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Google Patents Your Rights Online

Google Nabs Patent To Monitor Your Cursor Movement 198

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-see-what-you-did-there dept.
bool2 writes "Google has been awarded a patent for displaying search results based on how you move your mouse cursor on the screen... Google's plans are to monitor the movements of the cursor, such as when a user hovers over a certain ad or link to read a tooltip, and then provide relevant search results, and ads, based on that behaviour. It means that it does not require users to actually click a link to know that they were interested in it, opening a world of opportunity for even more focused ads."
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Google Nabs Patent To Monitor Your Cursor Movement

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  • Adverts... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:17PM (#33047500)

    Fuck adverts.

    • by stonewallred (1465497) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:41PM (#33048008)
      Good, I will keep a window open with the picture of a rabbit with a pancake on its head and have my cursor on it most of the time. Let them figure out what targeted ads to show me then.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The mouse-listening will be multiplexed to DHS and trust me, they don't take it lightly on rabbit with pancake hovering weirdos like you.
    • Re:Adverts... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DigitAl56K (805623) * on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @05:28PM (#33050960)

      Fuck adverts.

      Really? So you're willing to pay a monthly subscription to all your favorite search engines, news sites, etc. then?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:18PM (#33047522)

    Hover on this comment and it will change to something relevant.

  • by jd2112 (1535857) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:18PM (#33047528)
    I wouldn't want to deal with no-click shopping.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:26PM (#33047674)

    What about people who inadvertently leave their cursor at a certain spot that happens to be a link while reading the results? It seems to me that this wouldn't produce very useful information.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by orgelspieler (865795)
      Hell, I still browse with keyboard commands sometimes. I can go quite a while without even touching the mouse. But I say we encourage them to collect more and more data. Especially useless data like this. It makes the real nuggets of important info harder to find.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by interkin3tic (1469267)

      Seems like that would be easy enough to sort out. If someone moves their cursor toward something, then away that might be a potential interest. If they leave the cursor in one place for an extended period of time, probably not interest, it's probably "reading." Seems like it wouldn't be too hard to tell if the page had a lot of text as well. Similarly, if you walk away from the computer, the cursor is going to be in one place for a comparatively long time, they'd presumably be able to tell that it was i

    • by Sparks23 (412116) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:39PM (#33047964)

      I now see a bright side to the 'touchscreen devices can't support mouse movement and Javascript hover behavior' complaints about web development for Android, iPhone, iPad, WebOS etc.

    • by mea37 (1201159)

      You're conflating "data that contains some noise" with "data that isn't valuable".

      I'm also not sure there'll be that much noise, really. I don't know about you, but when I read I usually put my mouse where I'm sure it will be out of the way while I scroll around. For me, usually that's whitespace in the left margin. Even if I cast the cursor aside randomly, what are the odds it lands on an ad-sensitive link?

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        When I read, I constantly highlight and unhighlight the text I'm reading. Out of habit, I'm not even thinking about it most of the time. I've noticed a lot of other techies who do exactly the same think. I'm sure I would rack up quite a bit noise data into their system.
  • Don't be evil... when people are watching.
  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:29PM (#33047784) Homepage

    Thanks Google, for the disclosure of this invention which society will be free to benefit from in 2030.

    Some will say that the game is broken and Google is just obliged to play the game too, but in that case, they could make a promise not to use this patent aggressively. Since there's no such promise, all we can say is that they're stockpiling dangerous patents.

    • by john83 (923470) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:59PM (#33048268)
      I do recall seeing an interview in which a Google executive (I forget which one) was asked about patents. He replied that Google was only interested in defensive patents. Of course, that statement isn't exactly binding, but even the links you've given claim that Google has never sued anyone for patent infringement.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        If anyone could post the link to that interview, it would be good to have.

        I'm certainly happier that this patent is going to Google than to MS or a troll, but companies change and twenty years is a long time.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Raenex (947668)

        Microsoft used to be in the same position. Bill Gates wanted patents for defensive purposes. For a long time they didn't sue anybody over them. That changed.

    • by Zerth (26112)

      Seriously, "display ads determined by *FOO*" is the new "do *BAR*, but on the internet".

