Microsoft Patents Multi-Domain User Tracking With Cookies

from the this-is-new? dept

theodp writes "A patent for Tracking usage behavior in computer systems was granted to Microsoft Tuesday after the software giant explained how it can use invisible images and 'small sized cookies' to surreptitiously track visitors on its own and others' web sites." The claims seem to get fairly specific, concerning keeping the cookies small (as to be less resource intensive) and using the system across multiple domains (generally frowned upon for cookie usage) to track usage outside the single domain.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Laughing, May 3rd, 2006 @ 1:54am

    A patented big brother... Up next the virtul secret police....

     

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  2.  
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    10pound, May 3rd, 2006 @ 3:19am

    sheeeeeeeeeeet

    go figure..........expect anything less from M$? All "obvious ideas passed off as innovation" rants aside, is this any surprise to anyone from a company that prides marketing/advertising/fud for the sake of the almighty dollar over engineering, innovation and r/d?

     

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  3.  
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    throbi, May 3rd, 2006 @ 3:21am

    So what?

    I live in China and I don't care.

     

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  4.  
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    perke, May 3rd, 2006 @ 3:48am

    track my a$$

    use linux, be safe

     

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  5.  
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    littlebother, May 3rd, 2006 @ 4:04am

    Big brother

    Out of the millions of computers who is going to care what sites I hit? Politicians and people of extreme wealth or power should be concerned. Just write a program to delete cookies that are not in the safe list.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Cookie Monster, May 3rd, 2006 @ 4:21am

    Re: track my a$$

    Cookies are utilised in all browsers dude, even in Linux. :)

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2006 @ 4:27am

    Re: track my a$$

    Linux dont protect you from nothing, you can catch anything just as bad as windows. If you think otherwise then either your arrogant or just plain stupid. Just remember cookies are not platform specific.

     

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  8.  
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    Grammar Nazi, May 3rd, 2006 @ 5:14am

    Well said!

    "If you think otherwise then either your arrogant or just plain stupid."

    Using "your" instead of "you're" is an excellent way to reinforce your point about stupidity. Well done!

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    What the, May 3rd, 2006 @ 5:35am

    Didn't you mean

    Didn't you mean to say ignorant instead of arrogant.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Ben, May 3rd, 2006 @ 5:47am

    And now ?

    So, they get the patent. What does it mean for existing or new tracking systems ? Can they stop, say, googleanalytics ?

     

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  11.  
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    Andrew Pollack, May 3rd, 2006 @ 6:01am

    will never hold up to a suit

    There is clearly plenty of prior art here, this will never be sustained in any suit. To some extent, this is the kind of patent that does nothing but increment a counter on investor sheets as an I.P. assett in the "Number of patents held" column.

     

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  12.  
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    ThinkSolveDo, May 3rd, 2006 @ 6:21am

    Figures... Your Not Slamming MS.

    It is funny to see the Big corporate bias here.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    ThinkSolveDo, May 3rd, 2006 @ 6:27am

    Re: will never hold up to a suit

    MS does not need it to hold up. Simply burying a company with a costly lawsuit is enough. Even MS and APPLE had to make nice.

    In the USA the law is FIRST TO INVENT. MS does have some very smart people who have been in the industry a very long time. There is a chance they did invent it.

    The point is MS should have the same rights as Uncle Joe who invents in his garage. The patent system should be equally accessible to all; NOT SIMPLY the few with the most money.

     

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  14.  
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    Frank, May 3rd, 2006 @ 6:27am

    You have *got* to be kidding

    I love (and fear) hearing about ridiculous patents here on TechDirt, but this one really hits home. Just yesterday I was investigatinig how to create this exact setup for my company's series of websites. One of the first hits I got was for what are called "web beacons," but are also referred to as "web bugs" or "image beacons." These are the 'invisible images' that Mike mentioned in his write up (and Microsoft in this patent).

    They are used to pass session information between different domains, as a work-around for the domain limitations implied on cookies. I'm pretty sure all the write-ups I read about, as well as a number of examples, were around before M$ "invented" them.

     

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  15.  
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    ThinkSolveDo, May 3rd, 2006 @ 6:29am

    Re: sheeeeeeeeeeet

    Great perspective... I am a BIG FAN of R&D too!

     

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  16.  
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    Gerard L. Petersen, May 3rd, 2006 @ 6:31am

    Sounds Good

    From what i understand, the data will only persist if the sites share a top level domain. Not too sure what the patent bit will mean in the long run, but so many times have i needed/wanted the cookie data to persist within a TLD.

    I think its a good development.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Steve, May 3rd, 2006 @ 6:31am

    This IS prior art

    How clever. They've done it again: corrupted the U.S. patent system. THIS clearly IS prior art. The Cookie issue just got played down over the recent years after people got so overenthusiastic about cookies which, at some time, were "EVIL spys on your very computer" - isn't this about what clever Microsoft strategists try to infiltrate into the market? Every decent programmer rolled an eye on that and now, after the cookie craze calmed down in public opinion they just make it a patent although this technology has long before been in use. And - what IS a very very small cookie? Cookies in general are very very small pieces of information. I haven't seen a single programmer that placed an entire Episode of Lord of the Rings into a cookie, have you?!

