Microsoft has filed a patent to allow them to scrape your hard drive, searching through the contents of your files, to serve you targeted advertising that they just know you’ll want to see because it will be based on the contents of those files.
It’s kind of like having Bill Gates reading your computer over your shoulder and saying “Ooh, I have just the thing for you!”
And, highly invasive.
Looked at another way, Microsoft has just invented commercials for the computer. So if you are one of those who think that you have gotten rid of commercials by getting rid of your television, think again.
The abstract of the patent, which was filed on July 5th, says:
“An advertising framework registers context data sources and advertising display clients from a variety of resources on a local computer. The ad framework may then receive context data and display triggers from the registered context data sources. The context data and display triggers may be processed and an advertising request generated and sent to an external advertising source. Non-advertising content may also be supported. When a targeted advertisement is received in response, a display manager may send the ad to an appropriate display client. When the ad has been presented a the advertising framework will communicate to the advertising supplier who may apportion and credit advertising revenue to the participating parties.”
Ok, to put this in plain English:
“A Microsoft advertising software component notes all of the various data in the files on your computer, along with the places where ads may be displayed in your programs. It then reaches out across the Internet from your computer, telegraphing your advertising profile based on the data in your files, and retrieves ads to be displayed on your computer. When the advertisment is received in response to that request, part of the Microsoft advertising software will send the ad to a window of a program you are using on your computer.” Your computer.
So which files will they be snooping in on your computer? Only most of them, including your email. The patent says that the data source will include “user document files, user email, user music files, podcast files, computer status messages, and a profile database storing existing tag data.”
And what programs will it co-opt to serve you these ads? Says the patent application:
“The application program may use different techniques for displaying the advertisement, depending on the media and particular format of a particular advertisement. For example, a word processor may display a banner ad along the top of a window, similar to a toolbar, while a graphical ad may be displayed in a frame associated with the application. A digital editor for photos or movies may support video-based advertisements. To illustrate one embodiment, a movie editor sends context data related to frequent help file queries that results in a targeted advertisement for a tool directed to that subject matter. The advertisement may also include an instructional video on a related topic to increase the viewer interest or promote further investigation. Advertising may not be limited to visual media formats. Audio-only advertisements may be directed to any compatible display client, particularly those with limited graphical exposure, such as a local search utility.”
In addition, the patent application goes on to say that “the display of advertisements or other content may not be limited to application programs, such as application programs. The operating system, system tools, or system utilities may also use a display client to display advertising and other content.”
As to the mechanism to transmit your contextual data (the profile of you that it scrapes from your files), the patent application explains how it hijacks your Internet connection:
“The advertising manager may maintain a connection, such as the Internet, to send advertising requests and receive advertisements or other content. Included in these requests, the advertising manager will determine what data should be sent with the advertising requests including such information as the number and types of advertising that should be received.”
And, of course, the patent application explains why they are applying for this patent, which we already know, when it cops to the fact that it is “a method of selecting, displaying, and monetizing advertisements at an advertising framework on a computer.”
So, how do you feel about having “Ads by Microoooosoft” show up on your PC, in your program windows served up based on data swiped from your files on your hard drive?
Microsoft: What do you want to buy today?
And you can read about here about ISPs inserting their own ads into your browsing experience.