Microsoft Patents Scraping Your Hard Drive to Deliver Targeted Ads – Yes, Microsoft Invents Commercials for the Computer

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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.

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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?

P.S. You can read the patent here: Patent for a method of selecting, displaying, and monetizing advertisements at an advertising framework on a computer from the data on a computer’s hard drive

And you can read about here about ISPs inserting their own ads into your browsing experience.

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16 thoughts on “Microsoft Patents Scraping Your Hard Drive to Deliver Targeted Ads – Yes, Microsoft Invents Commercials for the Computer

  1. Billy Gates… I only use windoze because my graphics card (Nvidia 8600GT) isn’t supported very well by Linux yet. And because Windows is so good for piracy etc.

    But srsly… they do this and I’ll do more than switch. When the uberhackers start cracking M$ operating and distributing them on bit torrent I’ll go directly to the Redmond office AND LAUGH!.

    Seriously… capitalism is getting out of control. I can see why ppl would want communism etc…

  2. commercials for the pc? – TV and PC will merge in a short time anyway.. it’ll all be ‘systemized’ – all this ‘reading of the persons computer for advertising reasons’ is just a euphemism for how they are fine-tuning their orwellian nightmare.. once up and running and somewhat complete you wont have mac or linux anymore [notice the new pc and mac commercials, sure they poke fun at MS but they still are standing side by side in those ads aren’t they] it’ll all get brought out and put away (like general westinghouse and their little device that makes electricity – google tesla-type inventions) — vote with your wallet, it’s the only thing they listen to

  3. This idea would be the ultimate
    invasion of our privacy…I so would NOT be for this AT ALL.

  4. My respect for Mr. Gates has really dwindled to almost nothing. I can’t believe what people will do for money, even those who have plenty. I can see where something like this opens the Pandora’s Box for ultimate abuses. I always thought that “ads” helped pay for the product. Since we have all purchased the software AND the machines and are paying for ISP use, why should we have to put up with yet MORE ads? I am really hoping that this is only for a “sign up and get a discount” sort of deal, (opt in) but we all know how THAT works. Pretty soon it just takes over and then we ALL have to put up with it since greedy people are never happy. (why have only SOME of the computers when we could have them all!) I will also go to a MAC before I put up with this. This is a true insult to the intelligence of every single computer owner and operator. BIG BROTHER, ANYONE?

  5. If this is allowed, everyone that has purchased any Microsoft product should automatically be refunded 100% of all monies spent on Microsoft products – no questions asked. This would be the ultimate PRIVACY INVASSION.

  6. I see that this gives me permission to try to crack into MS computers to sift though all their proprietary files to see if I can sell them anything. Wouldn’t it be great if someone could figure out how to have a banner pop up at every MS office workstation (hee hee)

  7. The idea of such an advertising service scares me as well, but just because they’re applying for a patent doesn’t mean that it’ll be shipping with the next version of Windows. It is possible that it’s being considered as an add-on service for applications like an internet cafe. Just trying to consider all the options before I pass judgement.

  8. This is lovely-NOT! Since when does the Borg own MY data? That’s why I use Linux as my primary OS… unlike Windows, it doesn’t have to “call home” to work – it just works.
    You can bet your last dollar that I won’t be using any more Microshaft OS’s if I can avoid it.

  9. This is the last straw! Going to switch to Mac, too. So weary of all the problems and the time wasted rectifying them.

  10. Well, I, for one, think that this idea of Bill Gates is soooooooo much of an invasion of MY privacy that it has helped me make the decision I’ve been trying to make for a few months now. I’m buying a Mac!! I’m fed up with all the b/s passed out by Microsoft and all the “stuff” we have to put up with because they justify it as something needing to be done. I’ll be advising alot of folks to buy Mac’s also. I do volunteer work and teach senior citizens how to use computers and advise them on what system to buy, what they may want to consider having installed on them, etc., etc. You can bet your sweet bippy that this old bat will be backing The Apple Corp. and their Mac computers from here on out.
    Bill Gates? Keep you nose outta my computer system!! This is MY computer and MY software. I bought and paid for it and for the license to use it. No where does it state that you can just “assume” that I won’t mind if you start watching what I’m doing on MY computer or will not mind you posting things I have no interest in on my system. This is MY system! Keep you nose out of it!! I used to have alot of respect for you, but it has dwindled slowly throughout the years. This little stunt has done you in with me. When I get my Mac I’ll be sure to destroy any and all items I have left that may relate to you and your company and it’s products. Ya know, I even spent my hard earned money on your virus protection program Live OneCare! That program is pretty close to a good joke if you ask me. I ended up having to partition my hard drive because of some of the stuff it did NOT catch! I should have been able to get my money back. I wouldn’t doubt that some of the freebie virus protection is better than Live OneCare.
    Good bye Mr. Gates and good riddance.

  11. I don’t see how this is possible since the Federal “Can-Spam” act outlaws placing any program such as this!

  12. Given Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPPA and all of the other privacy requirements etc., it is highly unlikely that this will be aimed at businesses such that it cannot be denied entry.
    My guess is that this will go to the lucky users of Windows 2009 Home, who will pay less if they agree to accept the ads.
    That said, I do find purveyors of this activity at exactly at the same level as spammers, virus writers and the folks now selling a tool for ISP’s to insert ad streams into user Web travels.

  13. This, if it IS as reported, sounds like one of the most despicable ideas to have ever come out of Mr Gates` stable. Wonder how he would like it, if applied to himself! This idea should be nipped in the bud ASAP.

  14. Hi Randy!

    >So I guess you’ll see ads for stupid security gaffes you write about?

    Well, no, I won’t, because I use a Mac . But I sure get your point!

    Nice to see the editor of here!


  15. So, I guess Microsoft is going to be showing a lot of people ads for porn? :-)

    I research a lot of things. It doesn’t mean I want to BUY those things; I research subjects for a living, just like you, Anne. So I guess you’ll see ads for stupid security gaffes you write about?

    Message to Microsoft, ISPs, etc.: What’s on my hard disk is MY business, not yours. Keep your frigging paws off my data. If my ISP starts doing this, I’ll switch ISPs immediately. If Microsoft starts doing this, I’ll switch to *nix immediately. I will not put up with this garbage so YOU can make more billions. Get it?

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