Our purpose with this series is to use real life examples of deception, fraud and other evil to show how you can better protect yourself. The examples cited in these articles are intended to demonstrate best practices and recommendations.
You've worked hard on your web pages. If you are anything like me, you've spent countless hours writing content, finding or creating graphics, cursing at tables, juggling lists and learning HTML and possibly even CSS, Java, DHTML and countless other things.
My web site is uniquely mine. It is a product of my imagination, my sweat, my brain and my frustration. I have spent many sleepless nights and countless long days adding just perfect content to communicate exactly what I wanted to say.
Now Microsoft has come along with a "brilliant" idea. They want to piggyback their own selected content on top of that work. The idea is to have their products (such as Internet Explorer and Office suite) scan web pages and documents for keywords and phrases known to Microsoft. Any of these that are found would be underlined with a special purple "squiggle" to show that they are "smart tags".
Anyone viewing page could then click on smart tag and be transported to a Microsoft web site for more information. For example, you could write a web page about Grand Canyon, and phrase "Grand Canyon" could be underlined, allowing your visitors to check out Expedia.Com page about how to book travel to area.
Why does Microsoft want to do this? It's really very simple - to make an incredible amount of money. Look at it this way, Microsoft suddenly would have at their disposal every single document viewed with a new Microsoft product as a potential advertisement. Wow. That's power. No, this is an understatement of incredible magnitude. This is more than power - this is harnessing of everyone's creative energy into a huge global advertising tool. It totally staggers imagination.
You could be looking at a newspaper site, reading an article about train travel, and click on numerous links to Microsoft sites (and presumably third party sites which paid Microsoft for privilege) selling train related products and services. If you read a classified ad on that same newspaper site selling an automobile, word "Cadillac" could be underlined with a smart tag linking to a Cadillac dealer.
Content (the tags) are added dynamically to web pages by browser without permission of person who created pages (the webmaster or author). While strictly speaking this might not violate copyright laws (but it might be considered vandalism), it sure is rude. In fact, most people would consider it highly unethical.