Microsoft has often been accused of spying on its users with Windows 10 because the operating system collects some data needed to diagnose bugs and help improve reliability, but if this recently-patented technology ever reaches mass-production, the firm should really be ready for a never-seen-before amount of criticism.
Called “Query formulation via task continuum,” the patent basically describes a technology that always monitors what users do on their computers, including here the time when they’re working with third-party apps.
As MSPU notes, the whole thing is happening for users’ own good, as what Microsoft is trying to do here is to connect third-party apps with its own services in order to provide better search experience.
Here’s how it works. Basically, Microsoft claims that by keeping an eye on whatever users are doing on their computers, such as writing a document, the search engine can always be prepared for delivering better search results. For instance, if you’re writing a paper on dancing, Bing knows what you’re interested in and can then provide results that are relevant to your work.
Microsoft has a few more details in the patent description, explaining that the new feature can collect any kind of “signal,” including text displayed to the user, text recognized from images, audio from a currently playing song, and many others.
“The operating system, comprising the function of mediation component, tracks all textual data displayed to the user by any application, and then performs clustering to determine the user intent (contextually). The inferred user intent sent as a signal to search providers to improve ranking of query suggestions, enables a corresponding improvement in user experience as the query suggestions are more relevant to what the user is actually trying to achieve,” Microsoft explains.
It goes without saying that Redmond emphasizes that users are always in full control of the feature and no data is tracked without their consent first, but we all know how these things work and how easily it is for privacy violation to take place.
For the moment, Microsoft doesn’t seem to be ready to bring this feature in Windows, but if the company is thinking of it, there might be a moment when some sort of implementation could be at least tested by the company. That will be the moment when we can finally say “bye-bye privacy.”