Whatever you think about the way Google handles privacy these days, the course it's on mandates that to offer better, more futuristic services, it's got to gather more information. And one way Google's considered is actually listening to your calls for audio clues about where you are and what you need.
The Orwellian patent, which was filed for in 2008, outlines a method of listing to the background noise of your calls and translating that into information about what kind of ads you might respond to. So for example, you might get Amtrak ads if it hears trains nearby.
Here's the language from the patent:
Information about an environmental condition of a remote device is received, the environmental condition being determined based on a signal output from a sensor of the remote device or a sensor coupled to the remote device. An advertisement is identified based on the environmental condition, and the advertisement is provided to the remote device.
The patent also goes over a similar process for analyzing the backgrounds of photos, which raises similar concerns, but it's not quite on the level of the actual audio of your calls being monitored. All this comes with the standard patent spiel: Filing for a patent in no way means Google's actually looking into implementing this as a feature, or even that it has the tech to do it. It's a concept, but still kind of telling as far as the lengths it could be willing to go to deliver those ads. [US Patent Office via The Next Web]
Update: Google reached out to us with this statement about the patent filing:
We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications.