Microsoft's Beijing-based researchers are analyzing Web-surfing patterns to guess computer users' gender, age and other demographic information, a technology the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders worries the Chinese government could misuse.
As detailed in a paper presented at the May 2007 WWW conference in Canada, Microsoft's researchers looked at the Web surfing history for people whose gender and age they knew, then applied that data to predict how likely a gender or age group was to visit certain Web sites. The researchers grouped similar Web sites, assuming people of similar demographic profiles visited similar sites.
Reporters Without Borders, a press-freedom advocacy group, said in an e-mailed statement Friday that it is concerned the Chinese government could use this type of technology to track down Internet users who access controversial material online.
That's very possible, but they do seem reliant on a lot of foreign technology, so maybe we're giving them more credit than is due. For instance, the great firewall uses Cisco Systems and Nortel technology. Those companies are getting heat at home for their involvement with this, but the question remains...why couldn't China just make this themselves?