back to article Google patents search that tracks your mouse moves

Google has patented a system that displays search results and ads based on where you move your mouse. Mountain View first filed for the patent — dubbed a "system and method for modulating search relevancy using pointer activity monitoring" — in February 2005, and the US patent office rubber-stamped the application earlier this …


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  1. Thomas 18

    sure why not

    If Apple can patent event driven programming why shouldn't Google patent the onMouseover event

    1. Anonymous Coward

      another joke

      hahah bingo! another pathetic patent. Am sure one of these days they will patent you just reading off a screen or even looking at it in a particular way!

  2. OziWan

    Oh no not again

    It's an algorithm!

  3. Someone Else Silver badge

    You could also assume...

    "Should Google start taking such behavior, we can assume that somewhere, someone will attempt to game the system. You might call it hover fraud."

    You could also assume that various lawsuits would ensue (except, of course, in the UK, where invasion of punters' privacy seems to be not only tolerated, but rather de rigeur...ref. Phorm), and that access to ixquick would explode. (I hope the Dutch have enough servers lying around...)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I look forward to uninstalling Chrome when this is deployed...

    ...but will it be announced that they've done it, with an easy opt out?

    Disgusted of Tonbridge Wells

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: Disgusted of Tonbridge Wells

      Evidently not, or you would have spelled it correctly.

      I'd wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment nevertheless.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Uninstalling Chrome

      Don't bother. You're obviously a complete sucker if you installed it in the first place.

  5. jonathanb Silver badge

    I don't understand how it will work

    Yes, the onMouseover event will tell them where my pointer is, but it won't tell them where my eyes are. I tend to move the mouse out of the way of what I'm reading and use the scroll wheel to move up and down the page, then I move it to one of the links on the page, one of the form elements, the back button or the address bar as appropriate when I want to go somewhere else or leave a comment.

    1. Big-nosed Pengie

      You don't have to understand how it works...

      or whether it does. It works like this:

      Google: Hey, Mr. Advertiser - we have this cool new thing: if a (l)user's mouse hovers over your link for more than X, we'll serve them up a whole bunch of ads for your product! All for just $1 per ad!

      Adverdroid: I just ejaculated in my pantaloons. Where do I sign?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      True but...

      That's what the web cam is for.

  6. Mike Moyle
    Thumb Down

    The obvious followup...

    As long as they are gauging a surfer's "interest" by the mouse hovering over a particular link or bit of a search snippet, there is absolutely no reason for them not to set a threshold past which they assume that you're sufficiently interested to automatically open another window.

    "Well, our research shows that users who hover over a search result for 'X' amount of time are likely to click on it -- we're just saving them time.

    "... and (artificially) increasing your click-through rates. Pay up!"

  7. heyrick Silver badge

    Oh dear, I'll be sued for mouse-move fraud, daily.

    When I'm bored, or idly reading without 100% interest, I whizz my mouse all over, randomly select/unselect text... drives my mother mad if I'd doing something for her.

    But, come on... monitoring where the user moves their pointer? F*** off already.

    1. Chris 244

      For more better annoying...

      ...try also bouncing one/both knees at same time, and cracking knuckles frequently.

  8. pisquee


    wouldn't be surprised if this is already implemented in some way in Chrome, at least for testing purposes to see if it works, is a viable option etc

  9. Lou Gosselin

    E for originality.

    That flowchart represents just about every dynamic mouseover menu I've ever coded, literally, line by line. I'm not in the ad business, but it's the same technique.

    I can say I had the idea well before google, as I'm sure plenty more have well before me.

    It's neither novel nor does it constitute more than a half hour of R&D. What benefit does the world get by granting this patent? Absolutely ridiculous.

  10. Gannon (J.) Dick

    @Lou Gosselin

    "What benefit does the world get ..."

    Good one :o)

  11. Muckminded


    Chrome isn't the issue, since this can already be done via Javascript in any browser. With Google Analytics already linked-in on millions of pages, a modification of that scripting would automatically extend the functionality to them, if they so desired. I doubt it will happen that way, but I also doubted Sarah Palin would be more than a blip on the political radar. And she's gone from blip to blob.

    For the luddites who have Javascript turned-off in their browsers, bravo, and keep using tin snips to open your canned peaches.

    1. Dagg

      Block Google Analytics

      That is the *best* way to stop them!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Done already...

        I had some issues with pages. Found it was the Google Analytics code that was causing it. Blocked those servers from my browser.

        1. Anton Ivanov

          It is already blocked more often then you think

          Spell analytics. Spell it again. And again. Now once again why does Internet nanny software that works on regexps block it? It is the Aaaaaaaaa... word...

    2. Blain Hamon
      Big Brother

      Caveat Browser?

