HP to spam your web-connected printer

HP and Yahoo are teaming up to spam advertisements to your printer -- the next step being behavioral ads based on the traffic it can sniff from your local network:
"Through IP (Internet Protocol) sniffing, you have an idea about where those printers are so naturally it allows you to kind of already target your offers," Nigro said.

Ads can also be targeted based on a user's behavior as well as the content, said Vyomesh Joshi, head of the HP's Imaging and Printing Group. The pilot with Yahoo is in its early stages, however, and Joshi said the program has to be done with privacy in mind.

HP partners with Yahoo for targeted ads (via /.)


  1. I give it about three days before your printer turns itself on in the middle of the night and starts pumping out sex ads.

  2. While I don’t at ALL think this makes it okay, in reading the article it looks like they’re going to include the ads as part of content that the user actually requests. The headline here initially made me think they would just be randomly sending out ads on their own. It’s gross, and I don’t like it at all, but I have to admit that it -is- true that we are “used to” seeing ads alongside content we want … I can see this succeeding, unfortunately.

    1. I honestly wouldn’t mind random adds being printed every day… In exchange for them picking up the tab on the printer, paper, and especially the ink!

    2. “it looks like they’re going to include the ads as part of content that the user actually requests.”

      Yeah, right.
      Who the hell requests ads?

  3. Not sure about the rest of you but I feel like I have to cut off an arm or a leg just to pay for printer ink – the last thing I need is ink being wasted on this crapola.

    Thanks HP – all my printers have been HP since my Image Writer II for my MAC SE a billion years ago – you just gave me a sad face for this evening.

  4. You know, a few years ago I bought a Brother 2040 laser printer for $50 on one of those doorbuster sales.

    Runs perfectly with Mac OS X “CUPS” printer driver that takes up like 2MB (as opposed to Epson’s ginormous drivers). First page comes out within about 10 seconds, and no inkjet clogging. Damn thing hasn’t even run out of toner yet — it’s still on the “sample” cartridge that came with.

    As a programmer who worked on some very early, very expensive printers back in the Eighties (DEC LN01), it’s hard for me to believe that a wildly successful strategy for printer makers would be, “Just do not suck at making marks on paper,” but this is the crazy world we live in, where HP and Yahoo! “incentivize their synergies.”

    Anyway, it has been decreed that my family will obtain a scanner/fax/printer/copier, and since I’m going to spend money, I’m getting one that prints on both sides of the paper.

    And it’ll damn well be a Brother. Hopefully they haven’t figured out how to make the toner go bad.

    1. haineux, we also had a Brother all-in-one type laser printer when my husband worked at home. Thing was awesome, always worked, sipped at its toner cartridge (I honestly don’t think we ever did replace if after using it hard-core for about 3 months and then randomly after that.)

      Great machine.

  5. My first thought when I saw those “Print the Web” ads was, a printer connected to the Web? That’s a printer vulnerable to the Web. Not a good idea for Joe Consumer.

    HP should get advice on this from the good people at Real. If they can still be found.

    1. My first reacxtion was :”Why would you want a printer connected to the web?”

      Now we know. At least why HP wants it.

  6. reading the article it doesn’t specify that it would be printed ads, it would be ads targeted to the user based on what they have printed. So I bet it won’t print out an ad for all the reasons listed here.
    Given that they also mention a program to allow people to print from their mobiles I can see one possible avenue of targeting. Another one would be the display of the printer – perhaps they would increase it in size etc. to better deliver ads.

    Now for my jokey comment:
    There are very advanced buttock recognizing algorithms in place in modern HP printers, imagine targeted ads for lawyers, fitness centers, alcohol and so forth going to that drunk guy in accounting during the next office party.

  7. The advertisements will be inserted into the _subscription_ print on demand content. Think retro, pre-epaper personalised newspapers.

    So, you decide what you want to read each morning, HP gathers it from the content providers, Yahoo sprinkles in some advertisements and it is printed on the printer next to your coffee machine.

    1. Ah! That is a very important thing. Cory?

      Did anyone find it awkward that the article kept referring to Stephen Nigro as ‘Nigro’? I know it’s standard to use surnames but still.. I want to see a picture of that guy.

    2. Hey! Someone other than me reads articles!!

      Yeah, it’s not like you’re going to walk in and find flyers just sitting in your printer. If you automatically print out the Atlanta Journal Constitution every morning, it’ll give you local ads in place of ads for Fox Brother’s BBQ.

      REALLY poorly worded “IP Sniffing”. It’s actually “IP Geo-location” since IPs can tell you roughly where someone is in the world. That’s how you get those “Meet a hot woman in tonight!” ads. It’s fairly routine.

      Sniffing, to me, has a connotation checking out the ports on an IP address to see what services may or may not be running… which is a lot more shady.