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2006 @ 6:51am

    Just turn your cookies off. If you need a 'cookie' then allow just that site to set one temporarily.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Wolfger, May 3rd, 2006 @ 6:57am

    Re: Re: track my a$$

    Cookies are utilised in all browsers dude, even in Linux.

    1) If you use Linux, why would you ever go to a Microsoft site?
    2) Use Firefox to intelligently block selected cookies. (which I do from whichever OS I am using at the time)

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Bum, May 3rd, 2006 @ 7:30am

    Share of the affiliate fees....

    Does this mean M$ will get a cut of my adsense, commisison junction, overture and other affiliate programs that use cookies? No I think I will archive this patent right next to the .GIF.

    P.S.
    Nice grammar lesson above. When are we going to discuss the possesive S?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2006 @ 8:30am

    Re: So what?

    Good, stay in China and stay off all non-Chinese websites.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 3rd, 2006 @ 8:35am

    Microsoft, I think, is getting paranoid.

    Yeah, let's patent everything that way we don't need to pay anyone any licensing fees.

    You know, the licensing fees, like those that Microsoft charges exhorbitant amounts to those who would use their products.

    Oh wait, this is a blatant contradiction...kind of like Microsoft itself.

     

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  23.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), May 3rd, 2006 @ 10:04am

    Re: Figures... Your Not Slamming MS.

    It is funny to see the Big corporate bias here.

    Why is it funny? ThinkSolveDo keeps accusing us of being shills for big companies, but as we've said REPEATEDLY, we will point out abuses of the patent system no matter who is involved... and always have.

    So, again, I ask why is it funny?

    What IS funny is that half the time we get accused of being big corporate shills and half the time people accuse us of being anti-capitalists.

    Neither is true. Why can't you accept the fact that perhaps we have a valid opinion on this, based on a lot of research and experience?

     

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  24.  
    icon
    Mike (profile), May 3rd, 2006 @ 10:06am

    Re: Re: will never hold up to a suit

    In the USA the law is FIRST TO INVENT. MS does have some very smart people who have been in the industry a very long time. There is a chance they did invent it

    Again, you're missing the point. Even if MS was first, the fact that so many others developed similar things at the same time suggest this shouldn't be patentable. With so many people coming up with similar solutions it's clearly "obvious to those skilled in the art" and, thus, not patentable.

    The point is MS should have the same rights as Uncle Joe who invents in his garage. The patent system should be equally accessible to all; NOT SIMPLY the few with the most money.

    Hurray for the strawman. No one is saying that the patent system should only work for those with the most money. I'm not sure why you bring this up.

    Again, I ask you to stop making assumptions about what we're saying and actually read what we say.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Mathew Schlabaugh, May 3rd, 2006 @ 11:04am

    Patenting Spyware... LOL

    Just block all cookies if you don't want them. It has always been this simple. Many quality sites already limit if not all together avoid the use of them. I was taught a basic thing in college regarding cookies.

    Do not base the functionality of a web site on the presence of cookies. They should only "enhance” functionality if found.

    Is Microsoft spending money to patent something that if used to support base functionality would be considered poor web programming? ... Or are they trying to limit your ability to remain private on the internet and thoroughly track your online activities?

    Whatever it is they feel that being able to track your activities online is so important it is worthy of patent protection.

    It did occur to me that web cache cannot be properly blocked. "Temporary Internet Files" build up to a minimum of 1 MB up to thousands. They are not blocked properly in all instances. This means that Windows computers are "wide open" to this type of tracking system.

    Is this how it would be used...??? Will this unstoppable picture be used to track your activity? Or will they be regular old cookie files? If they are just cookies... just block them if you don't want to be tracked.

    However, I feel that if the pictures will be stored in "Temporary Internet Files". I propose action be taken. Their process is built to exploit weaknesses in their own system. Sounds like a “Backdoor” in the software. This all results in possible unwanted functionality for the user... This all sounds like they have patented spyware and/or a virus process...

    I think they should put out a Windows Update to block their on patented process inside their “Malicious Software Removal” updates.

    The important thing to know is that they want to track you so much it is worthy of patenting the process in which they do it...

    I don't know where this one will lead only time will tell...

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Chris, May 3rd, 2006 @ 2:16pm

    tracking

    So, nobody cares that this could shut-down ad serving networks and potentially damage pay-for-performance marketing that utilized cookies to track transactions?? so, do these networks or services now have to pay royalties? If I click this save me a cookie button, will Techdirt be charged?

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Michael Martinez, May 5th, 2006 @ 2:24pm

    Microsoft just wants to consolidate cookies

    All this patent proposes is that commercial domain offering services through multiple sub-domains use a single cookie instead of one cookie per sub-domain.

    It's not a proposal that deserves a lot of bad-mouthing and bickering.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    jismore, Jun 3rd, 2006 @ 6:26pm

    MS super Bug

    We kinda anticipated this. Check out www.squsi.com. When we this this, we will deal with it.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    jismore, Jun 3rd, 2006 @ 6:26pm

    MS super Bug

    We kinda anticipated this. Check out www.squsi.com. When we this this, we will deal with it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    jismore, Jun 3rd, 2006 @ 6:27pm

    MS super Bug

    We kinda anticipated this. Check out www.squsi.com. When we see this, we will deal with it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Justin, Jul 27th, 2007 @ 4:52am

    Re: Re: So what?

    your a bit of a dumb arse arent you

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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