at christmas time. There was a christmas display with these motion activated toys that would sing christmas carols and other poorly rendered tunes and singing. You know the ones, dancing santas, talking christmas trees, and that god awful singing fish!

      The checkout person was about ready to throttle the next person/child that was about to activate the toys because of the never ending barage of small petty annoyances.

      I can easily see an ad system that talks to co

    • Re:No big deal (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DoraLives (622001)
      this technology seems redundant and pointless

      Oh ye of little imagination. Just you wait, till they marry it with face recognition technology. And after that they're gonna be going after your general "look," what you're wearing, where exactly you are when it spots you, how much disposable money you actually have in your accounts at the time, and on and on and on.

      There will be a great outcry over this, and the upshot will be large corporations (Do we even want to bring the government into this scenerio? No,

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:47PM (#10165000)
    YOU DO NOT KNOW BE MUT PLEASE TO INTRODUCE myself. i mean know harm to , and god willing, only good shall come from this video screen. i am alandra seko seso, of the african republic of....
  • by Prof.Phreak (584152) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:48PM (#10165003) Homepage
    I'd imagine they'd start with `identification' of the sort of "average color on the moving blob/person", then (in a few years) move to female/male recognition (to better target ads), then to possibly scanning various chips embeded in your teeth for a positive match of who you are, and how often you pass by that ad.
  • Hmmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by value_added (719364) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:49PM (#10165011)
    "It's a new technology ... that purports to detect when humans are near, track their movement, and then broadcast messages directed at them ..."

    Seems to me I already get that at freeway off-ramps.
  • GPS Stalker (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Poeir (637508) <poeir.geo@yahoTWAINo.com minus author> on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:51PM (#10165016) Journal
    Uh, wasn't it just three articles ago we were talking about a GPS stalker [slashdot.org], and it was a bad thing that one person was tracking one other person? Does many to many, instead of one to one, make it okay?
  • Fine (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord_Dweomer (648696) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:52PM (#10165028) Homepage
    You know, I read this, and immediately got pissed off. Then I realized something. If a company wants to make that special effort, wants to go that extra mile, just to PISS ME OFF, thats fine. Let them waste their money. When a company pisses me off, I remember that company, and not in a good way. Yeah, they got brand recognition all right, just not the kind they wanted.

    I will just make sure I go that extra mile to avoid buying their products, and make sure I inform people of why.

    So to all /.ers who will get up in arms over this...don't. It is inevitable that this technology will be developed. They will use it to intrude on our lives. But remember, ultimately you have a choice (until the law states otherwise) about whether or not they get your dollars. And if they don't, they just wasted all that cash on something that will just lose them customers.

    If you really want to do something about it, write to the company (and the ad agency they use) and let them know that you will be buying the product of a competitor who uses less intrusive, annoying advertising. Its as simple as that, and you don't have to stress about anything.

    • Re:Fine (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TCM (130219)
      They will use it to intrude on our lives. But remember, ultimately you have a choice (until the law states otherwise) about whether or not they get your dollars.

      "What? You say our ads are not leading to increased sales? We need even more and better directed ads!"
    • Are you nuts? You and I can avoid the company in question due to shameless pandering but how many idiots are just going to think "O wow, that ad knew I came near and spake unto me! Cool!" without thinking beyond that? That's right - the same who click on all those popups, reply to spam, obediently watch commercials, etc, etc. Unless you plan to sit by these ads with a bat to club those enchanted by it I don't see why I shouldn't stress about it.
    • And you know what REALLY pisses me off? When the computer magazines I read come with computer ads. And when I read Slashdot, I get geek ads. How dare they presume to know what I like and target ads at me?

      [end sarcasm]

      If I'm going to read ads anyway, I'd personally rather have them actually be interesting rather than be about, say, feminine hygiene products.

    • Re:Fine (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JanneM (7445) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @08:15PM (#10165141) Homepage
      Unfortunately, it doesn't really work that way. Negative or not, they did get brand recognition. You may think that company X are rear orifices for advertising laundry detergent Y in this way, but at least you remember detergent Y.

