Is Eye Tracking a Privacy-Invading Technology?

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Eye-tracking technology has been in the news lately, thanks to rumors indicating that it would be included in the new Samsung Galaxy S4. As it turned out, Samsung’s Smart Scroll actually uses a different technology but, for the American Civil Liberties Union, this is still a good time to investigate whether these kinds of technologies pose any privacy risks.

In fact, even though the technology is still not ready for prime time, researchers note that its potential future impact on our privacy is huge.

“Once the technology for eye-tracking is in place, it will glean information conveying not only what we read online, but also how we read it,” writes UCLA electrical engineering professor John Villasenor. “Did our eyes linger for a few seconds on an advertisement that, in the end, we decided not to click on? How do our eyes move as they take in the contents of a page? Are there certain words, phrases, or topics that we appear to prefer or avoid? In the future, will we be served online ads based not only on what we’ve shopped for, but also on the thoughts reflected in our eye movements?”

SEE ALSO: How We Look at Online Ads
And this potential, for the ACLU’s Jay Stanley, could threaten privacy far beyond the limited confines of smartphone or computer screens. “It’s not hard to imagine that eye tracking could get good enough to be targeted at a person in public, at a distance—perhaps even someone walking down a sidewalk,” Stanley writes.

Stanley explains that tracking and collecting data on our eye movements could reveal a lot about us, such as whether a person has an alchol abuse problem or cognitive disorder, and even information on our intelligence and sexual orientation.

To learn more about this technology, check out the video above.

Image via iStockphoto, hidesy


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