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Shhh! Microsoft’s Listening

WinPho nuts, I was watching the logs and came across something curious. Two thirds of your phones go through a Microsoft “mobilizer” proxy server when hitting our site. Nothing revolutionary, Google made one of those (natural progression of things is a few years later Microsoft does too), but two thirds of you in April out of nowhere?

Google’s is opt-in, you have to go out of your way to use it and anything involving opt-in, you’d have to be giving away free rub and tugs from a real nice looking broad to attract two thirds like that in two weeks. Opt out on things like this (or not even bringing up the subject) is not in fashion anymore, can’t get away with that shit.

So I parsed out and zoomed in on those hits. First one showed up March 31st, a guy in Huntington Park or LA on wifi, probably AT&T given that his ISP is AT&T, the US and that it was a Focus. Then a few more hits like that here (the next few were non-AT&T) and there and then in the last few days the prevalence has escalated, currently at 76% for the day.

Couple questions since there isn’t much on the web about this activity that I could find: Did your phones recently ask you if it could speed up and improve your web experience somehow, wanting you to hit an Okay button? Did you possible sign off affirmatively on any EULA either on your phone or on your Zune thing on the computer?

Based on the timing and also on Gil’s recent post I’d say this is a byproduct of NoDo both official and Chevron. If I’m right, even though this is a WP7-heavy site where you’d expect to find this, that’s a pretty large chunk of you who’ve fired up the update finally (impressive adoption — though I’m not sure that’s the reason).

What’s not impressive is what you may be seeing when you visit our site. I pasted in the link your phones are reporting having used to convert our site’s format and, unless I needed to spoof my user agent to get something more dazzling, … is this what our site now looks like? Here it is on my phone with the same URL you guys used:


When you visit our site on an Android or an iPhone it looks real nice, the theme dished out to smart phones. I’d try to get your user agent working with the system so that IEMobile or whatever is treated as a smart phone but it won’t matter because you’re all using this proxy server. Which is too bad because that’s an ugly screenshot, hope that’s not how you all are seeing the web.

Anyway, my point is that there’s no way three quarters (and climbing) of you opted into something with informed consent so FYI, all you Windows Phone surfers, Microsoft is now or will soon be acting as an intermediary between your phone and the web servers with which you interact. It’s not quite like Opera Mini in that Microsoft is grabbing the images and compressing them to hand off to you, rather it is instructing your phone to do the heavy lifting as it normally would; but it is grabbing all the text on our end and whatever you put in on your end.

Which is too bad because if they did do all of that like the Opera and Skyfire people, then I wouldn’t be able to rip on you for living in Rock Hill SC or wherever when I have nothing else to say in some argument were we to square off. Now both Microsoft and I know. And once the word gets out on their campus that I blew the lid off this, they’ll know that I know and we’ll all know that every combination of all the players in the picture knows, you know?

And if you use another proxy server in front of theirs, Microsoft will still know and if it’s encrypted they’ll at least know that you’re the type of guy who uses encrypted proxy servers on your damn phone which would scratch you off my prospective babysitter list.

So privacy freaks be advised, not just Google you gotta watch out for. Industry observers, looks like Microsoft is now speeding up their datamining operations. As for a fix or further information on what’s going on here, well that’s not my department (this is an Ask the Readers bit). Maybe there’s a setting you can manipulate. Probably not given everything else you cannot change but who knows. If not, if you are now only able to surf using their proxy servers or if this went down without giving you any form of a heads up, we should talk about it. But why the hell are you guys using a mobilizer anyway? The site renders fine with and without our own mobile theme engaged at least on my phone.

But high five to Microsoft for not simply syphoning data out of Google’s mobilizer operations, way to be fellas.

Doug Simmons