Re: Why is Microsoft watching us watch DVD movies?

From: Jamie Oulman (jamie@techsquare.com)
Date: 02/21/02


Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002 15:22:28 -0500
From: Jamie Oulman <jamie@techsquare.com>
To: "Richard M. Smith" <rms@computerbytesman.com>

note this article in the boston globe yesterday:

http://digitalmass.boston.com/news/2002/02/20/ms_privacy.html

microsoft is updating its privacy policy in accordance
with the changes it is making to WMP 8. and it isnt trying
hide the psuedo-spyware functionality it is adding.

what it comes down to is if you feel your privacy is being
invaded by using this software. 'dont use it'

eof

jamie.

On Wed, Feb 20, 2002 at 05:46:24PM -0500, Richard M. Smith wrote:
> Serious privacy problems in Windows Media Player for Windows XP
>
> by Richard M. Smith
> http://www.ComputerBytesMan.com
> February 20, 2002
>
> Introduction
> ============
>
> I found a number of serious privacy problems with Microsoft's Windows
> Media Player (WMP) for Windows XP. A number of design choices were made
> in WMP which allow Microsoft to individually track what DVD movies
> consumers are watching on their Windows PC. These problems which
> introduced in version 8 of WMP which ships preinstalled on all Windows
> XP systems.
> In particular, the privacy problems with WMP version 8 are:
>
> - Each time a new DVD movie is played on a computer, the WMP software
> contacts a Microsoft Web server to get title and chapter information for
> the DVD. When this contact is made, the Microsoft Web server is giving
> an electronic fingerprint which identifies the DVD movie being watched
> and a cookie which uniquely identifies a particular WMP player. With
> this two pieces of information Microsoft can track what DVD movies are
> being watched on a particular computer.
>
> - The WMP software also builds a small database on the computer hard
> drive of all DVD movies that have been watched on the computer.
>
> - As of Feb. 14, 2002, the Microsoft privacy policy for WMP version 8
> does not disclose that the fact that WMP "phones home" to get DVD title
> information, what kind of tracking Microsoft does of which movies
> consumers are watching, and how cookies are used by the WMP software and
> the Microsoft servers.
>
> - There does not appear to be any option in WMP to stop it from phoning
> home when a DVD movie is viewed. In addition, there does not appear any
> easy method of clearing out the DVD movie database on the local hard
> drive.
>
> Technical Details
> =================
>
> When a DVD movie is played by the WMP, one of the first thing that WMP
> does is to query via the Internet a Microsoft server for information
> about the DVD. The query is made using the standard HTTP protocol that
> is also used by Web browsers like Internet Explorer or Netscape
> Navigator.
>
> Using a packet sniffer I was able to observe WMP making these queries to
> a Microsoft server each time a new DVD movie was played. The packet
> sniffer also showed the movie information which was returned to WMP by
> the Microsoft servers.
> The first HTTP GET request sent by WMP identified the movie being
> played. For example, an HTTP GET request is made for this URL for the
> "Dr. Strangelove" DVD:
>
> http://windowsmedia.com/redir/QueryTOC.asp?WMPFriendly=true&locale=409&
> version=8.0.0.4477&
> cd=1E+96+1B1E+30D9+42D8+5D61+783E+9083+C49C+F0C8+1151E+13CF9+
> 15812+16C5D+1A04F+1BF2D+1ECB7
> +212E1+22E48+25724+27E9D+2A91A+
> 2D0E6+2F451+38367+3CF64+4A4D6+4C001+4D517+4E51B+4FDBC+51F74
>
> The hex numbers at the end of the URL are an electronic fingerprint for
> the DVD table of contents which uniquely identify the "Dr. Strangelove"
> DVD.
>
> This URL is sent to WindowsMedia.com, Microsoft's Web site dedicated to
> the WMP software.
>
> The HTTP GET request also included a ID number in cookie which uniquely
> identifies my WMP player. Here's what this cookie looks like:
>
> MC1=V=2&GUID=CA695830BB504D399B9958473C0FF086
>
> By default, this cookie is anonymous. That is, no personal information
> is associated with the cookie value. However, if a person signs up for
> the Windows Media newsletter, their email address will be associated
> with their WindowsMedia.com cookie. For example, when I signed for the
> Windows Media newsletter, the following URL was sent to Microsoft
> servers:
>
> rms@computerbytesman.com">http://windowsmedia.com/mg/Newsletter.asp?eNws=rms@computerbytesman.com&
> format=HTM
>
> The same windowsmedia.com cookie value will be sent back to Microsoft
> servers when signing up for the newsletter and when a DVD moive is