      Three weeks later, as you are standing in the aisle, choosing a detergent from the fivehundredmillion varieties dumped upon us, you will react emotionally to the sight of detergent Y. You do not have an emotional reaction (positive or negative) to the others. Of course, it been three weeks, so you don't actually remember why you have a reaction. The negativity was most likely attached to the company, not the brand, and since you don't really recall the connection to the company, the negative attributions are mostly gone. All you remember is that you have emotions for detergent Y and not for the others.

      Guess what? You are more likely to buy it.

    • I agree that's what should be done, and like to think I would do exactly as you suggest. I have a feeling there won't be enough people doing so to make a difference though. The reason for my pessamisim is movies. Everyone I know gets annoyed by the commercials at the beggining of them, but 99.9% also just passively sit through them instead of arriving fifteen minutes late or just leaving for a while when the theater darkens.
    • well that principle doesn't work on me, I see all the disgusting ads for Gap, Old Navy etc. and walk right past them all at the mall and straight into Bannana Republic.

      Oh they're the same company....crap....
    • I just loved an insurance company in Berkeley that thought a good way to market its product, was to leave a flyer that looked like the local parking tickets on my car window.

      Sure got my attention, and I'll remember them forever -- its been over five years, and I'm sure I'll never buy from them.
  • Say... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:52PM (#10165030)
    "Hello, Sir. You look like a man who nees a larger penis!"
  • Fried detetor (Score:4, Interesting)

    by penguinoid (724646) <spambait001@yahoo.com> on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:53PM (#10165038) Homepage Journal
    It's probably illegal, but does anyone know a way to (permanantly) disable a digital camera? Would a laser pointer do it? Not that I would do anything of the sort, of course.
    • Re:Fried detetor (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sydb (176695)
      Like the other poster said, a hammer would work, but you'd probably end up with a court appearance.

      An easy non-destructive disabler would be good old fashioned duct tape.
    • Spray paint, Spray oil, Slingshot, Baseball bat (or a Cricket bat for the English), Shotgun, Flame thrower, Huuuuge Friggen Laser... MUUUHAHAHAHA!!!

      Pardon, couldn't resist it.

    • Although parent requested permanant disablement, I would not advocate such a level of vandalism. Silly String should be even better than the previous suggestion of duct tape for non-destructive occlusion of detested digital detectors. In most cases it can be applied from out of range. Witnesses would most likely be amused. Even if caught, chances are that charges will not be filed as removal is trivial and of minimal, if any, cost.
    • Re:Fried detetor (Score:3, Interesting)

      by G-funk (22712)
      Selleys All-Clear should do it nicely, and be hard to notice on the lense with a casual glance.
  • OK.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by dr_labrat (15478) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {renoops}> on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:55PM (#10165043) Homepage
    Conspiracy theorists can relax, however. The Human Locator can't yet identify, say, obese pedestrians and then bombard them with images of a cheeseburger and fries.


    Sooo. What fucking good is it, then???

  • great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by t_allardyce (48447) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @07:55PM (#10165045) Journal
    If companies (walmart for example) are willing to sell data such as who bought which product containing rfid tag x then the advertisers just need to scan for certain rfid ids and figure out what to try and sell the person. Just remember its your duty to make sure these sorts of databases are filled with the most useless crap you can think of!
  • by CygnusXII (324675) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @08:00PM (#10165069)
    What is going to happen when the DBases from the Frequent User Programs, RFiD's and Locator Combine?
    It's just a matter of time. All that Data available, and when someone figures out it is Sellable, crosslinkable and updatable (via RFiD detection.) You think they are going to Turn those little suckers off after purchase? You think they will not develop its' range ability and storage capacity to it maximum abilites. It will become the greatest marketing and tracking, and profiling tool since targeted marketing was developed. Then to top it all off the data that the GOV. has and swore would never be used inappropriately, why that's just sitting there to be tapped. If they cannot keep track of simple floppies, and Top Secret Data what makes you think they are going to be able to maintain Non Secret Databases.
  • by toetagger1 (795806) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @08:02PM (#10165073)
    So when I walk out of Victoria Secret, will I see some advertisement with pritty woment withouth much clothign?
  • by whovian (107062) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @08:03PM (#10165078)
    It's called directed sound [wordspy.com]. There was also a big deal made about it for the Republican convention (e.g., here [uslaboragainstwar.org] and here [rednova.com]). as a crowd control measure.
  • Umm... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xshare (762241) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @08:05PM (#10165091) Homepage
    So it's basically just a motion detector with some fancy bells and whistles (ie, can tell if you're walking away)? What's the big deal? It's not like it's gonna give try and market special ads to individual people, or that when you leave the vicinity of the ad fixture it even remembers you.

