Microsoft Corp.'s latest media player software keeps track of what DVDs are played on a PC and shares that information with the software maker via the Internet, privacy watcher Richard Smith said in an advisory Wednesday.
Windows Media Player 8, which comes with Microsoft's Windows XP, contacts a Microsoft Web server each time a new DVD is played on a computer. The server is given a unique fingerprint for the DVD and the media player client, allowing Microsoft to track what movies are watched on a particular PC, Smith wrote in his advisory posted at http://www.computerbytesman.com/privacy/wmp8dvd.htm.
The unique code Windows Media Player 8 sends to Microsoft identifies the software, not the person using it. However, the anonymity could be lifted if the user signs up for the Windows Media e-mail newsletter, according to Smith.
Title and track information on the DVD are retrieved from Microsoft's server and stored in a file on the user's computer, Smith wrote in his advisory. This local file could pose a privacy problem if the PC is used by more than one person. A user could uncover what movies another user is watching.
Users can turn off the Web lookup feature in Windows Media Player 8 by choosing to work offline in the "File" menu, Microsoft said. Another option is to change the privacy settings to block all "cookies."
Microsoft could not be reached for direct comment.