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Microsoft Using Personal Data to Target Ads

timothy posted more than 7 years ago | from the so-be-good-for-bidness'-sake dept.

Privacy 139

smooth wombat writes "Microsoft is combing personal data with your search habits to produce targeted ads. Users who use Microsoft's Hotmail email service, msn.com news service and other Microsoft-owned sites will see ads specific to their demographic and interests. From the article: 'Microsoft executives say the system works anonymously and they won't pass on people's names or addresses to advertisers. Executives say they want to foster confidence in users to build a long-term business, and one that gives an incentive to not misuse personal details.' "We're in the early days of behavioral targeting but it's an idea whose time has come,' says Simon Andrews, chief digital strategy officer for WPP Group's MindShare, a large buyer of ad time. 'There is a lot of potential to know if people have been looking at specific sites.'"

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Fish are the town, people are the barrel man. (4, Funny)

vmfedor (586158) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389106)

This article is sure to be greeted positively by the Slashdot community!

Re:Fish are the town, people are the barrel man. (1, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389344)

Would that be based on Microsoft, Yahoo! or Google research results? Or did you just bump your into the wall to get this idea? Inquiring minds want to know...

Re:Fish are the town, people are the barrel man. (1)

Baricom (763970) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389392)

Ask, you insensitive clod!

Re:Fish are the town, people are the barrel man. (2, Funny)

CantGetAUserName (565692) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389518)

Being honest, if these guys think they can defeat the combination of my appalling typing in search engine boxes and the spoofed mail account details, they're welcome to try (what, you think I'm really called 'Wibble Blah'?). And if they suceed, I'll ditch the account and get a new one.

Re:Fish are the town, people are the barrel man. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389660)

Wow its a good thing I told them I was born in 1959 instead of 1979.....come on Viagra!!!

Re:Fish are the town, people are the barrel man. (4, Insightful)

Jason Earl (1894) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391206)

I've never understood this myself. Microsoft and friends are going to push ads at us either way, I would just as soon see ads for stuff that I am actually interested in. When I go to a store and the salesman knows me well enough to actually be helpful I chalk that up to good service. Why should a website be any different?

I think that the real problem is that a lot of slashdotters don't like the picture that the sum of their online information paints about them. If you don't like the picture that your online experience paints of you, then you might want to reconsider how you act while online.

Re:Fish are the town, people are the barrel man. (1)

It'sYerMam (762418) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391762)

Damn straight. It's shocking, but sometimes I actually follow context-based ads from google. Because I'm actually interested in buying the service. In other words, I was already thinking of buying something similar to what they advertised, the advert made me aware the company sold it. The right wing half of my brain thinks any other form of advertising ought to be banned.

Try not using any major credit cards then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17391902)

If slashdotters are up in arms about a persistent database like this, then they are woefully in the dark about what happens offline. pretty much every credit or debit card transaction you make on every major credit card is collected, stored, and aggregated by companies like Acxiom. The info is then sold a wide variety of companies that want your business. That database has more info about people then most government databases.

Re:Fish are the town, people are the barrel man. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17392230)

If you are a narrow-minded, one-sided, uni-dimensional, and an intellectually and emotionally
shallow individual, then such predictability may be of immense value. But if otherwise,
then it can only be a detriment.

Let us assume that I go into a restaurant and order a fish dinner. The next time that
I go into that restaurant the waiter will recognize me and remember my last order.
He will then attempt to preempt my judgment by thrusting into my face another plate
of fish.

But because I am a deep, broad, sophisticated, cosmopolitan, and highly protean creature,
I am very apt on my next visit to desire something else other than fish. Maybe my
future inclination, unpredictable even to me, will be for roast beef or some vegetarian
repast. This diverse quality of my nature makes it very annoying when other parties attempt
to second guess my preferences or assemble some shabby behavioral portrait based on
highly fragmentary evidence.

This is so scary and Slashdot does it too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389114)

If you hit the refresh button more than 5000/day, you get a lot of ads for Dice.

How did you know I didn't have a job? Scary stuff.

Re:This is so scary and Slashdot does it too (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389556)

"How did you know I didn't have a job?" - you're posting on slashdot, pretty obvious if you ask me

Hitler would have found this interesting (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389122)

2 bad he's dead :(

This is AWESOME! (3, Insightful)

mmell (832646) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389134)

I use my hotmail address as a spam honeypot anyhow; now Microsoft is leading the (sp)lambs to the slaughter!

What a shame I don't use Microsoft's "Start" search. ;^D

Oh, and BTW - First Post?

Re:This is AWESOME! (1)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389168)

I was wondering why I was getting so many ads to buy Vista for my G5..

Hmmm (5, Insightful)

Twench (580538) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389136)

Good thing Google doesn't do this with Gmail by scanning your info and producing targeted ads in a side bar ... oh ... wait!

gotta remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389252)

Google == Good
MSFT == Bad

Re:Hmmm (1)

Achoi77 (669484) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389446)

seriously, it's nothing real new. It just sounds like MS is playing catchup.

