Microsoft Media Player logs users' DVD picks

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.

Microsoft in its privacy policy for Windows Media Player did not disclose that the software connects to a Microsoft server for an exchange of data, Smith said. The company could use the collected information to compile a top 10 list of movies watched by Windows Media Player users or to show targeted advertisements based on what movies a user is watching, for example.

In a response to Smith published at his Website, Microsoft states it doesn't use the information at all. In addition, Microsoft says it does not believe this issue presents a privacy concern. Still, the software maker promises to amend its privacy policy to include the fact that Windows Media Player connects to the Web and that this procedure is not associated with personally identifiable information.

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.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joris Evers

Computerworld
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?