  • by supersloshy (1273442) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:29PM (#33047786)

    ...is most people I know use their eyes instead of their mouse to see. Why would you need to move your mouse over to a certain part of the screen when you can just look there? Also, there's times where the mouse is just sitting in a portion of the screen idly, or sometimes people randomly move their mouse around to fulfill their OCD-ish needs (I'd know, I do that). A better alternative would simply be to see which links people end up clicking, which I'm pretty sure lots of search engines already do, and it works very well from what I've seen.

    • They're going to show their search result in a really narrow strip of screenspace, with a scrollbar next to it. Then they'll measure how long you keep looking at a certain part of the search results.

    • by treeves (963993) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:40PM (#33047982) Homepage Journal
      I'll go further and say that I tend to move the cursor AWAY FROM where I'm looking so as not to be distracted by it or cover things up. They'd get a negative correlation with what I'm interested in from my cursor movement. But maybe they already know that.
      • Re:They know that (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TaoPhoenix (980487)

        Of course they do.

        Welcome to the art of Inverse Patents.

        You patent the "sexy" form of the Patent concept, but you implement it 1-X. "Draw a burst radius around what you moved your mouse away from to read and correlate with subsequent clicks".

    • by blair1q (305137)

      I ODC-ishly select things randomly onscreen.

      I think I started it as a way to save my place in walls of words while my eyes wandered or I scrollwheeled, and now it's just part of the browsing motion. Though it's definitely found my OCD neurons and they amplify the effect.

      So my mouse is almost never where I'm looking, and it's often selecting the wrong words.

    • ...or sometimes people randomly move their mouse around to fulfill their OCD-ish needs...

      Damn you!

      I'll show you...

      You are AWARE OF YOUR TONGUE!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RossumsChild (941873)
      "sometimes people randomly move their mouse around to fulfill their OCD-ish needs."

      You aren't kidding. Back in the earlier days of the Internet, I used to have my color palette inverted, so I was more comfortable with white text on a black background. I got fond of it, but as the internet began to rely more and more heavily on embedded and background images and that started resulting often in pages I couldn't see or wouldn't render properly, I finally went back to the 'normal' palette. Now I find I co
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by clone53421 (1310749)

      Why would you need to move your mouse over to a certain part of the screen when you can just look there?

      Because something useful pops up when you do, obviously. Try the new Google Image Search [google.com] to see what I mean.

    • sometimes people randomly move their mouse around to fulfill their OCD-ish needs

      I know this is what they'd see from my data sometimes.
      "It looks like he was looking back a forth in a inch inch range about 3 times a second."

  • Hellllloooooooooo NoScript.

  • by SLot (82781) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:31PM (#33047818) Homepage Journal

    Michael J. Fox isn't worried about this patent.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      even sadder, he's probably terrified of it.

      as bad as we say ad-targeting is, totally un-targeted ads are pure noise.

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:31PM (#33047836) Homepage

    I wiggle the mouse and randomly highlight text while I'm reading -- it used to confuse and baffle co-workers. Mostly it's just keeping my hand busy.

    If they can infer anything meaningful from what is essentially doodling with the mouse, good luck with that. What I'm highlighting or hovering over has little to do with how they might be able to advertise to me. Heck, I think it would be funny to see the results.

    And, I somewhat agree with the observations in TFA that there might be some privacy issues here. I already block google analytics on most of my machines.

    • "Mostly it's just keeping my hand busy."

      Well, I think I can guess what's entertaining the non-mouse hand.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Well, I think I can guess what's entertaining the non-mouse hand.

        *laugh* You know, as I typed that I pretty much knew someone would say something along those lines. Thanks for not disappointing. :-P

        No, actually the left hand is sitting on the home row where it belongs. The right hand has become accustomed to being on the mouse a good chunk of the time.

        • No, actually the left hand is sitting on the home row where it belongs.

          Speak for yourself...

          Mine rests on WASD. :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dintlu (1171159)

      I highlight text, too.

