Study: MS Word documents can be tracked on Web

Users of Microsoft's word processor have long been able to embed graphics in their documents, but versions of the program since Word 97 have allowed users to replace a bulky, memory-hogging graphic with a short URL pointing to the location of the graphic on a Web server. Each time the document is opened, the computer sends an HTTP request to the Web server asking for the graphic.

The Privacy Foundation reports that this can be used to track who is reading a document, without the reader's knowledge. Each time the graphic is requested, the Web server logs the IP (Internet Protocol) address and host name of the computer requesting it. By including a link to an almost invisibly small (1 pixel square) image, known as a Web bug, in their document, authors can collect this information on their Web server without their readers being aware that an image was requested.

"We are not aware of Web bugs being used in this way," said Richard M. Smith, chief technology officer of the Privacy Foundation. "But the possibility is troubling given the trend of using the Internet and monitoring software to track individual behavior."

Web bugs are so called because of their reported use by advertisers and others for discreetly tracking readers of Web pages.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Peter Sayer

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?