Marketing firm admits it listens to conversations to sell targeted ads

Cox Media Group (CMG) has reportedly been monitoring conversations through microphones in smartphones, TVs, and smart speakers in order to target ads, a capability they call “Active Listening.” Working with major brands like CBS, Fox News, and ESPN, CMG has been promoting this service to advertisers and showcasing it on their website. This has sparked concern in the PPC community, with SEO consultant Gelnn Gabe and Google Ads expert Steve Huskey warning about potential consequences and calling it an invasion of privacy. CMG claims that its Active Listening technology can identify potential customers in real-time through everyday conversations and has been actively pitching this product, even promoting it on LinkedIn. Although the company did not respond to Search Engine Land’s request for comment, a promotional post on its website touted the ability to target potential clients based on their conversations, claiming that CMG has the capabilities to use this voice data to benefit businesses. The SEO community is left speculating on the potential repercussions and implications of this monitoring, especially in the context of increased concerns about privacy and the phasing out of third-party cookies. These developments have taken the industry by surprise, and people are raising alarm about the invasion of privacy and ethical implications of such practices. The situation highlights the need for advertisers and marketers to consider privacy best practices and develop more responsible and ethical approaches to targeting their audiences.

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