Mike Gerwitz

Activist for User Freedom

Windows 8.1 to display targeted advertisements on local system searches


It is very disturbing that Microsoft decided that it would be a good idea to display targeted ads on local searches—that is, if you search for a file on your PC named “finances”, you may get ads for finance software, taxes, etc. If you search for “porn”, well, you get the idea.

Bing Ads will be an integral part of this new Windows 8.1 Smart Search experience. Now, with a single campaign setup, advertisers can connect with consumers across Bing, Yahoo! and the new Windows Search with highly relevant ads for their search queries. In addition, Bing Ads will include Web previews of websites and the latest features like site links, location and call extensions, making it easier for consumers to complete tasks and for advertisers to drive qualified leads.[1]

While that is certainly obnoxious, consider the larger issue of privacy (which seems to be in the news a lot lately[2][3]): Late last year, there was an uproar in the Free Software community when Ubuntu decided to query Amazon—enabled by default—on local searches using their new Unity interface. The problem is that your personal queries are being sent to a third party—queries that you generally would expect to be private. If I run a find' orgrep’ command on my system, I certainly do not expect it to report to Amazon or Microsoft what I am searching for.

And to make matters even worse, Microsoft is exploiting this information to allow advertisers to target you. Ironic.

Do not use Windows 8 (or any other proprietary software, for that matter).