      This can all be done with ajax and such, and good adblocking or javascript disabling will foil it, yeah, but there's a bit of paranoia that says, "What's stopping the same logic from sneaking into Chrome at the binary level, where it reports even if you have adblocking or the page doesn't even use Google?"

  12. David 141
    Big Brother

    New motto

    Google's new motto:

    Don't just be evil - patent it!

  13. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge


    Do Google phones support cursor hovering?

    1. Rumcajz

      finger hover data..

      There is also some useful information obtainable by determining which finger is used to point at a certain advertisement or search result. Index finger = casual/normal use. Pinkie = for more detailed work, smaller ads. Ring finger = dimwit user. Middle finger = Microsoft or political ad.

  14. Goat Jam


    This will work well for those unfortunate souls with Parkinsons Disease yes?

  15. Richard Jukes


    For a company that does no evil they sure do want to know a lot about me and my web actions...

    1. lglethal Silver badge


      Maybe they're trying to make sure you're not doing any evil...

  16. Anonymous Coward


    Someone implement this in JS, write it up, and backdate it.

    @muckminded - back under your bridge (from a NoScript user)

  17. Matt 52

    Maybe, just maybe...

    Hurrah! Maybe Google will now figure out that in the 10+ years I've been using the internet, I've never, ever, ever clicked on an advert and will finally stop showing them to me!!!

  18. dave 46
    Thumb Up

    Daily mail style moral outrage

    All browsers with javascript and an xml object can do this - basically any modern browser.

    I think you'll find some sites you have visitied do this too, if it is of interest to them they will collect it.

    I noticed an insurance site sent off an ajax call to collect my email address the second I'd finished typing it (it becomes valid = ajax call). So I didn't even need to hit the submit button for them to have my details.

    I thought it was a good idea, this is no different - you don't want Google to know what you are doing, run adblock and noscript. If that's too hard turn the computer off.

    1. Samuel Williams

      AJAX email

      Interesting that. I remember some discussions with a client a long while ago who wanted to do just that. We came to the conclusion that it might be a bit iffy, privacy/DPA-wise. In clicking a submit button you are consciously sending that data through, can agree to any terms and conditions, etc; but sneakily grabbing the email before I have necessarily decided I definitely want to send it doesn't seem right...

      I'm sure some laywer could formulate a "in viewing this website you are agreeing to our terms which allow us to do what we want" type thing, but we weren't comfortable with it.

  19. paulc

    touchscreens FTW...

    cos there's NO pointer to hover with, you just tap on the screen surface

    1. Geoff Mackenzie

      Keyboards FTW

      It's rude to point.

  20. Matt Bradley

    My mouse isn't reading the page

    See: I have a scroll wheel on my mouse. I tend to put the mouse well to the right of the window, away from the text I'm reading, so I can SCROLL with it without obscuring the text I'm reading.

    Bet I'm not the only one.

    All that said, once you think of something obvious, you might as well patent it even if your proposed implementation is useless; just so you stop anybody else doing anything genuinely useful with it.

    Way to go USPTO. ....Hey that rhymes. Maybe we should put it on a shirt?

    1. Anton Ivanov


      Where your mouse is located is not relevant.

      Google does not do "if your mouse is at X,Y we will display Z. They chuck raw data into a big number cruncher and from there on it is only a matter of time until it will identify patterns that predicate you doing something of interest to their "customers" (they use Bayes stats so using the word "correlate" is not correct here).

      Then you will be fed an offer you supposedly cannot refuse by one of their customers. Voila. Job done. Breath in, generate revenue, breath out, generate revenue yet again.

  21. Captain Black


    Not sure everyone posting comments has understood what Google are talking about, it's nothing to do with automatically sending you to a site just by hovering the mouse, not is it like a JS dropdown menu.

    It's just about them collecting another stat on their search results (and will probably apply this to analytics too)

    My interpretation of this is they'll have an area around each link/search result, when you move your mouse into one of these areas it'll start a timer, when your mouse has been there for a certain minimum period it'll send a tracking message, via ajax probably, to Google. I think I could probably code this in 10 minutes so i'm sure someone somewhere has prior art on this one?!

    1. Ole Juul

      Doh re me

      "Not sure everyone posting comments has understood what Google are talking about,"

      I don't think you understand what everyone's posting about. :) The thing is that many people put the mouse where they're not looking so that it doesn't get in the way. In my case that would be on the far left, or right, or white space, or scroll bar. Where does the "area around each link" come into it?

      1. Captain Black
        Thumb Up

        The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

        Sorry, I was only really talking about a handful of comments that seemed to misunderstand the implementation.

        By the sounds of it, they will only be collecting data about certain zones on a page, I assume those zones will be links in search results and the like, so people like you and me who would rather move the mouse pointer out of the way while we read/scroll through search results will probably not give them much in the way of tracking data anyway.