> played. In addition, using various well-known "cookie synch" tricks, an
> email address can be associated with a cookie value at any time.
>
> Also when subscribing to the Windows Media newsletter, I was encouraged
> by an email message from the Microsoft newsletter department to create a
> Passport account based on my email address. In theory, yet more personal
> information from Passport could be matched with what DVD movies I have
> watched. There is no evidence however that Microsoft is making this
> connection.
>
> The WindowsMedia.com cookie was assigned to my computer the first time I
> ran WMP. The lifetime of the cookie was set to about 18 months. This
> cookie gives Microsoft the ability to track the DVD movies that I watch
> on my computer.
>
> After a series of redirects from the WindowsMedia.Com server,
> information about the "Dr. Strangelove" movie was returned in this XML
> file:
>
> http://services.windowsmedia.com/amgvideo_a/template/QueryDVDTOC_v3.xml?
> TOC=90a1b0d1571524ea
>
> WMP extracted movie information from this file and then added this
> information to a database file, named wmplibrary_v_0_12.db, which is
> located on my hard disk in the directory " C:\Documents and Settings\All
> Users\Application Data\Microsoft\Media Index". I didn't see any method
> of removing movie information from this file, so it appears to me that
> the file keeps a complete record of all movies watched that have ever
> been watched on my computer.
>
> Because as of Feb. 14, 2002 the Windows Media privacy policy is silent
> about what is done with DVD information sent to Microsoft servers by the
> WMP software, we can only speculate what Microsoft is doing with the
> information. Here are some possibilities:
>
> - Microsoft can be used DVD title information for direct marketing
> purposes. For example, the WMP start-up screen or email offers can be
> customized to offer new movies to a WMP user based on previous movies
> they have watched.
>
> - Microsoft can be keeping aggregrate statistics about what DVD movies
> are the most popular. This information can be published as weekly or
> monthly "top ten" lists.
>
> - Microsoft might be doing nothing with the DVD information. (In my
> discussions with Microsoft, I was told this option is their current
> practice.)
>
> Note: The Video Privacy Protection Act of the United States prevents
> video rental stores from using movie titles for direct marketing
> purposes. The letter of this law does not a pply to Microsoft because
> they are not a video rental store. However, clearly the spirit of the
> law is that companies should not be using movie title information for
> marketing purposes.
>
> Recommendations
> ===============
>
> I believe that the Microsoft should remove the DVD movie information
> feature from WMP version 8 altogether. The value of feature seems very
> small given that almost all DVD movies include a built-in chapter guide.
> In addition, the Microsoft movie information feature is not available
> when DVD movies are shown in full-screen which is how DVD are typically
> watched.
>
> If Microsoft feels that this feature is important to leave in WMP, then
> I think it should be turned off by default. The feature can be made
> privacy-friendly very easily, by having WMP never send in cookie
> information with movie title requests. This change will prevent
> Microsoft from tracking individual movie viewing choices.
>
> Vendor Response
> ===============
>
> Response from the Windows Digital Media Division of Microsoft
> Corporation is available here:
>
> http://www.computerbytesman.com/privacy/wmp8response.htm
>
> Acknowledgements
> ================
>
> Thanks to Ian Hopper of the Associated Press for bringing this issue to
> the attention of the author.
>
> Links
> =====
>
> Digital Media in Windows XP
> http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/windowsxp.asp
>
> Media Player for Windows XP Privacy Statement
> http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/software/v8/privacy.asp
>
> The RealJukeBox monitoring system
> http://www.computerbytesman.com/privacy/realjb.htm
>
> TiVo's Data Collection and Privacy Practices
> http://www.privacyfoundation.org/privacywatch/report.asp?id=62&action=0
>
> Internet Explorer SuperCookies bypass P3P and cookie controls
> http://www.computerbytesman.com/privacy/supercookie.htm
>
> Video Privacy Protection Act
> http://www.accessreports.com/statutes/VIDEO1.htm
>
> Bill Gate's memo on Trustworthy computing memo
> http://www.computerbytesman.com/security/billsmemo.htm
>
>
>
>



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