Download our in-depth report: The Ultimate Guide to IT Security VendorsNews broke last week that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, home of the dingbats who routinely issue patents on water, fire, and ham sandwiches, has issued a new patent to Microsoft.
What could this insanely cool patentable idea of the 21st century be?
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Even Google has gotten into the act with an array of new web-based applications like Google Docs, Google Spreadsheet and most recently Google Presentation presenting a head-on challenge to Microsofts dominant Office software suite.
As I've written previously, it can sometimes be difficult to remember how Google makes its money. The company still makes most of its money by sifting through the worlds data and dotting it with advertisements.
The strategy behind how Google web-based apps will make money is pretty simple: while youre setting up a spreadsheet for your office football pool, contextually appropriate ads can appear in and around your workspace, such as ads for gambling addiction hotlines, and for resume preparation services for when the boss loses to you in the football pool.
You have rejected the revised privacy statement. Your account will be closed on July 31, 2003. This means: the information stored in your profile will be deleted [...] Someone else could register a new account using this e-mail address [...] You may lose access to any participating sites or services you now use and to information that you provided to those sites or services.
Granted, this patent isnt likely to be worth the paper its printed on. The filing date is in 2003, which is approximately four years after I helped an employer design exactly such a system to cancel users accounts and deny system access to protected data if users chose to withdraw privacy consent.
But the value of this patent is to make it very clear how companies like Microsoft intend to view your work product in that brave new world in which you dont own the software you use to create, manage, and make use of that product. This patent is a road map for how a company like Microsoft can, and just might, hold your personal and professional data hostage if you dont agree to whatever they want to do with it.Its like a bad joke we didnt merely invent holding your information hostage, weve got the patent on it!
Then again, if youre considering using hosted productivity applications for your business critical or personal documents and data, without ironclad guarantees of privacy and security, then the joke is already on you.