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There's a new Skype competitor, dubbed ThePudding, on the Web. And ThePudding is completely free*. All you have to do is agree to let Pudding Media listen in on your calls. To compensate users for the breach of privacy, the company claims, "ThePudding uses breakthrough technology that makes your conversations fun and interesting." In other words, anyone using ThePudding will be served contextual ads based upon topics overheard in your conversation! It's like Google's Gmail, but for talking. Remember when we were freaked out by the idea of Google scanning our email to pick out relevant ads? And how we all got over it?


That's what Pudding Media CEO Ariel Maislos would have you believe, anyway. He explains, "The trade-off of getting personalized content versus privacy is a concept that is accepted in the world." Besides the firm is targeting youths, who judging from their MySpace and Facebook habits, aren't concerned with privacy. In other words, targeting the young and the weak. In an even greater affront to good taste, the company is also looking into ways to serve ads, via email or cellphone, to the unconsenting call recipient — not just ThePudding users. Like every good entrepreneur, Maislos is testing the frontiers of business ideas. But given the sensitivity of phone calls, he may have just crossed a line.