Updates to this story
Google has been awarded a patent for displaying search results based on how you move your mouse cursor on the screen.
While it sounds initially bizarre, Google's plans are to monitor the movements of the cursor, such as when a user hovers over a certain ad or link to read a tooltip, and then provide relevant search results, and ads, based on that behaviour. It means that it does not require users to actually click a link to know that they were interested in it, opening a world of opportunity for even more focused ads, which are Google's main source of income.
The patent, entitled System and Method for Modulating Search Relevancy Using Pointer Activity Monitoring and numbered 7756887, was filed on February 16 2005, but it was only this month that it was published and released to the public. It is also a continuation of a previous patent filed in December 2004.
Whether or not this means Google is actively pursuing this idea remains to be seen, but it seems likely that this is its intent. Google certainly has the resources and manpower to put it into action and can justify the cost involved with the potential revenue made through a more refined ad network.
One potential problem that may arise with this technology, however, is privacy. Again. Exactly how will Google monitor mouse movements? Currently its statistics and analytics are based on actual clicks. To monitor the cursor would require potential invasion of privacy by stepping off the web itself and into the user's browser.
It may avoid such problems by writing code into its search engine tooltips, which, when they pop up, will send Google information that a tooltip has been used, which, in turn, will let it know that a user has moused over it. If it does not take this or a similar approach it may end up in more hot water over privacy concerns.