If youre posting in jest, that is amusing if youre not:
Firstly, let me premise this by saying I DONT think they have integrated micrphones into digital set-top boxes but at least here in the UK, we have to
(in theory, and sometimes by contract) plug out boxes back into our telephone lines so in THEORY they can send data back to the manufacturer.
I know again that at least in the UK, viewing figures are collected by a special box, as they are in general in the US as far as I'm aware. These
are given to specific homes to cater to different 'tastes' and 'lifestyles'. It would be possible to check what people view by storing the
information in NVRAM or some sort of memory inside the box, but that would require either the power to be left on all the time, or an onboard battery,
but then that can be explained away very easily.
To check each chip individually would be very time-consuming, and I assume you identify a micrphone by its size and shape (the old coil type). These
days, they have made microphones based on silicon-on-insulator technology, for use in monitors and other computer products where size is important.
That's just one suitable product, and I'm sure the military have had them for years before that was available. At least in the UK I could buy from
from Farnell who provide electronics equipment, and they aren't that expensive, so if I bought them in bulk for onboard electronics, well they'd
probably add a few pence per box.
See, it says PINHEAD SIZED... That is almost impossible to see. And I could order those right now if I had any useful need for them.
Cameras is a completely different thing though and you would probably notice one, and while I agree that these days, computers can and do monitor
almost everything we do online and over the phone by artificial intelligence keywords, they do as you said require humans to check and repair. But
one server farm could monitor MILLIONS of people, and require at the most twenty people if that to monitor, repair and service.
Sorry, but while I agree they aren't monitoring people via STBs, it is technically feasible to add a microphone in theory, but not in practice, and
computers CAN and DO monitor us, and they require less maintenance and monitoring than you might assume. Camera's, my phone has two SMT mounted on
the board, so why can't a STB since its much bigger, but you'd need at least several gig to record a few frames of 1MP or better every 30 seconds or
so. While that MAY explain the price of STBs in Europe (where they are usually subsidized over the lifetime of your subscription, I don't know about
the US), its unlikely.
So to sum up - do I think they do it? Yes, but NOT in STBs, they DO monitor phones and Internet use because its far easier and doesn't require that
much more interaction on their part than they already currently do.
EDIT: Minor editing spelling errors, excuse any I left.
[edit on 20-3-2009 by ejsaunders]