      1. What you describe is portscanning, not IP sniffing. Similar to “Browser sniffing”, “IP sniffing” is where you detect the IP on incoming messages, and provide custom content, through geolocation *or other methods*. For example, Yahoo could match your IP to your preference for viewing certain content, which wouldn’t in any way be related to geolocation: just to your yahoo profile.

        “Sniffing” only has a potentially shady overtone when you get to “packet sniffing”, which is sort of the net equivalent of phone tapping, and is what Google’s streetview cars are in trouble for in Europe.

        1. Indeed, I bet the engineers all facepalm-ed themselves when they heard the stupid marketer use the term “sniffing”.

          If it did do packet-sniff, all capable geeks would put it in its own V-LAN, all quiet and lonely.

          Is there even a market for a daily printout of the news? I mean, a personalized one instead of the one the little kid delivers by bike, because we know that one’s dying. I would imagine the cost of ink would be equal to one iPad after a few months, weeks, or days.

  8. Hi,
    I applaud the idea in a way, and cringe in another, really about the only thing that most people look for on the web is porn, and you have to wonder if they start doing this, will this ultimately force Playboy, and Hustler to finally collapse into bankruptcy. Also will they give us free ink and paper for life if we have to put up with this? If not then I will never buy that model, in point of fact I might go so far as to boycott Epson myself,and this is coming from someone who has used nothing but Epson for the last 20 years.

  9. Yeah, because what people want is a printer that takes all the amazing stuff that the web can do, throws it all away and instead charges you for the privilege of printing out an ad-laden copy of what some Yahoo editor thinks you want to read.

  10. The headline should read “HP to troll web-connected printer users and get sued out of existence due to finantial damages. After all, printer cartridges are patented, and therefore extremely expensive.”

  11. I can just imagine coming home after a holiday to see my ink cartridge is empty and i have 100 copies of this:

    Special Offer:
    Discount HP Inkjet Cartridges all through July!
    Visit http://www.HP.com

  12. “This will all be done with privacy in mind.”

    And I have a bridge for sale. If recent past is any indicator profit comes before everything, so Privacy my ass!

  13. I don’t understand why this is news. I had a printer with HP Instant Delivery 12 years ago (in 1998), which could print out a customized newspaper each morning based on your preferences. You would choose the types of stories, the sources it would pull from, and the length. And yes, the newspaper included small ads. It was actually quite handy for reading during the morning commute.

  14. The only way this works is if HP are prepared to sell ink at reasonable prices. Since that is clearly not the case the scheme will fail.

    I have an older HP DesignJet 650c which has refillable cartridges. You can actually refill later carts but they started designing the print heads to wear out after a few refills.

    If I bought another printer I would probably buy a continuous inking system.

    1. I worked at HP during the 90’s during the rise of the InkJet – I worked in the “pen” (aka InkJet cartridge) manufacturing. Back then HP never ever made a InkJet pen that was designed to be refilled – that was always a secondary market. One obvious clue is that HP has never ever offered refill kits. Why? Well the reasoning was that the print heads do fail – the energy applied to the print head to eject ink is enormous, at least in the area that heats the ink to boiling. For this reason (and others) the life span of the heads, especially back in those days, was limited. So they had a choice – make big ink reservoirs so that the print head died before the pen ran out of ink, OR make sure that the pens run out of ink before the print head dies. The feeling (based on some kind of market research) was that consumers would get much more upset if the print head croaked before the ink ran out than they would if the ink just ran out. And the acceptable failure rate (print head dies before ink gone) was like 1%. Thus most pens run out of ink before the print head dies. This in effect created the refill market. Some print heads could survive multiple refills, others one or none.

      I’m sure over time they have improved the process and they can make more reliable print heads (for example the modern HP InkJet plotters have huge replaceable ink reservoirs) – but that is unlikely to trickle back into the older product lines. Those production lines are still probably building the pens the same way, using the same materials, as 15 years ago, and the pens have the same failure rate characteristics.

      Not that I am trying to paint HP as benevolent. It’s more like they, like all of us, have to make trade off decisions.

  15. Unsavory. I’ll keep my cheap, dumb printer, thank you very much. Garbage in, garbage out is all a printer should do.

  16. HP Sucks.

    For some unknown reason, our Credit Union purchased a few All-In-One printer/scanner/copier HP’s to give to our Telecommuting staff.

    It’s probably the WORST idea IT management has ever made.

    The Driver installations are like full on Malware.

    HP Makes it hard to install just the driver alone, so you get like 2 Gigs worth of install, and god forbid you’re trying to help someone over VPN. It takes 2 hours to install the whole package/suite/driver.

  17. I am so not wanting a web-enabled printer.

    I’m still waiting for a printer that doesn’t install 10 different useless pieces of hard-to-get-rid-of software that stays in my task tray.

    No, dammit, I *don’t* want HP sScanPrintViewSoft to check for updates now!

  18. There is enough Paper Waste & destruction of habitat, “Tree cutting etc” without these same Big Businesses increasing it & helping to destroy the planet!

    Remember “Easter Island” (the native trees are extinct) that was minute compared to the damage these guys are perpetrating!

