Google Media Consumption History Tracking

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If you use Google Maps for navigation, Google may track a mobile location history for you about the places you travel to. A patent granted to Google at the end of last month describes a media consumption history that Google may use to track information about the media you consume (concerts attended, TV shows and movies watched, music listened to, albums purchased), and the entities that create that content.

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They could use information from your media consumption history to answer queries that you may have about that media, and the entities involved in it

I have written about Google’s Media Consumption History in the past, focusing upon one of the patents that describe how they might use and understanding of entities that you have seen or heard on media might influence search results you may be shown in the post Google Media Consumption History Patent Filed. That post covered a patent application by the name of Query response using media consumption history.

That media consumption history allows Google to answer a query such as “Where have I seen this actor before?” for a movie that you are watching, and it might tell you when you may have seen that actor previously.

Google has written a few patents about media consumption history, and I wrote about some of the others in a post titled, How Google May Track the Media You Consume to Influence Search Results. That post fleshes out the topic by being about patents that cover: Personal media database, Determining media consumption preferences, and Displaying a summary of media content items.

This new Media Consumption History patent appears to be the first in the series, which was originally filed twice before in 2013 without leading to a granted patent; it has been filed again in 2016 and was granted on May 28, 2019.

One of the things that I find interesting is that it focuses so much upon entities, rather than keywords in queries. As the patent starts by telling us:

In general, a user can request information by inputting a query to a search engine. The search engine can process the query and can provide information for output to the user in response to the query. In addition to search results, the information provided for output to the user can include a summary of facts about an entity referenced by the query.

This Screenshot from the patent provides a quick overview of what the patent covers:

Media Consumption History

The Media Consumption History Process

The summary of the patent, in its description, tells us that the process behind the patent:

1. It is about “Consumed Content” – A system can identify content consumed by a user, as well as entities, e.g., singers, actors, musicians, writers, directors, television networks, or other production companies, associated with the consumed content.

2. That Consumed Content has something to do with a content item or an Entity, such as shown in a knowledge card, and will show items consumed by a searcher, such as movies or TV shows watched, songs listened to, concerts seen, etc.

3. A Knowledge Card might include recommendations for songs or movies from an entity whom the searcher already heard or seen in other works, along with other search results.

4. Records of past purchases of albums or concert tickets or movie tickets may be tracked as part of a person’s consumption history.

Entities in Your Media Consumption History

We see in this patent a reference to entity IDs that may be used to find and show knowledge elements for that Entity. These are the machine IDs that are associated with Google Trends, Reverse Image Search at Google, and are used in Google’s Knowledge Graph.

This patent defines a knowledge element as a known fact related to an entity or an item of content related to that entity.

These entities may be ranked based upon a level of familiarity of a searcher with that entity, which may lead to rank knowledge elements related to an entity.

The knowledge card that may be shown in response to a query may indicate what the searcher may have consumed related to the entity involved, whether tickets, or albums, or streaming music.

This first Media Consumption History patent can be found here:

Media consumption history
Inventors: Matthew Sharifi
Assignee: Google LLC
US Patent: 10,303,779
Granted: May 28, 2019
Filed: June 6, 2016


Methods, systems, and apparatus for receiving a request that includes a user identifier of a user that submitted a search query and an entity identifier of an entity that is referenced by the search query, identifying a plurality of knowledge elements that are related to the entity, identifying, in a consumption database, one or more items that have been indicated as consumed by the user and that are associated with the entity that is referenced by the search query, assigning rank scores to the plurality of knowledge elements, based at least on identifying the one or more items, select one or more of the knowledge elements from among the knowledge elements based at least on the rank scores assigned to the knowledge elements, and providing, in response to the request, information associated with the entity and the one or more selected knowledge elements.

Takeaways from this Patent

I’m reminded of the very personalized search results that Google will provide about Gmails that you’ve received, flights that you’ve booked, trip plans. This patent tracks your interactions with content that you consume, and your purchase history, in case you might wish to use Google to keep track of that information for you (like you may be doing with your location history.)

The fact that there are multiple patents about a person’s media consumption history indicates to me a possibility that Google may eventually offer media consumption history tracking to searchers, since they’ve pursued protecting the processes described in multiple patents, and have had search engineers focusing upon building such an offering.

The use of Machine IDs for entities is spreading through knowledge information that appears in search results, and the focus on entities in this patent shouldn’t be surprising – it feels like part of an evolution of search and evolution of Search Engines like Google.

Google is building up information about searchers and the entities that they choose to entertain them, much like it tracks connections between web pages, and tracks our search histories about the sites that we visit and spend time at

Would you allow Google to track your media consumption history?

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