Besides, some of those targeted ads are pretty handy for the senseless emails I've been sending out about 'planning trips with friends' and whatnot - I wonder why people are still screaming for blood about their privacy, I figured by this time the majority of the population have gone to learn not to email their ssn, bank statements or tax info around.

Re:Hmmm (1)

spellraiser (764337) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389506)

It's not the same thing. The article is about Microsoft using personal data (admittedly, data that is entered by the users themselves) along with search and browsing habits to create ads. This is a whole different ballpark from delivering ads that are relevant to content you are viewing at some particular moment, i.e. an email you're reading mentions cats, you get ads about cats, to take an example I noticed on Gmail just today. Personally, I'm fine with that. But creating a huge database that combines personal information and browsing habits, possibly over a long period, is just creepy, no matter how secure it's supposed to be.

Re:Hmmm (1)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389532)

yeah, the same as it is with google.

They will also scan your emails and your searches, create a profile and use if for the ads.

What exactly google does (3, Informative)

Mateo_LeFou (859634) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389620)

is stated here:

http://www.google.com/privacy.html [google.com]

Personal information and other data we collect

        * Google collects personal information when you register for a Google service or otherwise voluntarily provide such information. We may combine personal information collected from you with information from other Google services or third parties to provide a better user experience, including customizing content for you.
        * Google uses cookies and other technologies to enhance your online experience and to learn about how you use Google services in order to improve the quality of our services.
        * Google's servers automatically record information when you visit our website or use some of our products, including the URL, IP address, browser type and language, and the date and time of your request.
        * Read more in the full privacy policy.

Uses

        * We may use personal information to provide the services you've requested, including services that display customized content and advertising.
        * We may also use personal information for auditing, research and analysis to operate and improve Google technologies and services.
        * We may share aggregated non-personal information with third parties outside of Google.
        * When we use third parties to assist us in processing your personal information, we require that they comply with our Privacy Policy and any other appropriate confidentiality and security measures.
        * We may also share information with third parties in limited circumstances, including when complying with legal process, preventing fraud or imminent harm, and ensuring the security of our network and services.
        * Google processes personal information on our servers in the United States of America and in other countries. In some cases, we process personal information on a server outside your own country.
        * Read more in the full privacy policy.

Your choices

        * We offer you choices when we ask for personal information, whenever reasonably possible. You can find more information about your choices in the privacy notices or FAQs for specific services.
        * You may decline to provide personal information to us and/or refuse cookies in your browser, although some of our features or services may not function properly as a result.
        * We make good faith efforts to provide you access to your personal information upon request and to let you correct such data if it is inaccurate and delete it, when reasonably possible.
        * Read more in the full privacy policy.

Re:Hmmm - Spookey Targeted Ad (1)

Quetican (1043878) | more than 7 years ago | (#17392196)

Google gave me a targeted ad that seemed to be based on text that was in an IMAGE (jpeg) I had attached to the email. In other words, the text of the email did not come anywhere CLOSE to the subject of the targeted ads, only the text that was inside the image pertained. The two (email text, image text) were not related in any way.
Spooky.

Re:Hmmm (1)

loconet (415875) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389526)

Difference is, Google doesn't also create the operating system that 99% of these people use.

Equally relevent (0, Flamebait)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389702)

Google wasn't started by somebody with the initials B.G. either.

Re:Hmmm (1)

malfunct (120790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391376)

No, they are the web search that 99% of people type every idea that hits thier mind into from the same IP and browser window. So Google is likely to have FAR more info about you than Microsoft even wishes to have in thier wettest advertising dreams.

Re:Hmmm (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389574)

But, uh,... Google's nice and Micro$oft is Satan incarnate, right?.. So... we can like, trust Google, or something. I mean, it's in their friggin' motto! "Do no evil"... that means we can trust them, right?

Re:Hmmm (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389576)

No, my friend, that's a totally different can of worms.
Gmail presents you with ads based on the content of the page you are *currently* looking at. It does not rely on any personal information about you.
It sounds like what Microsoft is doing is identifying who are every time you use any of their web services and building up a persistent personal profile of what you are interested in. So next time your significant other asks you why she keeps getting porn ads on every site she visits when she uses your computer, you can point her to this article ;)

Re:Hmmm (2, Insightful)

rgriff59 (526951) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389816)

...ads based on the content of the page you are *currently* looking at...

That is a major distinction, and my chief concern. Persistence over sessions can be a pain. People are not, despite the marketers' opinions, single mode entities. One can be privately looking for bare boobs at 10 PM, even though at 6 PM, in the company of a wide eyed 3 year old, you were looking for pooh bear. Same computer, same account, but not at ALL the same marketing opportunity.

Re:Hmmm (4, Insightful)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391702)

Gmail presents you with ads based on the content of the page you are *currently* looking at. It does not rely on any personal information about you. It sounds like what Microsoft is doing is identifying who are every time you use any of their web services and building up a persistent personal profile of what you are interested in.

You keep on believing that Gmail does no such thing. As previously pointed out, even their privacy policy says different. Signed up for Orkut? With all your profile data there? Guess what, "Google uses personal information provided when you register for any Google service..."