    • > So it's basically just a motion detector with some fancy bells and whistles (ie, can tell if you're walking away)?

      Yeah, it's about as scary as an automatic door opener.

      (If this kind of thing gets too prevalent and obnoxious, you can always sell your soul like Bart did.)

      • at work there was a butter tub display that activated it's speaker when someone walked by, i wanted to smash the damned thing every day, i don't remember what happened to it, though i assume it wasn't an accident.
    • In Canada someone's income and spending is a closely guarded secret.

      But you can give your credit card and debit records for the last 20 years to each girlfriend, potential employer, and investor if you want.
      • But that's not what this is. It doesn't monitor what you buy, it doesnt monitor who you are, NOTHING. All it does, is can tell if someones near. Like the other poster said, it's just like an automatic door. Oh no.
  • fat family (Score:2, Funny)

    by eliphas_levy (68486) *
    The Human Locator can't yet identify, say, obese pedestrians and then bombard them with images of a cheeseburger and fries.

    They already do that, it's called TV ads. Maybe it can go a way ahead targeting the dud that got outside to buy more cheeseburger and fries.
  • by PsiPsiStar (95676) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @08:08PM (#10165107)
    can it pick up chicks?

    Wasn't this technology developed by construction workers quite some time ago?

    It's sad when a human being's job is replaced by a machine. Of course, it it can't recognize fat people, then I suppose the technology still has a ways to go in this regards.
  • I don't know about you, but it's not gonna work for me. I have become desensitized to advertisements of any form. When commercials come on TV, my mind automatically switches to zombie mode and my eyes glaze over. Although I can process what I'm seeing, nothing that I see on TV actually tempts me to go out and become a consumer of the product.

    The same is magnified for internet advertisements. When I see a pop-up window, I automatically close it. Even if a webpage is flooded with banners and advertisements
    • I don't know about you, but it's not gonna work for me. I have become desensitized to advertisements of any form. When commercials come on TV, my mind automatically switches to zombie mode and my eyes glaze over. Although I can process what I'm seeing, nothing that I see on TV actually tempts me to go out and become a consumer of the product.

      That's a real good point. Ironically, the only sales that get helped by TV commercials in my case are something they aren't even allowed to advertise on TV: cigaret
  • Big fricken deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aussie_a (778472) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @08:13PM (#10165125) Journal
    I'm seeing either funny posts or angry posts about this. So to those who are angry, who gives a shit?

    Does this technology identify who I am yet? No. Does it identify where I go yet? No. Does it identify what I have brought yet? No. Then what's the big deal? These advertisements don't intrude upon you anymore then current adverts do. They just pop up when they see a person as opposed to always being shown.

    Most likely people feel it WILL do a lot of the things I just said. But I have to ask, are they such a bad thing? The biggest problem is most likely won't get to decide if the ad does a lot of the stuff I just said, but what if you could opt-in. Would you care then? They aren't going to show more ads JUST because of this technology, so why not opt-in to have them target the ads to you? I know I wouldn't mind on one proviso, I could fill out a form saying "I don't wish it to take into consideration anything involving sex that I buy" (condoms, porno, etc). If the advertising companies allowed for that sort of control on our part, I think many people would use it.

