I don’t mean that figuratively, as in it makes it too tempting to resist or something. I mean it literally. TiVo has long run ads with links to request more information, etc, with just one click. But now it is going one step further. One of the current ads is for Cosmopolitan magazine, and you can subscribe to the magazine with just one click. That’s it, no confirmation require. One click and you’re subscribed. At least you’re invoiced via snail mail, which can give you a chance to cancel the subscription. But it is still a pain to deal with. Dave Zatz of Zatz Not Funny posted a video of this today:
In the video he mentions how this is risky because someone could accidentally click on it. Or maybe a roommate or a visiting friend could click on it as a joke. Or someone else in the household, like a child, could click on it. The thing is, this is not hypothetical!
Beware the Gold Star ads! I am still steaming about thisâ€¦ My son had just finished watching a recorded episode of Little House on the Prairie when a gold star advertisement for Cosmopolitan magazine appeared asking to click here to find out Menâ€™s top 10 sexy secrets. Of course, being curious, he clicked on it and was given two options: No, Iâ€™m sexy enough, and Yes, I want to know the secrets (or something like that). He clicked Yes and a screen came up saying thank you for subscribing to the magazine!
When I called TiVo, they were kind enough to turn off the gold stars on my system, but could not do anything about the purchase. I am currently dealing with Cosmopolitan about this.
This is just going way too far. I had no idea that TiVo would abuse my credit card information in this way. Let alone the fact that my nine year old was subjected to this adult-themed advertising after a childrenâ€™s show!
Now, it seems that Jenny may have been in error about the credit card issue, since Dave’s video indicates that you’re invoiced via snail mail. (Or perhaps that has changed in the past month.) But that doesn’t make this any less of an issue. As I said at the time, and have said repeatedly in the past, TiVo needs to put some kind of PIN/Password security on all such features. Period.
Anything that causes you to purchase or subscribe to any goods or services should require a PIN entry for confirmation by default. And it should be set to something by default, even 00000. Personally, I think this should also be included on anything that causes any personal information to be released to any third parties, even without a purchase. Allow owners to disable the PIN entry if they wish to do so, via the configuration menus. But then it is a personal choice to do so, and the user is given the option.
I am all for commerce in the TiVo interface. I’d love to see more of it. You know those History Channel shows with “Now you can buy the DVD of this program” ads? Give me the option to buy it right there from the TiVo UI. Commercials for products? Let me order them online right from the couch. Give the QVC addicts the ability to purchase right from the remote. Go for it, I’m game. But offer some security to the process. Personally I’m not too concerned – I’m single, I live alone, and my friends aren’t jerks who think it is funny to order things in my name. So I’d probably turn the PIN entry off. But I still think it should be there as an option because I know this is an issue for a number of people. I have many TiVo-owning friends with small children. And children love to play with remotes, etc. My mother likes to tell the story of how I managed to dial a local telephone operator when I was quite young. No big deal – except I managed to dial an operator in Hawaii, and we lived in New York. Kids push buttons. That’s some kind of law of nature. And even if they’re old enough to know what they’re doing parents might want to control what the kids, or babysitter, etc, can do from the TiVo – without resorting to KidZone.
As for the targeting, I agree with Jenny. I’m far, far from being any kind of prude, but an ad for Cosmo on Little House? Swing and a miss! The ads should probably be ‘rated’ and paired with TV shows of the same, or higher, rating. There is another discussion at TiVoCommunity about the content of TiVo’s ads. In that case one user was upset by the TiVo Central advertisement for the free Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Show download from Amazon Unbox. The objection is to TiVo advertising ‘prurient’ content. Personally I think that’s way over-stated, but to each his own. The ad itself doesn’t contain prurient content, and at least with Unbox you can’t order without the PIN. (And yes, for the record I have downloaded it. Though I only watched the first bit to see just what it was. I haven’t had time to watch the rest yet.)
TiVo needs to improve their ad targeting, but even more important is giving TiVo owners the ability to restrict the ability to order things from the TiVo interface.