So, again, I'm confused, what's the difference, other than "Most slashdotters make brownnosers look amateur with their efforts to worship the ground Google walks on"?

Re:Hmmm (1)

EraserMouseMan (847479) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389782)

So the trick for MS to get away with evil is to let Google do it first. Then just copy them. As long as Google does it first everybody will justify it as somehow being okay.

Re:Hmmm (1)

SuluSulu (1039126) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391988)

Well, at least MS is finally catching up to Google!

Meh (2, Insightful)

sgt.greywar (1039430) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389140)

I suppose this sort of thing doesn't really bother me. Frankly oftentimes I even opt-in to this sort of stuff. I like seeing things I am interested in (tech, games, etc) and I am not interested in seeing ads for things that I have zero interest in (donkey calliopes). At least this makes the ad-spam more interesting.

Re:Meh (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390406)

I suppose this sort of thing doesn't really bother me. Frankly oftentimes I even opt-in to this sort of stuff. I like seeing things I am interested in (tech, games, etc) and I am not interested in seeing ads for things that I have zero interest in (donkey calliopes). At least this makes the ad-spam more interesting.
I worked in the ad business for a short time, and one of the many horrible things I learned then is that advertisers don't want to show you ads for stuff you're interested in, they want to harass you with ads for stuff you're not YET interested in, to change your mind.

You'll find out about your own interests on your dime.

Re:Meh (1)

misleb (129952) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391354)

Whenever someone mentions targeted advertising I think of Minority Report. *shudder*

I don't normally see sci-fi scenarios literally happening, but this particular one is not too far away at all (the targeted advertisements bit, not the crime prediction bit)

I say block all unsolicited ads indiscriminately. Let's not let the advertisers think they have found some kind of ethical way to invade our heads and manipulate us.

-matthew

This sounds familiar. (1, Informative)

brennanw (5761) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389146)

Isn't this exactly what people were afraid Doubleclick was going to do six or seven years ago when they bought that mass junk mail database? Public outcry was so huge then that Doubleclick had to very publically back off.

I wonder if the majority of people even care now? I do, and I suspect a fair number of Slashdotters do, but I don't think most people even notice these days. Or they've given up.

Concern is a fad. (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389794)

I wonder if the majority of people even care now?
No, almost certainly not. It's really easy to rile people up over something, like hula hoops or the environment, but long-term exposure wears resistance and levels of concern down to malleable levels. Just look at the UK's increasingly Panopticon society, or the shrugs the average guy on the street gives at the mention of rising sea levels or identity theft. If it doesn't directly and conspicuously harm them (and even then), then it quickly drops down the rungs of their hierarchy of concerns.

Re:This sounds familiar. (1)

infolation (840436) | more than 7 years ago | (#17392220)

Around the height of doubleclick (2000-2001), 'targetted', 'interactive', 'rich-media' ads were more about enabling advertisers to sell space to companies jaded with the failure of the animated gif to capture the public's attention.

Savvy marketeres know the near-impossibility of influencing consumers with these types of adverts. Microsoft's targetting is to help media sales teams shift ad space rather than achieve real results.

No, they don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389162)

Nothing like a hosts file [mvps.org] to fuck that up.

If It Looks Like Spam... (1)

Daemonstar (84116) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389166)

'There is a lot of potential to know if people have been looking at specific sites'
Spammers say the same thing; so where's the opt-out button? Granted, people could just refuse to use the service, but they have to be aware of what's going on, too.

Of course, it's not like I expect privacy on the Internet, anyway. :P

Re:If It Looks Like Spam... (2, Interesting)

malfunct (120790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389272)

I don't know if its still there but somewhere in the privacy statements for MSN sites was a 1-800 number you could call to opt out of all ad targeting that was linked to your passport account.

welcome to the world of marketing (5, Interesting)

monkeyserver.com (311067) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389172)

I'm sure people will get up in arms, but this is what everyone does. They take all the info they have about you and they try to find out how to use that to most effectively market to you. Google does it, and so do most retailers. Retailers look at demographic info they have, purchase and return behaviors, and they often buy "data appends", or data about you collected by third parties, to augment their info.

They don't use this to hunt you down, spy on you in the bathroom, or brainwash you. What they do is figure out, statistically, based on this info, what you will buy, and try to sell that to you. It's how they make money more effeciently, and when done right, it's a service to you too. This is on the rise too, the best thing to do here is to embrace it and encourage companies to behave responsibly with this new-found knowledge.

Re:welcome to the world of marketing (1)

eMbry00s (952989) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389382)

It's not a service I want since I consider buying things that I wasn't specifically hunting for to be a very bad thing. Also, dataleaks [ncl.ac.uk] .

Re:welcome to the world of marketing (1)

monkeyserver.com (311067) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390546)

Who says it's not what you were looking for? If all signs point to the fact that you are looking for a new SUV, why shouldn't a car company show you advertising for it? Have you ever watched TV or driven down the street? Every company under the sun is trying to sell you crap you don't want. What if they were trying to sell you crap you might actually want? Wouldn't that be more valuable? So instead of just wasting screen real estate with offers you don't care about, why not try and make use of that. I agree that marketing can be annoying, but it's not going away, so it might as well be relevant.

