[ISN] Web TV owns your cache

From: mea culpa (jerichot_private)
Date: Mon Oct 12 1998 - 20:32:49 PDT

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    Forwarded From: Jon <jont_private>
    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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