Microsoft has been granted a patent that could de applied to the Windows OS to detect and block illegally-obtained and shared content, and even report users who repeatedly share such content.
The patent was filed by Microsoft in 2013, but the U.S. Patent Trade Office granted it in last month. Here is the summary of it:
Disabling prohibited content and identifying repeat offenders in service provider storage systems
Objects in a shared storage system can be marked as including prohibited content. Incidents that result in objects being so marked can be stored in an incident history associated with a user responsible for those objects. The incident history can be processed to identify repeat offenders and modify access privileges of those users. However, when objects are shared by one user with another user, prohibited content is blocked from being shared, while the remainder of the shared objects can be accessed by the other user. Functions that allow sharing of content are implemented so as prevent sharing of prohibited content with another user, while allowing other content to be shared. If a group of files or objects is shared, then the presence of prohibited content in one object in the group results in that prohibited content not being shared, but the remaining files or objects are still shared.
The patent mentions that service providers may be required to address situations in which users "share content for which distribution is prohibited, such as unlicensed copyrighted works or trademarked goods, which are brought to the attention of the service provider by a third party."
The patent essentially descibes possible measures that can be taken if such content "prohibited" content is identified to be shared. It says that such content can be blocked from being shared. In addition, incidents that occur related to such prohibit content are stored in a history for a user. This history is processed to determine if a user is a repeat offender. "Various account privileges from the service provider can be affected when a user becomes a repeat offender, such as termination of the account, prevention of sharing of files through the account, and the like," according to the patent.
Incident history includes metadata associated with each user - a date and information about one or more files that were deemed to contain prohibited content, a file name or other identifier for an object, a hash of contents of the object, or other indication of the object, according to the patent.
The incident history can be processed after an incident is added to determine if rules for changing the access privileges of the user are triggered. For example, if a number of incidents in a given time period occur, the access privileges of the user can be changed, for example, to prevent sharing files with other users.
To be clear, the possibilities Microsoft to adopt this kind of technology in the Windows 10 OS are unknown. But if applied, it could make life of P2P file sharers difficult. But the technology could be also used as a protection measure for tracking on specific software targets, such as pirated copies of the Windows software.
Currently, Microsoft has not issued any statements on the matter.