Wrt data leaks, this info is going to be out there no matter what, it's just a question of how they use it. You should be more worried about your employer, insurance company, or bank losing your financial/personal info than MS losing your search terms...

Service? (2, Insightful)

Fuzzums (250400) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389426)

Well. Maybe you're right. I remember last time I clicked on a banner and bought something that was....
Wait. That was... Sorry. Can't remember.

Well let's say that was WAY before 2003.

Re:Service? (1)

monkeyserver.com (311067) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390466)

Exactly, that's because banners often aren't targetted. Most companies don't do this because the cpu needs are high and they don't have the right info. People are beaten over the head with irrelevant adds for items they could care less about. If you were shown ads for things that more closely related to what you were looking to buy it may actually help.

What do you think the AdWords business model is based on?

Re:welcome to the world of marketing (1)

eln (21727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389428)

Yah, but this is based on search results! I, I mean this guy I know, doesn't want to be constantly bombarded with people trying to sell him midget porn.

Re:welcome to the world of marketing (1)

Tankko (911999) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391846)

why not? Am I missing something?

Re:welcome to the world of marketing (1)

theskipper (461997) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389686)

True but most arguments about privacy revolve around the unintended consequences that arise. Tinfoil hat conspiracies aside, add the phrase "Microsoft Executives say..." and it's enough to give anyone a slight case of the willies.

Here's a pretty good comment on the issue (the site name is misleading):

http://www.overclockers.com/tips01084/ [overclockers.com]

Re:welcome to the world of marketing (1)

monkeyserver.com (311067) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390642)

That article makes a good point, but all new tech has unintended consequences. Of course you *shouldn't* be surfing porn at work, or not working (looks guiltily in mirror). But if you do, then you should log out of MSN first, or clear cookies, this may not always be easy, but I don't think this advertising would be blatently obvious. Besides, I don't think NYT will ever show naked ppl, they have basic standards for what they will show. If you are visiting reputable sites in front of your boss nothing incriminating should show up.

When I was a kid, and I told my mom I was going to the library, but instead, I went to play by the pond I would clean off my sneakers before I came home. Maybe you need to better clean your sneakers at work when you're done with that site ;)

Re:welcome to the world of marketing (1)

crabpeople (720852) | more than 7 years ago | (#17392086)

Thats pretty idealistic don't you think? Have you ever worked with advertising people or companies? Some of the bigger ones have on staff, fulltime psychologists. The most disgusting form of this is CHILD PSYCHOLOGISTS used to market to children. I mean theres your most vulnerable consumer right there. He cant even speak yet but he knows he wants a $500 dora the explorer lil playset and will cry cry cry when he cant have it. When I was young, my parents told me "everything you see on TV advertising is lies." I would come to them after watching infomercials completely brainwashingly convinced that I had scored the deal of a lifetime. It was well into my teenage years before I realized what they were trying to tell me. Its not some advertising thats bad, its ALL advertising. Its all lies, all of it.

They are trying to brainwash you actually. Thats advertising 101. Only they call it "brand recognition". The idea that you will have basically, pavlovian subconcious reactions to certain brands. Advertising causes people to be unhappy, constantly being told to consume to feel better. They do these sorts of psychological manipulations with little or no regard for the societal harm it cuases. If it sells more widgets for xbrand widget co. then they are a success and they go home happy.

"It's how they make money more effeciently, and when done right, it's a service to you too"

Your either an advertising executive or clueless. Does it really make a difference what brand of shampoo I buy? Soap? Razors? Aren't they all, for all intents and purposes, EXACTLY THE SAME? How much effort and resources is society putting into 50 brands of shampoo, and the required advertising to diferentiate them? We have created a whole industry that does nothing except spew out manipulative lies. Then one might say, oh but you dont *CARE* about those things, what about motherboards, shouldnt they be advertised? My answer would be that a good product sells itself. I know ECS motherboards are crap because of 1) experience and 2) reviews. So advertisings goal is to make consumers less educated by not basing purchasing decisions on anything more than lies and manufacturers claims. Does anyone really think being surrounded by LIES told by corporations, virging on 24x7 (eyelid ads ftw), does not have an effect on society? And thats the problem with advertising. It creates a whole culture that bases its buying decisions (a PRIME skill in the western world) on fluff and lies. This furthermore conditions people to accept lies and liars as a normal part of society, honourable people who *believe* in the spirit of what they are saying instead of the factual accuracy (insert jab about masses falling for iraq war here).

Nothing new under the sun (5, Insightful)

malfunct (120790) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389194)

This is not new and so far as I know not unique to Microsoft. The advertiser buys a "segment" of people and when a person in the segment views a Microsoft owned website they see the add that is "targeted" to them. A segment of people would be like Male 18-25 who likes cars. To be honest this is the same sort of thing that advertisers have purchased for years its just that Microsoft has the ability to better know if the viewer has those tastes. I'm not sure at all why this is some sort of new privacy concern for people. I also think most of the readers here understand that every other major advertising player online is trying to do the same thing. Those big players probably being Yahoo and Google of course.

