TUCoPS :: Privacy :: webtv-~1.txt

WebTV (a Microsoft product) is Watching You!

Date: Mon, 12 Oct 1998 21:32:49 -0600 (MDT)
From: mea culpa <jericho@dimensional.com>
To: InfoSec News <isn@repsec.com>
Subject: [ISN] Web TV owns your cache

Forwarded From: Jon <jon@networkcommand.com>

WebTV is watching you
>From: Inter@ctive Week Online

Microsoft Corp.'s WebTV Networks Inc. is quietly using a system-polling
feature that can extrapolate subscriber information from each of its
450,000 users to better serve advertisers, said Steve Perlman, president
of WebTV. 

The polling, which takes place nightly, uploads television and Web site
viewing habits back to the system. The data makes it possible for WebTV to
scrutinize not only what subscribers are watching, but also what they are
clicking on or surfing away from, Perlman said. The polling results are
offered to advertisers in an aggregate format;  however, because results
are grouped by ZIP code and contain demographic data compiled from WebTV
viewers' polls, it can help them target ads more effectively. 

"We have a whole department that does nothing but look at the information.
If someone is watching a car ad and clicks through, we can send them to
the closest car dealership Web site," Perlman said.  "The balance is
providing advertisers with useful information while still protecting the
subscribers." WebTV already protects its subscribers from Internet cookies
-- markers that track what sites people visit on the Web. 

"I don't think people understand the extent of this. It's recording
everything they do. This is like having a video camera on them 24 hours a
day," said Tom Rheinlander, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. 

The polling will take a giant step into the realm of cable TV in 1999.
Tele-Communications Inc. and other cable operators are expected to deploy
more than 5 million set-top boxes that will ship with Windows CE and the
Solo chip, bringing WebTV to cable. 

Today, WebTV informs its subscribers about the polling. Next year, Perlman
said, customers will have the option of turning individual tracking on and
off at will. This will allow advertisers to send ads to single households,
not just ZIP codes. 

Sean Kaldor, vice president of International Data Corp.'s Consumer Device
Research, said this could translate into greater ad revenue for Microsoft. 
"But it could also work out well for subscribers.  They may get lower or
free subscriptions for enabling this level of tracking," Kaldor said. "Is
it going to happen? I doubt it, but it's a nice thought." 

By Karen J. Bannan

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