Some people have reacted with fear and skepticism to a patent application Microsoft filed for a new advertising framework that would gather data from Word documents and e-mail messages to display more targeted advertising in the context of desktop applications.
The patent application, reported first on Monday by InformationWeek, offers a description of targeted advertising:
Targeting advertisements is highly valued by advertisers because it allows placement of advertisements that are theoretically of greater interest to a particular audience member than blanket advertising.
How it is currently done on the Web:
Targeting advertising to a user viewing content on the Internet or web-browsing on computers creates an opportunity for an "audience of one." By analyzing what a user is performing web searches on or by watching clicks on a web portal, advertisements may be targeted to a particular user.
And how this new client-side advertising framework could expand targeting to desktop applications:
An advertising framework may reside on a user computer, whether it's a part of the OS, an application or integrated within applications. Applications, tools, or utilities may use an application program interface to report context data tags such as key words or other information that may be used to target advertisements. The advertising framework may host several components for receiving and processing the context data, refining the data, requesting advertisements from an advertising supplier, for receiving and forwarding advertisements to a display client for presentation, and for providing data back to the advertising supplier. ... An application, such as a word processor or email client, may serve as both a source of context data and as a display client.
Here's a statement from David Kaefer, general manager of intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, in response to my request about any plans the company might have to make an actual product/service out of the ideas covered in the patent:
Microsoft is constantly developing innovative, rich technologies in the user interface area. We have over 5,000 patents worldwide and we are proud of the quality of these patents and the innovations they represent. As a general practice, we do not typically comment on pending patent applications because it is unclear if the claims in the application may be modified through the approval process by the patent office.