Free VoIP service eavesdrops on calls

A new start-up has developed technology that eavesdrops on your phone conversations and serves adverts that are relevant to the conversation.

Free VoIP service eavesdrops on calls

Pudding Media will use the technology to create a free VoIP-to-landline service called The Pudding, which requires users to watch advertisements on screen while talking. The service will allow users to call any landline number in the US and Canada.

The service works in much the same way as contextual advertising in Google’s GMail, where emails are scanned so that relevant adverts can be served. In Pudding Media’s system, speech recognition is used to transcribe conversations before scanning.

The analysis is performed on Puddingmedia’s servers in California, and no personal information will be retained once the conversation ends, the company insists.

The system is web-based, rather than application-based as with Skype. Users log in to the site to make calls, and adverts are shown in the same browser window. During registration you are asked to enter personal information including sex, age range, native language and post code to further improve the relevance of adverts.

Any words deemed offensive by the system are filtered out, to ensure that no innapropriate content is displayed.

The New York Times reports that the service worked well with certain keywords, but occasionally served an advert that seemed to be entirely irrelevant. “Sometimes crazy things pop up. It actually enriches the conversation, which is very cool,” Ariel Maislos, chief executive of Pudding Media, told the Times.

The company is currently looking to licence the technology, with obvious potential partners including companies such as Skype, which currently charge to connect callers to a landline or mobile telephone.

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