    Imagine instead of having to watch yet another viagra advertisement or another herpes ad or another car ad, you got to see ads about the latest video game, some special on ram. Now wouldn't you much prefer that to a toyota ad. And if you don't, don't opt-in. But people are forgetting advertisements aren't a bad thing, it's just a lot of the time they're not interesting to us and therefore a waste of time. If they could stop being useless, they'd be useful.
    • Not YET (Score:4, Insightful)

      by houghi (78078) on Monday September 06, 2004 @07:08AM (#10167554)
      Does this technology identify who I am yet? No. Does it identify where I go yet? No. Does it identify what I have brought yet? No. Then what's the big deal?

      It is very reasuring to know that because it is not possible now, we have nothing to worry about. With this assurence, I can have unprotected sex with anybody I like, because I have no AIDS yet.

      Seriously, the danger lies in that small word yet that means that sooner or later it WILL be possibe. I realy must re-read 1984 and see how the people are so willingly hand over any privacy they had for companies and/or governement.

      Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy. And be happy.
  • Blob tracking software applied to a video input. I considered a program to trace a series of paths taken by walkers in a store.

    Here is a link:

    http://vismod.media.mit.edu/tech-reports/TR-372/ no de4.html
  • ...can't yet identify, say, obese pedestrians...

    Have you ever seen an obese pedestrian? No? Didn't think so. Obese people don't walk. That's why they're obese.

    Humbly submitted to the mods, who can fight over whether this is insightful, funny, troll, or flamebait.

  • by bayerwerke (513829) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @08:21PM (#10165169) Homepage
    Imagine how much advertising is wasted on animals, objects, the sky, moon, ect.. Now the technology is here to target only people. What a breakthrough !
  • by DarkHelmet (120004) <mark@@@seventhcycle...net> on Sunday September 05, 2004 @08:23PM (#10165173) Homepage
    Any technology that will prevent me from ever having to see or hear a tampon or yeast infection commercial ever again is fine by my book.
    • The advertising for these products in the states is completely tasteless and derogitory towards women.

      These ads were increadibly offensive. I'm not increadibly sensitive about women's rights (they make up 50% of the world they can better their own lot bwahhahahaha, well not really.)

      Just so some people don't misunderstand that you are insulting products for feminine hygine based on sexism.
  • It would have to be a really small town, with very few people for that to be of any use. In any half decent city, the billboard won't be able to change fast enough and if it is really directed at small number of people, then what's the point? It is much better to target a large number of people at an offramp with a static display.
  • It seems to me that, like most other advertising, this is a waste of time and money. Persuading people to buy more than they need or to buy a certain product for a silly reason is not a social good. I wish business people would devote more of their effort to providing useful information about their products. It is still often quite difficult to find out what you really want to know about a product or to compare products effectively. Indeed, in some ways the situation is getting worse. Sony Stores, for inst

  • if this billboard in piccadilly circus can tell that you are waving at it [geek.com] then another could certainly estimate bulk...

  • Similar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xombo (628858) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @09:24PM (#10165421)
    This could eventually be expanded to resemble Amazon's product reccomendations based upon what you're wearing, what sort of items are in your bag (RFID), etc. I just can't wait until it gets as bad as Snow Crash [amazon.com] where they can hack into the LCDs implanted into your eyes and display commercials constantly until you commit suicide.
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Sunday September 05, 2004 @10:09PM (#10165657) Homepage Journal
    one of the guys at Freeset Interactive gets home, and sits down for a bottle of beer. His dear mother calls him on the phone. "Honey, what did you do at work today?"

    Proud of his latest effort, our hero replies, "Well Mom, we just discovered a way to help advertisers track people and shove ads down their throats at every possible opportunity. I think this is going to make us a big bundle of money!"

    Dear sweet Mother replies: "You know, I've never told you this until now, but you're adopted. We picked you up from an adoption service in the States."

  • by Colonel Cholling (715787) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @10:25PM (#10165727)
    Conspiracy theorists can relax, however.