      Some people hover over the text that they are reading, moving the mouse in parallel lines across the screen and indicating to Google the speed at which they read,
      Some people don't move the mouse at all while reading.
      Some people throw the mouse to the corner of the screen while they're reading.
      Some people hover over ads but don't click. Others avoid hovering over ads.
      Some people's behavior changes when they use a laptop versus a desktop.

      Most of the people I know consistently perform a

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        Any ad that gets through noscript will be hovered over, just long enough for me to use firebugs inspect element and then edit it out of the damn page.

        Does this mean that google will think I am interested in those ads (some google domains are permitted to use javascript due to gmail)?

    • by Speare (84249)
      Due to constant interruptions, I often end up moving the mouse to the area nearest where I'm reading. A bookmark on a long page. Well, I then move to any area that doesn't pop up an annoying tool tip. Tool tips are really nice in being able to expand a little bit on what you can't quite read (elided text) or remember about a toolbar button (function name), but nowadays every frickin' thing is a hot zone for tool tip popups to blare out at you, get in your way, and generally harass you for your attention.
  • This is a story about patent abuse. There's a language and an environment which fires events based on other events. Now it turns out that actually using these features is so frapping ingenious that nobody but Google can do it for 20 years!

    • by pooh666 (624584)
      Agreed. There is just NO freaking way there is not prior art on this. People have done this and got bored with it 2 years ago or more.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Monchanger (637670)

        People have done this and got bored with it 2 years ago or more.

        If you had RTFP, you'd know that Google's patent [uspto.gov] application was initially filed in Dec., 2004. That's a little over 2 years ago in case you couldn't figure it out.

    • by bjourne (1034822)
      There is a Swedish startup (forgot their name and it is weird, so I can't link to them) who is currently marketing a service which records how users interacts with your website. Complete with mouse motion and page scrolling. The webmaster can then download the recorded videos and analyse how their visitors interacts with their site. I'm surprised they haven't made it big yet because the feature would be an amazing addition to Google Analytics for example. Anyway, from there on it is a miniscule step from ha
  • Legally (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:38PM (#33047958)

    What is the difference between this and a keylogger?

    It's one thing to record commands I have sent to their computers by clicking. It's another thing entirely to track things I do on MY computer. I foresee a lot of legislation in Google's future.

    • by kurokame (1764228)

      I'm a bit out of date on the nuts and bolts, mainly because I'm not in web development, but my guess is that they can only track hover actions not raw mouse data. It's not terribly different than using a tracking pixel.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm usually one of the first to start worrying about privacy issues. But I think that here, the likelihood of the data set being dominated by noise and leading to extremely weird marketing behaviors is a larger concern than the privacy concerns - assuming that the patent e

      • I'm a bit out of date on the nuts and bolts, ..., but my guess is that they can only track hover actions not raw mouse data

        If you mean "raw mouse data" as in bits coming down the wire from the mouse (or receiver for wireless), they definitely can't get at that.

        Assuming no software is downloaded, web sites only have access to stuff the browser gives them. This is in the form of actions (mouse move, clicks, etc) and keyboard codes/characters being performed on a Javascript object (e.g. a textbox, buttons or the page itself). Assume any input done while a browser is active could be tracked by the page in the current tab.

        As to th

      • I'm a bit out of date on the nuts and bolts, mainly because I'm not in web development, but my guess is that they can only track hover actions not raw mouse data.

        There's also the onmousemove event, which provides the coordinates of the mouse. While you're on a page with the JavaScript (and don't have JavaScript blocked or disabled), they can track the position of the mouse relatively to the browser window.

    • ESPECIALLY if you use the onboard keyboard Ease of Access tool!

      Though generally this only deals with your mouse on the browser (I believe?)

    • Re:Legally (Score:4, Informative)

      by PhrostyMcByte (589271) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @03:17PM (#33049300) Homepage
      Websites have been doing this for at least a few years now already. They've got heat maps that show where people keep their mouse. I don't really see how Google's idea is any different, unless they feed it through some mouse gesture software to get a deeper meaning.
  • Someone please quickly patent the tracking of the eye balls of the users, using one or more cameras, determine the part of the screen the user is looking at and throw even more targeted ad at them.
  • by Tomahawk (1343) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:40PM (#33047988) Homepage

    If I'm reading something, I move the mouse out of the way. So, if Google want to track what I'm interested in, they'll need to look at what the mouse is _not_ hovering over, or certainly not stopped over.

