Microsoft Ambivalent About Advertising, Privacy

Dennis Faas's picture

As noted by the New York Times, new technologies have become so powerful that protecting individual privacy may no longer be the only issue. With the Internet, wireless sensors, and the capability to analyze an avalanche of data, a person's profile can be drawn without monitoring him or her directly. (Source:

Every time you use your credit card to make a purchase, you give up your privacy. When you use your credit or debit card, a record of that transaction is logged into a database of information collected by your credit card issuer. (Source:

Tracking systems that can determine the viewer's gender, approximate age range and, in some cases, ethnicity, to change ads accordingly have been developed for those advertisements on video screens -- in malls, health clubs or grocery stores for example -- by small cameras that can now be embedded in the screen or hidden around it. (Source:

How much personal data should consumers share? It depends on where you stand, and as noted by ZDNet, Microsoft stands in several places at once. (Source:

Microsoft Sits On The Fence

Much of Microsoft's advice helps consumers avoid being victims of identity theft, teaching consumers to be wary about how much personal data they share online; they want to protect users of their operating systems and web browsers, but they also have an interest in finding out as much as they can about Internet users to target advertising and other promotional messages. Part of Microsoft's large online business includes providing server-side technologies to web sites wanting to track and target consumers with products and services.

Microsoft says they are very careful with data collected about Internet users and has a strict privacy policy, and that data privacy has to be a shared responsibility between educated consumers, government laws, and ethical online businesses. (Source:

Microsoft needs to walk a fine line on this issue; although they advise consumers to be very careful about revealing too much of their own personal information, they provide technologies to third parties that help use consumer information for commercial advantages.

And that same personal information collected for commercial purposes could easily also be used for criminal purposes. Privacy is important because without it, information will be abused. Privacy protects us from that abuse. (Source:

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