        1. Keith Williams
          Big Brother

          The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

          Why would you assume anything of the sort? There is no reason to beleive that Google will limit itself to any particular region of the screen. After all, if Google is able to determine that we move our mouses to the left/top/bottom/right of the screen in order to read the page we are viewing, then they will likely start putting ads there so that they can trigger those ridiculous expanding ads, thus blocking our view of the information we actually want to obtain with that which we do not.

          1. Ole Juul

            Wait for it

            Actually that's a brilliant idea. I bet we'll be starting to see Google ads in the scrollbar soon.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Incipit, insidious and incredulous


    Now we allow people to patent how we move our mouse in the privacy of our homes. I am surprised they did not tag on forced switch on of your web cam.

    Googleplex; the new intelligence agency spannign the world. It kind of puts MI6 to shame really.

  23. Al 4

    Don't let Google know what you're doing!

    This is why I like using Firefox with the No Script add-on which completely disable Google scripts, especially Google-Analytics unless I say it can run.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    heh heh heh heh

    going to be having some fun with this ;D

  25. Steve the Cynic

    I can't think of a good title.

    "done without client software, via JavaScript"

    In what way are <script>s not client software?

  26. Christoph

    Why stop there?

    Mouse position isn't nearly accurate enough. The next step is to take over the user's webcam and track their eye movements. Also monitor their expression. Pity there's not yet an easy way to measure their pulse rate etc.

    After all, that's what the user is for - to respond to ads. They'll obviously be perfectly happy to not bother about this silly 'privacy' thing as long as they can be monetised.

    1. Keith Williams
      Big Brother

      Why stop there

      Unplug your webcam - I already do.

  27. Moz

    I suspect...

    that the only people who hover their mouse over part of the page they read are the same people who have to run their finger over a book as they read, i.e. morons. Google have invented a moron tracking device.

    Apple won't be pleased. Wasn't that the purpose of the iPhone?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      It's not as if there aren't enough morons out there who could be successfully monetised...

      1. lglethal Silver badge

        successfully monetised?

        Ahh you mean Soylent Green, yes?

    2. Andyman
      Thumb Up


      I was going to post exactly the same thing.

      I would say 99% of the time if my mouse 'hovers' over a link then I'm going to click it. I can't see how that information would prove usefull.

      Though I can see a point when genetically engineered Google monkeys follow everyone around and report our movements back to HQ - 'He's looking for socks - quick sell him socks!'

  28. This post has been deleted by its author

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Daft idea, did Google forget we all have eyes?

    Out of interest, I noticed my default habit is to click a link and then move the mouse out of my eye line of the text I am reading and use it primarily to scroll until I spot a link I want to click on. I also notice where I move it, usually to the right, effectively hovers over where a lot of websites situate ads and other auxiliary items that I guess Google will therefore falsely think I am interested in.

  30. Sodabread

    Prior art?

    Isn't there already a sort of prior art in this case seeing as how there's lots of informational sites out there that have words in their text as links and as soon as you hover over them, up pops another ad?

    I suppose also I might as well stop hoping to own a dev shop someday because by the time I have a product, every line of code we write will be covered by at least one patent troll.

    Can I patent the hello world example?

    1. Captain Black

      I did think so to

      I thought there would also be prior art, however after reading the patent fully I now understand that it's specifically relating to changing the order of the search results weighted by which results a user has hovered their mouse over on previous searches, which probably hasn't been done before!

  31. Lionel Baden

    I will patent

    Brain activity when confronted with an advertisment

    TAKE THAT GOOGLE BIATCHES !!!! i will rule the world !!!!

  32. Hollerith 1

    Big wheel, keep on turning

    I use a Kensington trackerball mouse with a ball about 3 inches in diameter. It is easy for me to find I'm spinning and rolling it idly with my fingers while I am staring into space, thinking. The cursor makes many interesting, erratic, random journeys. Will I keep on doing this if Google puts their new patent into practice? You betcha!

  33. Anonymous Coward

    When are you going to learn?

    Google is not the product, the information they provide is not the product, the links are not the product, YOU ARE THE PRODUCT!

    You and all the information that makes up who you are, that is the product. To be harvested and sold off to the highest bidder. Same with FaceBook, Twitter and millions of others. The site and it's services are not the product, the harvesting of you, that is the really valuable product.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even Worse

    Google's search rankings are already crap because they are worked out on two things firstly Google's commercial interest and secondly by what other people have clicked on.

    I'm not other people I'm me and I'm searching for what I want. Try searching for a specific phrase on google, say half a dozen words that you know appear on a particular web page but are not a common phrase. Now see how far they come down the Google ranking. Look at some of the stuff that comes above it that doesn't contain the exact phrase you searched for.