    Sure, that's just what THEY want us to do...
  • by BillX (307153) on Sunday September 05, 2004 @10:26PM (#10165732) Homepage
    Imagine when the human-targeting billboard people get together with the RFID people before descending on your nearest Wal~Mart. Can't tell skinny people from fat, male from female, you say? Once most products have RFID tags, it'll be a simple matter to differently target the person whose cart just rolled up with FUBU t-shirts and 13 bottles of Jheri Curl vs. the one with a stack of flannels and a gross of shotgun shells. (And telling the Size 8 purchases from the Size 18 purchases is more trivial still.) The beauty is these guys don't even have to correlate anything with actual purchases nor tie into a specific customer's Preferred Card database profile for this targeting method to be effective (although that might not stop 'em from trying anyway).
  • I for one eagerly await the growing population of quasi-intelligent robots just so I can torment them on new and exciting levels. Such as going to stores in order to find a combination of items that when obtained will overload the robots memory capacity and literally blow it's little mind.
    • as going to stores in order to find a combination of items that when obtained will overload the robots memory capacity and literally blow it's little mind.

      1x "Linux Journal Issue 35"
      1x "TDK 40/10/42 CDRW drive"
      1x "Trojan Condoms 12 pk."


      WARNING!
      Does not compute! Does not compute! Does not compute! Does not compute! Does not... PFFT! BZZZT!!
  • by Deliveranc3 (629997) <deliverance.level4@org> on Sunday September 05, 2004 @10:42PM (#10165807) Journal
    The thing about this is the Canadian government is commited to transparency to a far greater extent than any government I've heard of before. If you authorize a questionable contract you can expect the canadian public to track you closely.

    Canadian politicians make far less than other politicians ($150,000 aprox for an mp, $100,000 for an mpp). They theoretically do it because they love our country. But they have denied technological transparency, such as streaming their day onto the internet or allowing their meetings to be tracked on the internet, which seems pretty suspicious to me. I have no problems with totally free information (I think people will get bored of watching pamela anderson [note:she's canadian] showering after a few days) and use the information practically.

    However I think the first step towards removing privacy is for the government to do it, as public servants it's almost their responsability.

    Think what you can learn just by talking to an elderly person now imagine being able to watch their whole life.

    Got a bit off topic but basically the Canadian government is allowing businesses to collect information in one area while a perfect group for testing and transparancy goes ignored.

    I can't say "shame on the Canadian Government" for not implementing it, because it's a new conecpt and there are emotional reservations but I really think allowing the retail sector to do it first is terrible.
  • The local main USPS branch has just put in an automated postage kiosk; next to it, there is a sign with a motion detector, every time you get near it blares out a loud advertizement for the thing.

    After the fourth or fifth time accidentally setting the thing off, I wanted to slap the sign. I mean, what would you do to a human who harassed you with advertizing in this manner? I can't imagine the idiocy we'll see before anything as slick as "Minority Report."
  • by thrill12 (711899) * on Monday September 06, 2004 @07:00AM (#10167530) Journal
    So let's see my alternative: we could track people much easier using RF-wave detection.

    In Europe, many people carry GSM's. You could analyze the number of different RF-waves going around, and based upon the sensed channels and TDMA(GSM)-timeslots [iec.org] (max 8 in 1 GSM channel of 200khz) calculate what the 'cell-density' would be. If it's high, it means many people are calling, having their phones on standby, GPRS [gsmworld.com]'ing or UMTS [attwireless.com]'ing. The potential is huge.
    Based on specific data on the sort of transmission, you could theoretically even sense which type of transmission they are using, and base your screen-based advertisments on that. This way, you can grasp the potential customer even more and increase your net income. The potential is huge.
    Imagine people that like to UMTS a lot - you could flash 'Go to http://www..com' in front of their eyes! Heck if - mind that I am not encouraging anything here - we could decode GSM-data we could even listen in and analyze their behaviour upon their conversations. Or grasp their phonenumbers/email-adresses/visited websites in detail. Imagine interactive spamming - the potential is huge.

    This was another episode of "preaching to the converted".

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