    • On a similar note, I often hover my mouse over search results to try and figure out why they showed up in response to my search because as far as I am concerned they are irrelevant to what I searched for. Now Google is going to start presenting things to me based on my curiosity about why something I have no interest in showed up in my search results. That sounds like a win all around to me. /s
    • by robi2106 (464558)

      I am sure this would be possible too. Since if you are looking at a page of google search results they can easily check the distance + time quality vs whatever you eventually click on to see if you move your mouse away from what you eventually click on... or more your mouse close to what you eventually click on.

      Then they can just set that correlation coefficient in a cookie / server side property of your google account and use it to modify the search behavior appropriately.

  • by Chineseyes (691744) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:41PM (#33048010)
    I've worked at two companies where we created libraries for monitoring cursor movement, what the business folks used it for I'm not certain but this has been done over and over. What is so new and innovative about their implementation that it is patentable?
    • I've worked at two companies where we created libraries for monitoring cursor movement, what the business folks used it for I'm not certain but this has been done over and over. What is so new and innovative about their implementation that it is patentable?

      First, to say something is prior art, you have to read the claims of the patent, not the title of the Slashdot summary. For one, were your two companies providing search results and modifying the relevance of the results based on the cursor movement? Probably not.

      Second, flip through the comments here on Slashdot:
      Good luck with that [slashdot.org]
      For me, it'll be incorrect data [slashdot.org]
      The only problem with that... [slashdot.org]
      Not accurate metrics. [slashdot.org]

      Apparently, ordinary "skilled in the art" programmers and computer folks think that thi

  • Hooray! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zmollusc (763634) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:44PM (#33048048)

    I am all for more focused ads. I dream of the day i will get an advert for something i will actually buy.

  • by RabbitWho (1805112) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @01:44PM (#33048052) Homepage Journal
    If we weren't supposed to stroke men and women in ads then the cursor wouldn't change into the shape of a hand.

    What am I supposed to do now?
  • Boxy Ads (Score:2, Funny)

    by ctchristmas (1821682)
    I fully expect within the next two years all monitors will come equipped with a special extending boxing glove robot arm that will punch you in the face with advertisements. That way you have no option but to look as you get punched in the eye with an ad and you will never forget it.
  • Maybe that explains why I keep getting ads for green paint and nipple rings.
  • Whatever. How long will I have to wait for someone to develop a plug-in for Firefox that blocks their ability to track that? I find the very idea of it extremely intrusive, almost Minority Report-esque.
  • I wonder what they will make of my mouse movements. I tend to highlight text as I am reading as sort of a place holder.
  • We wrote code to monitor mouse movements to detect click fraud years ago. However, we didn't deploy it for general use because it's a violation of the end-user's privacy - we only used it for pages and IPs that we suspected were either bots or paid-to-click.

    So yes, by your mouse movement (not just the movement, but the timing) we could take specific advertisement-related actions.

  • by slick7 (1703596) on Tuesday July 27, 2010 @03:49PM (#33049722)
    In Soviet Russia, mouse tracks you.
  • It seems to me there is a wonderful opportunity here to do some data poisoning. A nice plugin to send Google as much false data and noise as possible, to reduce the value of this technology as close to zero as can be arranged. Identification of advertisers who knowingly use this information would be good too, to do a little "targeted" activity as a return favor. Nothing drastic or illegal, just boycotts and public shaming and attempts to poison their data caches too.

    If they do this, my default search eng

  • Tracking cursor movements is tantamount to an invasion of privacy. The only thing missing is a MAC address mouse with a biometric fingerprint scanner, that way the government can track your movements from the time you purchase the mouse to the time and place the mouse is installed and used. Talk about big brother.
    P.S. I, slick7 do hereby claim the concept of a MAC address mouse (IPv4,IPv6,IPv8,IPV16,IPv32) with biometric fingerprint scanner on this date,27 July, 2010 at the time of 2059 GMT. This claim supe

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