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Microsoft's Ad Team Trumps IE Developers' Privacy Aims 149

phantomfive writes "The company everyone loves to hate is after your private information, as the Wall Street Journal reports. The IE8 design team had planned on adding the best privacy features available, but the advertising executives wanted to track users. From the story: 'In the end, the product planners lost a key part of the debate. The winners: executives who argued that giving automatic privacy to consumers would make it tougher for Microsoft to profit from selling online ads. Microsoft built its browser so that users must deliberately turn on privacy settings every time they start up the software.'"
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Microsoft's Ad Team Trumps IE Developers' Privacy Aims

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  • Re:Surprised? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:23AM (#33108790) Journal
    A bit. It shows a lack of political awareness from the IE team. They could easily have got the features in if they'd pointed out to management that 'giving automatic privacy to consumers would make it tougher for Microsoft to profit from selling online ads' also means 'giving automatic privacy to consumers would make it tougher for Google to profit from selling online ads.'
  • Re:huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:24AM (#33108804) Homepage Journal

    When was Microsoft profiting from selling online ads? Maybe I just missed it,

    Bing is the #3 search engine. Microsoft owns Bing. Microsoft is a stable company with little prospects for growth (need proof? they've started paying dividends on their stock shares). Online search advertising is a growth market.
    I'm not sure if I can reliably convey an answer to you in less than four sentences, but there's my shot. Maybe someone can do it in three?

  • I hate IE8 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:30AM (#33108848) Homepage

    IE8 fails for me for one simple reason, that stupid button to remove an entry from the address bar. The number of times I've clicked on the drop down button, moved the cursor down to the line I want and clicked, only for it to remove the entry rather than navigating to it. Why they couldn't they have put that icon on the left side instead is beyond me.

    Granted I only use IE8 for testing our in-house software but it's still a hair pulling experience.

  • by The MAZZTer ( 911996 ) <> on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:41AM (#33108902) Homepage

    The Internet Explorer planners proposed a feature that would block any third-party content that turned up on more than 10 visited websites, figuring that anything so pervasive was likely to be a tracking tool. This, they believed, was a more comprehensive approach to privacy than simply turning off browser cookies, one that would thwart other tracking methods.

    Cue Firefox/Chrome extension implementing this feature in 3...2...1...

    In the meantime, Google for Ghostery, which blocks tracking tools using a blacklist. I've had it disabled actually because I figured adblock + a hosts file would do enough for me. But in honor of this article I will re-enable it.

  • Re:I hate IE8 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:43AM (#33108928)
    Conversely a behaviour I hate in Firefox is when you 'miss' an url in the auto complete dropdown. Rather than either doing nothing or closing the dropdown (both reasonable behaviours), it has a habbit of trying to take you to the half typed url (eg. 'www.slashdot.c' )which is utterly useless and irritating.
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:55AM (#33108986) Journal

    Or because the average user is running around the Internet looking for instant gratification and simply won't learn about security.

    But what if that's changing?

    We can bitch and moan about how worthless Facebook is but these privacy debacles seem to finally be waking people up to the real issues at stake. Thankfully to raise this issue it took just a few sensitive pictures of some fools to get out after they posted them to the world instead of a totally invasive all knowing nexus of everyone's everything. Seems like the past 20 or so years it's slowly been getting worse and worse on the internet. And now WSJ has this huge "expose" called What They Know [] with an intuitive display of what's affecting you [] without your knowledge. And that indicates that WSJ thinks people want to hear about this and that it will sell eyeballs. I say it's about damned time. I hope it doesn't stop here with Microsoft or even stop at browsers. It should continue from websites all the way back to The Patriot Act. Hopefully the spirit of privacy from government and corporations has merely been sleeping in Americans and not completely dead/relinquished. Unfortunately they say it's always much harder to win back liberties lost than to give them up.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @08:56AM (#33108994) Homepage

    They are currently king of the jungle and everyone knows it. The problem is, their kingdom is weakening and predictions are saying that Microsoft is the new (whatever previous king...IBM, Novell, whatever). A large part of the cause of this is Microsoft's lacking of good will. Microsoft is falling out of favor with its users. It's a growing problem for them and it's time they started trying to rebuild it.

    Setting their browser to block ads by default would not hurt their cash cows (MS Office and MS Windows) but would certainly hurt their ad revenue... and other people's ad revenue as well... others like Google.

    Now that I think about it, if they did use their browser to block ads, they might find themselves target of more anti-trust litigation.

  • Re:Surprised? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 02, 2010 @09:07AM (#33109074)

    Thus demonstrating that collusion is a stronger force than competition.

  • Cough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @09:37AM (#33109288) Homepage

    I don't really care about their motives or what they did. Hell, I avoid their software because of what they've done in the past, they have at least 10 years of spotless behaviour ahead of them before they ever even get back to the "Well, I'll consider them" phase.

    More importantly, is the "targetted" advertising and tracking information that they can gather really that worthwhile? What's the stats on un-targetted versus targetted advertising in any medium - online, TV, radio? Obviously, it's not a good idea to target condom advertising in between Teletubbies episodes but does the reverse really have a much-worse response rate than normal? Where is the value in collecting that massive amount of data? Google has oodles and oodles and oodles of advert targeting data if it wants to use it - but almost all Google Adwords I see aren't related to me at all and when you want to show your ads, it's more common to let you choose keywords, target demographics or just let things happen pretty much randomly and in the cheapest spots than it is to target your football-related ads on football sites.

    If I go to NOW, I get these ads: Cloud Computing Linux, SysAdmin role in London, Linux VPS, Peer 1 UK Managed Hosting, Linux Unmanaged VPS, CHILImodule (A linux-based computer), "Server hosting from staff who care", HPC Linux Servers, TomCat support, Free Code Security Support

    What targetted data could possibly have been used to show me those ads? The word Linux (in the sitename, I'm actually browsing from Windows in work and typed in the URL directly!), and my GeoIP (or, at least, my employer's GeoIP for their main proxy server). What's worth spending BILLIONS on infrastructure and data collection to put ads on a high-traffic Linux website that display to a London, UK user related to : London, UK and Linux.

    Fluke? Let me try my brother's site - a Scouting site whose URL is : Scout Uniforms for Sale, Ventures Abroad, Free Life Coach Training, Resellers Bookbuying tool, Scout & Guide Neckers, Names Badges and Lanyards, Cubs Laser Tag Fun, Scouting Activities, London Coupons, Scout Uniform.

    So, actually, with Google's "Targetted Ad's", we end up with 3 ad's that aren't at all related to scouting (the other has various links to it) - only one of which is linked to the GeoIP, most of the Scouting links were actually for US Scouting which is vastly different, and the two remaining tenuous links are pretty-much random fillers. Considering that sites earns it's entire hosting budget + a couple of camps for the kids every year from just the Google Ad's alone, that's pretty damning of ad-targeting technology.

    Seriously, what does collecting ad-targetting data in this manner get you that you couldn't from a quick keyword analysis and Geo IP lookup?

  • Re:Surprised? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dwinks616 ( 1536791 ) on Monday August 02, 2010 @11:50AM (#33111138) Homepage
    This is why I'm a 87 year old woman on most sites that ask for age/sex. All I ever see are ads for reverse mortgages and adult diapers, on the rare occasion I browse a page without adblock plus.

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