excerpt from New Scientist, May 16, 2007: “IF YOU thought you could protect your privacy on the web by lying about your personal details, think again. In online communities at least, entering fake details such as a bogus name or age may no longer prevent others from working out exactly who you are.
That is the spectre raised by new research conducted by Microsoft. The computing giant is developing software that could accurately guess your name, age, gender and potentially even your location, by analysing telltale patterns in your web browsing history… Previous studies show there are strong correlations between the sites that people visit and their personal characteristics, says software engineer Jian Hu from Microsoft’s research lab in Beijing, China…
Hu’s colleague Hua-Jun Zeng says the software could get its raw information from a number of sources, including a new type of “cookie” program that records the pages visited. Alternatively, it could use your PC’s own cache of web pages, or proxy servers could maintain records of sites visited. So far it can only guess gender and age with any accuracy, but the team say they expect to be able to “refine the profiles which contain bogus demographic information”, and one day predict your occupation, level of qualifications, and perhaps your location. “Because of its hierarchical structure - language, country, region, city - we may need to design algorithms to better discriminate between user locations,” Zeng says.”
“New software can identify you from your online habits.” Paul Marks. New Scientist. May 16, 2007