Ways to avoid being "tracked" are to clear your cookies and don't sign in to sites. Of course then you will get to see the ads you could care less about instead of something that might possibly be useful to you.

As far as the claim that a person that buys a large portion of ads could start to identify people I don't at all buy it because Microsoft states, and I trust they follow the statement given the scrutiny that they recieve from all sides, that they don't pass your data on. Whats likely is that a person buys a segment for thier ads and at the end they get a report that says, "We were able to satisfy xx% of your request in xx days". They might also get info like "If you had booked your add on xxx.msn.com instead of zzz.msn.com we could have satisfied tt% more of your request and if you had booked both we could have satisfied the entire request."

One way that you could be "identified" is if you actually clicked through any of the ads in which case they could assign your IP or a cookie on your machine to a profile that has the segment information from the ad you clicked through on pre-populated.

Re:Nothing new under the sun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389454)

Sure. The only hitch really is the advertisers themselves. I really don't mind all that if ads are targetted to me - its when I click on ad X and it takes me to some click-through Hell resulting in nothing but a month's worth of spam in a single day that ticks me off. If they'd back off a little and just let folks check out their wares, maybe more people would be interested in viewing their ads.

My apporach (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17390078)

I have Firefox set to delete cookies when I close the browser (except for a few sites I've whitelisted) and run the Adblock Plus extension. No ads. Targeted or not.

I am curious (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389256)

As to how /. readers will react to this compared to the privacy concerns with Gmail [slashdot.org] .

To refresh your memory:

Don't want your messages to be readable by the 'wrong' people? Encrypt 'em real good, or don't use email.

But if someone wants to provide a free service, then you get what you pay for. Be sure you read the terms of service. If you don't like it, use something else.

Erase the cookie. Don't use the service. How do you know Yahoo! doesn't read all it's mail?

Re:I am curious (1)

trianglman (1024223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390674)

Actually, as someone has previously said, what Google does is very different than what MS is talking about doing. Google doesn't scan all your email, mesh it with your profile you filled out to get the account, track every search you make using their service and then tie it all in on a private back end system to keep for who knows how long.

What Google does is scan what document (email or webpages with their ad code) you have open and target ads based on what is in the current page. They don't track you beyond what their servers do naturally and they are legally required to retain.

Re:I am curious (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391750)

Again, which is why their privacy policy explicitly states that they do far more than that - that any information you provide to any Google service (the example I used was Orkut, which has a wealth of personal information) can and will be meshed together. Don't believe me? Go read it, and don't lambast people for saying things which are actually correct, but don't conform to the groupthink.

Re:I am curious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17391840)

But if someone wants to provide a free service, then you get what you pay for. Be sure you read the terms of service. If you don't like it, use something else.

GOOGLE DOES IT (1)

man_ls (248470) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389264)

GOOGLE DOES THE EXACT SAME THING!

Their incoming mailserver reads your e-mail and gives you things to potentially see or do with it. It finds parcel tracking numbers, assuming they're correctly formatted, for USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL and maybe more, addresses to map -- and also links to products and services with keywords the same as phrases found in the e-mail you're reading.

There isn't anything wrong with this, either -- you're using their service, they're providing ads in a non-invasive manner to recoup some of the costs of their service being given away (or sold for dirt-cheap, as in a Hotmail Premium account.) If only all advertisers and "monitized web presences" would take a lesson from Google/MSN in their ad placement, I'd be a lot happier.

Re:GOOGLE DOES IT (1)

bheer (633842) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389346)

> they're providing ads in a non-invasive manner to recoup some of the costs of their service being given away (or sold for dirt-cheap, as in a Hotmail Premium account.

If you have a Hotmail premium account, you don't see any ads on most MSN properties (and no ad footers on your email either). (ob. disclaimer: I do pay for a Hotmail account because they provide a pretty decent service, and because Gmail wouldn't take my money. Free web mail is for mugs.)

Re:GOOGLE DOES IT (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391620)

GOOGLE DOES THE EXACT SAME THING!
FTFA:
The Redmond, Wash., giant says it can take behavioral targeting to a higher level. It has begun combining personal data from the 263 million users of its free Hotmail email service -- the biggest in the world -- with information gained from monitoring their searches.

When people sign up to use Hotmail, they are asked for 13 pieces of personal information, including age, occupation and address -- though providing all the data isn't obligatory. If they use Live Search, Microsoft's rival to Google's search, the company can keep a record of which words people searched for and the results they clicked on.

Nothing to see here, move along... (2, Insightful)

xaeridus (577859) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389268)

This really isn't anything new. A few years ago I worked on an advertising project that involved tracking your preferences which pulled information from your profile to tailor the ads that you received. It was smart advertising, because it led to higher click-through rates. We didn't pass your information on to other firms unless it was noted in our privacy contract - and even that was a completely separate process. For ads, it was a lot wiser to fill your sidebar and popups with age/sex/interest specific advertising than to show a 14 year old ads for geritol.

