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Microsoft patents the super cookie

May 7th, 2006 by Patrick S

The USPTO awarded Microsoft a patent for tracking usage behavior in computer systems. Similar to what’s known as web beacons and domain cookies, Microsoft’s new patent describes ways to track users through invisible images and tiny cookies.

US Patent 7039699, as it is formally known, will provide developers with an Application Program Interface (API) which can be called from languages such as JavaScript, ASP, and VBScript. The permanent cookie can contain four data types consisting of bits, counters, dates, and strings. In the patent description, Microsoft also notes that the cookie is flexible enough to allow for new data types in the future. But boring technical details aside, what is Microsoft’s goal with the patent? Nothing but the obvious.

Using the information found in the domain cookie, Internet content sites will have the opportunity to determine those user behaviors observed in particular segments of the Internet content sites that may be helpful to differentiate the user when visiting each of those segments. Moreover, with the use of the domain cookie, Internet content providers are given an opportunity to determine those behaviors that are observed in a particular segment of the Internet content sites that may be helpful to differentiate the user when visiting other segments of the Internet content sites.

Need an example?

For example, the following user behaviors on the MSN network may easily be recorded to assist Internet content providers to enhance a user’s experience: Did the customer ever buy a plane ticket on EXPEDIA.MSN.COM (an Internet content site dedicated to selling airline products and services)? What was the destination of the journey? Does the customer have a Hotmail (Internet based centralized e-mail) account? How many times did the customer visit MSN.COM? Based on this information, MSN web sites will be able to render more relevant content for a given user and to provide customized content in accordance with behavioral data that has been collected about the user, and/or a user’s preferences. Customized content may range from targeted advertising, to special limited services.

Source M-dollar.

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