Who are You Going to Trust Today: Microsoft’s Reputation Mashup

Mention the term “trusted computing” in the halls of Microsoft ten years ago, and you were probably talking about the connections between computers on a network, and their ability to communicate with each other. Today, the networking you might be talking about could as easily involve people and businesses connecting through computers on the Web.

A screenshot of a control panel showing reputation data for someone who has made an invitation to connect on a social network.

A Microsoft patent application published yesterday describes a system which could aggregate information from a wide variety of resources, and mash them together for others to view before they make an online purchase, or agree to connect to someone they don’t know over a social network.

This reputation mashup system could enable people about to make an online purchase to learn more about a vendor, such as endorsements from past buyers, reviews from sites and systems that rate merchants, and other aggregated reputation data.

When invited to become “friends” with someone on a social network, the reputation mashup could also be used to learn more about the person who extended the invitation.

The screenshot above shows an prospective “friend” and information about him from sources like an online auction site he’s done business with, and a report from his bank card. Is this the kind of data that might be included in the reputation mashup?

This system can be set up so that, based upon a reputation score associated with the aggregated data, the person using it might be blocked from making that online transaction, or accepting the social network invitation.

The patent is:

Reputation Mashup
Invented by Paul S. Rehfuss
Assigned to Microsoft
US Patent Application 20110004693
Published January 6, 2011
Filed: July 2, 2009

Abstract

Techniques for reputation mashup are described. Reputation mashup refers to combining, aggregating, collecting, compiling, or otherwise organizing reputation data from multiple sources into a uniform format to facilitate making trust decisions for resources. In an implementation, reputation data for a resource is combined from a plurality of reputation sources.

The combined reputation data for the resource is presented to a client to enable a trust determination to be made for the resource. Interaction with the resource by the client is selectively enabled or restricted in accordance with the trust determination made using the combined reputation data.

Microsoft could potentially make a system like this widespread very quickly as something like an add-on to their browser, but the concern that I have is both how trusted and how intrusive is the reputation data that they may use in this mashup. Is it necessary to know someone’s credit score or their eBay merchant reputation, for instance, before you add them as a friend on Twitter?

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21 thoughts on “Who are You Going to Trust Today: Microsoft’s Reputation Mashup”

  1. Very cool technology so when can we expect to see something like this out and running ?

  2. Hi Jackson,

    Hard to say whether or when Microsoft might come out with something like this reputation mashup.

    I’ve seen some things come out from the search engines the same day that a pending patent application has been published, and I’ve seen other things take more than five years from the publication date (such as Google instant). And sometimes, things described in patents don’t get used at all.

  3. I’m actually surprised some company hasn’t come out with something like this already. While obviously, Microsoft has a greater number of resources, it would seem some type of system to aggregate these basic features would be relatively easy to put together…but maybe I should run that by my programmers before I make myself sound like an idiot. Woops. :)

  4. From what I was always told, trust none of what you hear and half of what you see…Seems pretty fitting in this scenario. Will like to see when this actually comes to fruition.

  5. I would say “NO” for the question you have asked at the end of the post. But this application seems very interesting, lets see how effective it would be?

  6. Bill – Interesting discovery. If this service existed, I would participate. The online ratings services are so filled with spam that I seriously question the validity of most of the reviews. Of course, it would open yet another privacy reducing window. But what the heck, Google already has so much data about me stored in their archives, letting Microsoft in on the party is not as bothersome as it would have been just a few years ago.

  7. It’s actually quite close to the pagerank algorithm and could probably be applied in a decent “social search” algortihm aswell. Your friends linked/liked/visited this site or sites linking to it – therefore you should trust it.

  8. Fascinating, yet somewhat creepy. The tech geek in me thinks this is great. The Big Brother fearing paranoid kook in me is saying “hmmm…”

  9. There are definitely pros and cons as with regards this kind of application. There are information that does not need to be shared publicly but with only those for which the information is reliable and ca affect decisions. I think this is another breach of what we call privacy.

  10. In my own point of view it is not necessary to know someone’s reputation or credit score before adding them as a friend on twitter. It is not a critical situation. If you made a mistake and you added somebody you don’t really like, you can always remove them from your list of friends. There is no point in sharing to the public the credit score or reputation of a person. It could humiliate that person.

    Anyway, great post! Keep it up.

  11. Privacy concerns aside, this application is very intriguing. I would probably participate! I definitely agree that this type of application can be a bit too intrusive….I guess we will see if Microsoft moves forward on this.

  12. Hi Brian,

    The idea might be out there, but whether or not it would work well would be proved in testing and implementation. I’m not sure that I could image Microsoft showing off people’s credit scores in a way like this, for instance. It’s not so much a question of whether or not they could do that, either, but rather whether or not it would really be a good idea. I don’t think it would be.

  13. Hi Ryan,

    This is one of those scenerios where you can understand why they might try to patent something, but you wonder if they would actually develop it. Guess we do wait and see.

  14. Hi Randy,

    It’s interesting how perceptions around Google and Microsoft seem to be shifting. I think it’s great that we have so much more access to reviews these days as well, but I’m not sure that I trust them as much as they become easier to find.

  15. Hi Magnus,

    That was one of the interesting parts of the screenshot:

    5 Sources Trust Kyle
    2 of your friends Trust Kyle
    2 Sources restrict Kyle

    Unlike PageRank, the actual sources of information that might be used to create some kind of reputation score are visible to us. But there are definitely some similarities.

  16. Hi Birmingham,

    I know what you mean. I’m torn as well. Part of me keeps saying, it would be OK if they left out some things like credit scores, etc. Part of me keeps saying, do I really need to know all this?

  17. Hi Andrew,

    I would really only want to see reliable information as well. Is our concept of privacy changing, as more and more information is shared and shareable on the Web?

  18. Hi Nathan,

    Good question. Is a tool like this necessary? Is it overkill?

    Is it more appropriate in the situation where you might intent to buy something from an online merchant than when you might be considering adding someone in twitter?

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