Re:Nothing to see here, move along... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389680)

pulled information from your profile to tailor the ads that you received. It was smart advertising

      I fail to see the logic in that. Oh look, he bought , that means he must like , let's bombard him with offers for MORE of . If I just bought one, it's actually LESS likely I am going to buy that same kind of product again...no matter how many ads.

Re:Nothing to see here, move along... (1)

Melaniek (1034184) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390930)

I fail to see the logic in that. Oh look, he bought , that means he must like , let's bombard him with offers for MORE of . If I just bought one, it's actually LESS likely I am going to buy that same kind of product again...no matter how many ads.

Knowing your purchasing history helps see what kind of products/services you may be interested in either now or at some point in the future. This is more about direct marketing on a one to one basis than it is about advertising in a more traditional sense. If anything, profiling for advertising helps deliver ads for products/services you are more likely to be interested in than ones you aren't. It can also help better target buyers of consumables that are currently purchasing from competitors. Look at grocery stores that spit out a coupon for laundry detergent X at the cash register after you've just bought laundry detergent Y. Online - just a few examples - music downloads, software, books, dating services, employment sites, wedding services.

I don't want you tracking my preferences .. (1)

rs232 (849320) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389832)

"I worked on an advertising project that involved tracking your preferences which pulled information from your profile .. We didn't pass your information on to other firms unless it was noted in our privacy contract" I don't want people tracking my preferences, not for any nefarious purpose, it's just none of your business. Even so see what happened to this Fireman, er .. gender neutral/fighter when he bought something with his Store Card.

"Philip Scott Lyons .. was arrested last August and charged with attempted arson .. Police investigators had discovered that his Club Card [schneier.com] was used to buy fire starters of the same type used in the arson attempt.

"All charges were dropped against him in January 2005 because another person stepped forward saying he set the fire and not Lyons. Lyons is now back at work after more than 5 months of being on administrative leave from his firefighter job"

Funny that, a firefighter having to buy firelighters, er .. fire starters. Wouldn't he know how to start a fire using common household items.

Re:Nothing to see here, move along..... (Score:1)

Privacy (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389288)

> There is a lot of potential to know if people have been looking at specific sites.

And this is why I've given up my mobile phone, why my hard disks are encrypted, why I'm going to run my own SMTP/POP servers, and why I'm starting to think about not using Google any more.

If you don't reject it, you're passively accepting it.

Re:Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389630)

I'm starting to think about not using Google any more
Google must be shaking with fear.

If you don't reject it, you're passively accepting it.
And if you reject it but still use it...?

Clippy (5, Funny)

justkarl (775856) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389292)

"I see you're trying to search for Porn. Would you like to try Microsoft Porn for free?"

Re:Clippy (3, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389366)

Why would I since my desk drawer has a ton of naked paper clips? :P

Re:Clippy (1)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389790)

Mine are all covered in rubber, hmmm....

Re:Clippy (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389450)

Would you like to try Microsoft Porn for free?

Balmer. Squirt. Gaaaahhhhhhh!!! My eyes!!!!!!

Re:Clippy (2, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389622)

Balmer. Squirt. Gaaaahhhhhhh!!! My eyes!!!!!!

OK, that one got the "coca cola running out of my nose" award. Ewww. I assume that wasn't a chair he just squirted...

Re:Clippy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389656)

"Welcome to Microsoft Porn. Here is a bag of nails, some sandpaper and an envelope full of syphilis spores."

I got your specific sites right here (2, Funny)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389340)

There is a lot of potential to know if people have been looking at specific sites.

The only sites I look at are Slashdot and pron, so put that in your database and smoke it.

Confidence? (2, Insightful)

ubrgeek (679399) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389512)

"Executives say they want to foster confidence in users to build a long-term business"

Shouldn't they start with building a secure operating system, rather than targeted ads?

I am happy they are doing this... (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389522)

...primarily because I know that there will be ads online no matter WHAT I do...Adblock is a great firefox plugin, but still...ads are everywhere. If I am going to be forced to have them on the pages that I frequently view (like my hotmail account) I would MUCH rather that they be pertinant to my interests. I don't care about Botox, but an advert for a sale on an nvidia 8800...see, that I wouldn't mind

Re:I am happy they are doing this... (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390186)

Adblock is a great firefox plugin, but still...ads are everywhere.
If you are still seeing ads, you aren't using adblock correctly.

Unless they make them serve from the same server the content is from and don't have the path different from other graphics, or just make them text that is part of the normal served page, I see no advertising at all.

scary assumptions (1)

lingoman (793455) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389608)

Somehow I don't feel that my privacy is threatened by the collection of terrabytes of search strings. After all the web is free and search engines are not regulated public monopoly, but it makes me sad to think of the rationales behind these business strategies. Like these:

  • I am what I search for on the web.
  • I will always be what I am now

So when I read somewhere that Jerry Seinfeld was a Scientologist, I spent 15 minutes trying to see if that's true. Does my curiosity deserve to be rewarded by a plague of Scientology ads?

