Microsoft's Latest Ad Product Dances Around Spyware Definition

from the not-when-we-do-it dept

One way that advertising providers and web site owners are trying to drive ad rates even higher is by offering advertisers the ability to narrowly target their ads. After all, one of the great strengths of internet advertising versus other media is that the same ad doesn’t have to be served to every viewer, and the ability to put the right ad in front of the right person is pretty valuable. There are lots of different ways to do this, such as methods that divine a user’s rough location via their IP address, or by serving contextual ads based on the content of pages users are surfing. Then, of course, there are more nefarious ways, like building a profile of users’ online behavior by surreptitiously tracking their activity — the defining characteristic, of course, of spyware. This sort of behavioral targeting is attractive to more respected companies as well, and Microsoft says it will begin using it to target ads on its online properties. The company will take personal information Hotmail users report on themselves, then link it to their search behavior, if they use Microsoft’s Live Search. Microsoft says the system is anonymous, and that it won’t pass individual users’ personal information to advertisers. Given past leaks of supposedly anonymous search records, those promises aren’t likely to instill much confidence. Furthermore, what makes what Microsoft says it wants to do any different than any run-of-the-mill spyware vendor? Obviously there’s none of the shady installs or resource-chewing applications that typically characterize the spyware business, but it’s not clear what else separates what Microsoft’s doing, apart from the name. There’s plenty of debate over just what constitutes spyware, and Microsoft is going to be very careful to label its efforts “behavioral targeting”, while there’s probably some sort of “opt-in” users do (whether it’s clear or not is another question). Also, Microsoft may have a relatively small pool of targeted users, given the relative unpopularity of Live Search, particularly when cross-referenced with Hotmail users. At least one thing seems clear, though: why Microsoft had an interest in buying famed adware vendor Claria a little while back.

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Comments on “Microsoft's Latest Ad Product Dances Around Spyware Definition”

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G- says:

yeah, isn’t google the king of this already? the way i see it, MS must do something to be competitive or it will lose ground in that arena. it won’t raise an eyebrow from me until this type of thing gets into the OS. so IMHO, it’s fair game; it’s being done already and, given by the adoption rate of gmail into many user’s life’s, it’s something that users don’t mind given the service they are accepting usage for. but we won’t kn ow if our privacy is respected until the sh!t hits the fan…

SearcH EngineS WeB (user link) says:

Someone has to pay for these Advanced & Free Servi

Many people have been enjoying the FREE version of Hotmail for Years – and even those who pay for the advanced service are getting quite a deal.

It really is not too much to ask to give their Advertisers the best ROI as possible – or else they will ultimately use another site to promote. The Media are competing for them constantly

The only other option would be for Microsoft to offer a COMPLETELY, unsubsidized email where users trade complete privacy for full payment for their email service.

Hudey123 (user link) says:

A MS Cookie... No Big Whup

This will likely just be a cookie on the user’s computer that knows whether or not the user has ever clicked on an ad related to a certain market in the past.

In my opinion, there’s no harm in it. I actually look forward to it. Maybe I’ll stop getting dating site ads and get more computer/tech/Internet ads that are more relevant to me. That would be a nice thing.

And if you don’t like that, probably blocking MS cookies is all you’ll have to do to stop it from happening. MS wouldn’t go so far as to install any third party software for this sort of thing unless it was abundantly clear to the user and that’s what they want to do.

Brad says:

@8, 9

So to commenters 8 and 9:
Why do you think what you had to say was even marginally valuable? Do you think that your one-liner jab will convince people to not install windows? Do you think it has anything AT ALL to do with free email and a web search tool? This is an MSN service and has nothing to do with “resource hogging” – whether you falsely believe windows to do that or not.

I run iTunes on one of my machines at home. A few days ago, it was eating nearly 130mB of RAM, and trying to report my usage data back to their server (and not for the iTunes Store, either. I don’t use that).

I think THAT qualifies as spyware, you little Steve Jobs cocksuckers.

Bob Ketterer says:

Databasin my Info.

Major banks have millions of records with your entire buying and banking history open to “help” centers around the world and your worried about law officers viewing some highly controlled government agency’s database??? Much of the government data is just collected public info that can be Googled.

Forget the government and go after those wide open comercial databases with the really interesting info “protected” by foreign governments.

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