webtv-insecurities.txt

1999-08-17T00:00:00
ID PACKETSTORM:15347
Type packetstorm
Reporter Packet Storm
Modified 1999-08-17T00:00:00

Description

                                        
                                            `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>  
  
http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/zd/zd7.htm  
10/12/98-   
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  
  
-o-  
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Today's ISN Sponsor: Repent Security Incorporated [www.repsec.com]  
`