And when I buy a picture book for a 1-year-old, does Amazon really have to deluge me with lists of thousands of other picture books. I pray for an online bookstore with Google's design sensibilities.

If Microsoft manages to make a buck off of this maneuver, then so will Google and eventually, they will push all the oddball pages out of our sight and give us all the variety of the standard American shopping mall.

This isn't news (1)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389632)

Everybody does this, or is trying too. News would be a simple,100 per cent effective way of defeating it's use.

YUO FAiL IT (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17389636)

M3inutes. At home,

Using search engines . . . (3, Informative)

Ph33r th3 g(O)at (592622) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389646)

. . . while logged in, be it with the Great Satan Microsoft or the All-Angelic Google, is a recipe for having a dossier built on yourself that Bob-knows-who will have access to in perpetuity. If you must use Hotmail, Gmail, MSN messenger, or what-have-you, at least use a separate browser instance running through TOR or JAP that's not logged in as you for your searching needs. Years later, when you need a security clearance, have to have a background investigation, or heaven forbid run for office, you'll thank yourself for not having left those behavioral breadcrumbs behind. Even if your searches are totally innocent, their being dredged up can't be of benefit to you, only detriment.

Good (1)

bmajik (96670) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389676)

This is _exactly_ what I want.

You know what pisses me off more than ads?

Ads that do not apply to me in any way whatsoever. I do not want spam about penis enlargement, about meeting women, or about hot stock tips.

If I only ever saw ads for:
- specials on go-fast parts for the particular year and model of each of my cars
- deals on ram from brands i trust for types of computers i already own
- used sun equipment on ebay
- lenses for Canon EOS systems

i'd probably click on a ton more ads, and buy more stuff. I wish there was a way to get MORE of my _preference_ data into advertising engines. I'd be happy to tell them the year and model fo all my cars, what types of electronic gadgets I own and like, and so on.

For instance - i am in the process of buying a new car. I was vaguely in the market for a "new(er)", and knew what brand and model i was interested in. What I didn't realize was some of the financial incentives going on currently that applied to me. It was just by matter of luck (word of mouth) that I heard about a program on new vehicles. I wasn't even considering a new vehicle until I happened to hear of this deal.

With all of the work people are going through trying to sell new cars, how is it that i had to work / get lucky to find out about some buying incentive program? It should be plainly obvious that I like German cars, where I live, what my credit / demographics are like - i would expect to see ads for different incentive, leasing, and financing deals from BMW, Audi, VW, MB, and Porsche.

Instead, i see "hit the monkey, win a prize"

Right now, the state of advertising is that you get spammed with shit you couldn't possibly care about. When i actually DO want to buy something, i have to go out and look for it. All of this money spent on ads, none of it actually making me buy anything.

This is an absolutely fascinating data mining, search, and technology problem. I think there is the opportunity for less intrusive and more relevant advertising to undo user resentment, and actually generate some worthwhile sales. It's better for advertisers and better for me. And hopefully advertisers will see the value-add of intelligent advertising done by Google, MS, etc, and the intrusive, non-targeted ads will fall by the wayside.

Substitute X for Z (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389684)

This headline could read:

    • Google Using Personal Data to Target Ads
    • Yahoo Using Personal Data to Target Ads
    • Netscap Using Personal Data to Target Ads
    • Apple Using Personal Data to Target Ads
    • Real Using Personal Data to Target Ads
    • Any-Fricken-Company-With-a-Web-Presence-and-a-Ma rketing-Department Using Personal Data to Target Ads

Who in the world thought this was NEWS?

Big deal.... (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389734)

Virtually every advertiser in the world wants the ability to target their ads since it's more economical. Other search engines have been doing it for years. Companies like DoubleClick, etc. have been doing it for years. The advertising that's starting to appear on mobile phones (like Tuesday's article [slashdot.org] about Verizon Wireless) is all targeted as much as possible. The only way you can target ads is by using some sort of personal information, whether it's anonymous cookies, the physical location that your cellphone happens to be when an ad is delivered, the area code of your phone number, some demographic information you may have entered into a partners website, or a combination of all of the above.

Re:Big deal.... (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390246)

Companies like DoubleClick, etc. have been doing it for years.

I'd love to see philanthropic hacker create a worm that updates the host table to 127.0.0.1 DoubleClick, etc.

Big Deal (2, Interesting)

KwKSilver (857599) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389828)

I'm no fan of MS, but what else is new? If you don't like it don't use the product. MS's EULAs give MS the right to do whatever they want to with your data, and even if the EULA didn't it gives MS the right to change the EULA to say whatever they want it to say & you can agree or kiss your files goodbye. Isn't stuff like this the real reason why index.dat link [wikipedia.org] files are around? To feed MS data to use? Again, if you don't like it, don't use the stuff. There are ways out.