    Google might be great if you wan't to buy a new laptop, but it's not much use when it comes to searching for information. Google see the interwebs as a commerce tool and little else. I see the net as a great source of information and, as such, seldom use Google. And before anybodu starts this is about usefulness not privacy so I don't see the point in using any of the proxies and the like that hide your identity from Google.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Who reads the screen with their mouse. I read the screen and then when I'm ready to click I move the mouse to the link I want to click. So my mouse stays where I last clicked. This will really skew their results since I may not even be mildly interested in the location of the mouse on the new page, but it will stay there until I have read the rest of the page.

    People who read using their mouse probably trace the printed word with their finger tip and move their lips for the difficult words. What are Google going to call this tech? Google Sunreader?

    Oh and those of you worrying about what you will do *when* Google implement this tech. How do you know they haven't done this already? Just because they have only recently applied for a patent doesn't mean they're not using it already. Get your tinfoil hats on.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That's also why Android is so good for them. A computing device, personal to the individual that goes wherever the person goes, has the ability to report where they are who they contact ,can be uniqely identified etc.etc. Advertisers wet dream.

  37. Lamont Cranston

    Will they be installing a key logger, too?

    Ass bags.

  38. Alan 46

    So glad...

    i use Duck Duck Go

  39. Paul Ireland

    Monitoring mousedowns since Nov 2003

    Google have been monitoring user mousedowns (mouse clicks on results) in their search results since Nov 2003, so taking this one step further by monitoring mousemoves isn't really anything new.

    To see what Google have been doing with mousedowns since November 2003, search on Google for:

    google click monitoring onmousedown return clk

    and you will find some articles about this.

    Whether monitoring mousemoves is useful or not is another story. How many people read with their finger, (or the mouse cursor equivalent), and what about the new touch devices like the iPad and tablet competitors, and the touch phones etc, all of which do not have the equivalent of a mouseover (at least not when the finger is not in contact with the touch surface, i.e. not dragging).

  40. KayKay

    Mouse? sounds more like rats.....

    Say I want to see who's posting a particular phrase over and over, on certain social sites. I google for "phrase" .

    After opening up about 50 of these my browser slows down a little, so I may spend the threshold amount of time with the mouse over a result I have no interest in. Of course I am scrolling with the mouse over the centre of the links, to make it easy to open one when I find one for the site of interest.

    Does this mean I have any interest in that site or what it stands for? nope, my interest is in the person(s) posting my keyword.

    Now, if Google could come up with a Preference setting so it won't deliberately refuse to give me ALL the results (we have omitted similar results........ HEY I asked you to SEARCH, and I will decide if I like them or not). Another graduate of the MS "we know what you want' school.

    Speaking of MS, they have prior art on this.....the Office menus that reorder their content according to what you used more often most recently............bad luck you are just about to switch to a different project with different requirements.

  41. Shane Kent

    WTF, I know the icon says it but this is worth two WTFs

    Google did not invent the mouse, so why should they have a patent related to mice? Or better yet, why should they have a patent related to what I do with a mouse? I know it is about tracking for marketing and not just using a mouse, but still......

    One more reason to not use google or any of it's products or services.

    The US Patent office is broken, someone needs to patent fixing it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I'm no Google fan (quite the opposite) but you're talking cock. If nobody can hold a mouse related patent other than the inventor of the mouse then does that mean nobody can hold an integrated circuit patent other than the inventor of the integrated circuit?

  42. F'tangF'tang

    Back in my day...

    The sad thing is, that the next generation will think that this kind of intrusive monitoring analysis is perfectly normal, and will wonder how anyone ever managed to decide what to spend their money on without a predictave advert telling them...

  43. Anonymous Coward

    A little less spyware...

    ...and applying some common sense would go a long way to targetting adverts properly. Has anyone noticed when abroad that going to an English language Google site and typing in a search query returns adverts in the language of the country it thinks you happen to be in? Talk about missing the target when you don't even recognize the alphabet that the adverts are written in!

    For sheer stupidity this has to rank alongside "Keyboard not found. Press F1 to continue".

  44. Not Elvis

    My Patent

    I am awaiting approval on my patent that will randomly drag the pointer at full speed randomly across the screen when on any google search page.

    I think it is great fun. Freeware for all. varoooooommmmmmmmmmm

    Software for those who suffer from Google ADD.

  45. Stevie


    Yet another reason to Ban JavaScript Now!

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google Ads?

    I see no Google Ads.

  47. Paul Ireland

    New google search user interface coming?

    This news, coupled with the recent extension of Google's images search result user interface (UI) to offer more information when the user mouseovers an image, does suggest that perhaps google might be changing its main search results UI to offer more information when the user mouseovers a result in the future.

    That would be interesting if google are toying with the idea of changing the main results UI in this way, quite a different change to something that has been fairly static and lacking in the past in terms of a rich interactive user experience.

    Although offering more information to mouseovers still ignores the touch screen phone and touch screen pad/tablet users where there are no mouseovers.

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