Re:Big Deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17391072)

Most of you are responding as if only advertisers and retailers are going to be using this data. Note that Google and other data aggregators are subject to demands from the US government from time to time. Google even explicitly acknowledges this in their terms of service.

If it were the government doing this, you'd be up in arms - and rightly so. How does it differ if the government can GET access on a routine basis without your knowledge? They're doing it already for air travel and email. It's hardly a stretch to imagine them getting it legally extended to these databases - to a very personal level.

It's not the advertisers or retailers I'm concerned about, it's Big Brother. The combination of detailed knowledge plus extensive power over our lives during the "war on terror" is what's truly terrifying. Remember the japanese-american internment camps during WWII? Gitmo shows we're absolutely no different in what we're willing to do. The key difference is in how easily our government can find the people to do it TO.

Yeah tell me another lie... (2, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 7 years ago | (#17389966)

It's very trivial to discover who people are, especially if you're combing and data mining their email for details to build reports to give to advertisers. Not only that, it's trivially simpler to correlate who people are with email and their IP addresses. So much private information passes through the email system, I would not be surprised if their are entire databases decribing everything about a person, their interests and their life that they have revealed through public email system to private friends, lovers and colleagues over the internet.

You cannot have privacy in a modern economy everyone leaves breadcrumbs everywhere by interacting with businesses.

I quit using hotmail (1)

fishyfool (854019) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390608)

when They wanted my credit card number to verify my identity.

Re:I quit using hotmail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17390752)

hotmail doesen't want your CC...

woOt fp (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17390824)

direct orders, or Prospects are long te8m survival keep, and I won't Fuck The Baby The nexT round of infinitesimally

Names and addresses... (1)

b0s0z0ku (752509) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390886)

From the article: 'Microsoft executives say the system works anonymously and they won't pass on people's names or addresses to advertisers.

Why, of course they won't pass *my* info onto advertisers. All they'll have to go on is an IP and maybe a name - it's not like I use my real address when applying for any free online services. I only use a real address and/or phone # if I actually want the people in question to contact me like if I'm buying a product online and want it to be shipped to me.

-b.

Just the usual trash (1)

geoff lane (93738) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390980)

I have yet to see any web ads that could in any manner be called "targeted" at me based on my interests, from any source. It's always the usual trash ads for stuff nobody with an IQ greater than their shoe size would want.

Implicit Firewall (1)

puppers (1033120) | more than 7 years ago | (#17390996)

I think the issue here is that there's always been a sort of implicit firewall where the stuff you do while logged in (even if targetted by ads whilst looking at your email) remains seperate from the ad tracking done on the open internet. Now what they're doing is using the data from your email to target ads to your machine when you're looking at, say, Slashdot (if Slashdot were running ads from the MSN network). Does anyone think I've misunderstood that. I think that's right...

What, no Minority Report quips? (1)

emurphy42 (631808) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391220)

I'm a bit disappointed.

Why does this bother people? (1)

llevity (776014) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391226)

Are people really so egotistical as to think that Microsoft or any corporation cares about them and their habits individually?

We're all just statistics. They care if 70% of a given demographic searches for 'PS2' over 'Xbox'. They don't care that you personally search for 'hot naked redheads'.

Personally, if I'm going to see ads, I'd rather see ones that are more likely to match my interests. I know, ads are evil and all that, and I usually just tune them out anyway, but if one actually does help me discover a product that I end up liking, well hell, what's the harm?

what are ads? (1)

myz24 (256948) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391436)

I'm surprised so many people are complaining about ads in the days of adblock and adblock plus. I hardly ever see ads.

Ads are good.. sometimes (2, Insightful)

WPIDalamar (122110) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391466)

Ad's aren't annoying in themselves, ad's you don't care about are annoying.

If you happen to see an ad that tells you about something you're interested in, that's a good thing for you and for the marketer and things like this just make that more likely.

Will somebody please think of the children! (1)

GroovBird (209391) | more than 7 years ago | (#17391776)

Actually, I think they did just that!

Should I like being a "target?" (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#17392002)

"We're in the early days of behavioral targeting but it's an idea whose time has come,' says Simon Andrews"

So, they think of me as a "target." And they're surprised that I don't like this?

"1a. An object, such as a padded disk with a marked surface, that is shot at to test accuracy in rifle or archery practice. b. Something aimed or fired at. 2. An object of criticism or attack. 3. One to be influenced or changed by an action or event. 4. A desired goal. 5. A railroad signal that indicates the position of a switch by its color, position, and shape. 6. The sliding sight on a surveyor's leveling rod. 7. A small round shield. 8a. A structure in a television camera tube with a storage surface that is scanned by an electron beam to generate a signal output current similar to the charge-density pattern stored on the surface. b. A usually metal part in an x-ray tube on which a beam of electrons is focused and from which x-rays are emitted."

I, for one, think it is legitimate to get angry at those who regard me, even metaphorically, as something to be shot at, fired at, attacked, influenced, or changed. I don't even like being a "desired goal."

Those who "target" me should not be surprised at being a target for my anger.

in other news.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17392046)

Google does the same thing, but no one takes any notice
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