    More Spam, I thought there were Laws against indiscriminate Mail & Spam?

    If these businesses cannot identify you then it is SPAM if they can identify you then Privacy, Data Protection & other Laws are likely to have been broken!

  19. “…said the program has to be done with privacy in mind.”

    There’s no way this was said with a straight face.

  20. I’ll chime in on the ink price atrocities. I’ve been tempted to just start buying printers on sale, since it’s cheaper than refilling the cartridges.

  21. Totally fine with this. If they want to buy me ink. All five of my color ink cartridges have been out for months because I refuse to drop $80 to refill them. Just black is good enough for now.

  22. I’m participating in a demo of this capability. As others have noted it is a subscription ‘push news’ service, not random spam. It’s pretty cool, and could be a lot better if the content becomes more selectable, i.e. no entertainment, no sports (ok, WCup only), US business, only my favorite comics, etc. My local dead tree newspaper keeps getting thinner, more expensive and I only read about 1/8 of it. Ink and paper would be cheaper if I could choose only the content I wanted.

  23. I’ll bet people are going to be stoked about making sure every email client they use to print to these things uses encryption.

    A secure WEB service to drive a WEB enabled printer? That’s just silly!

    Oh, and it ain’t spam from hp that would worry me. Viagra and porn ‘direct marketed’ right to your printer.

  24. Hi – Liz from HP here… I saw and commented on the original clip (Computer World article) but since there are so many spirited responses, I feel inclined to say something here too.

    I’m not entirely clear on the technical methods of “sniffing” (funny term, in my opinion) but what I understand is that this is a pilot program, HP & Yahoo are experimenting with new ways to deliver customized (and contextual – based on who you are, what you like, where you are, etc) messages/promos, etc with premium content through the printers. Ads/promos, etc. would not be sent automatically to your printer, think of how you print your boarding pass and there is a coupon offer included there, same concept. Also keep in mind that this is just a pilot – and there is nothing like this currently on HP web connected printers.

    One of the reasons we’re testing this concept with customers is because HP / Yahoo wants to understand whether this would have appeal to HP customers and whether something like free premium content supplemented with a promotion or a coupon would be welcomed (think of a magazine or newspaper that you wouldn’t have to pay a subscription fee for). As I mentioned in my comment on the original post, the pilot is a phase in which HP can listen to its customers and if this program is rolled out more broadly, there will likely be opt-in choices, etc. to cater to individual customer desires. For what it’s worth, thanks for all of the comments and discussion.

    1. Hi Liz.
      I was originally interested in your printer, but can now say that there is no way that I would ever be interested in a printer that used up my resources in order to try to sell me someone else’s product.I am offended by the thought that a device that I use for my own purposes (after a rather pricey purchase) could in any way be considered to be a conduit to hucksters trying to sell the modern equivalent of patent medicine.

      If I wanted to use my money to support a large corporation, then I would buy its products, not allow it to continue to use the products that I buy from it for its own purposes after I have purchased said products.

      I guess the best equivalent that I can come up with is paying BP for gasoline and then giving some of that fuel that I pumped back to them so that I could keep the pump running. Other than product support, our relationship ends when I walk out of the store with my product.

      I am now shopping for a different printer product.

      (expletive deleted)

      1. Hi Liz from HP here again.

        Lots of continuing discussion… I ended up posting more about this on the HP blog in case you are interested in reading: http://bit.ly/buLbxG

        The important point to emphasize is that people who aren’t interested in this feature (once available) can simply choose not to use it. No one is suggesting that ads will be pushed in some subversive way without the customer knowing.

        I think the pilot would help understand whether there is a way to deliver premium content that customers want at a “price” they are willing to pay. If you think about premium content in magazines and such, that is supplemented by ads. In the pilot, the customers could express how they would like to get premium content – and whether they would be ok with ads or a promo or some type of offer in the print outs.

        Hope you will take time to read the post – it may clarify some things for you.

        Thanks for listening… Liz

    2. Personally, if the cost were used to cover the price of printer carts, I’d be very OK with that, so long as it wasn’t just an excuse to get me to pay twice, once for the ink and once by viewing the ads.

      “Ink for this printer is free, but at the end of every print job you get an ad” would be a model I’d be happy with.

      “Ink for this printer is 10% cheaper because you get ads” would not – I’d assume that the non-ad carts were just made 10% more expensive, instead of my actually being saved money.

      “Ink for this printer costs the normal amount, but we’ll let you print our ads on our FREE newspaper with it!” – would be just laughable. You’re paying your subscription in ink, and paying again by reading the ads. In these days of free web content, paying twice for similar content just wouldn’t fly.

      1. Hi Dewi, Liz from HP here… interesting ideas! How about if the content was premium content, i.e. like stuff you would normally pay for in a magazine subscription, or a book? I think that was something the pilot was trying to study – gauging customer reaction from that. You get the content perhaps for free if you don’t mind looking at a relevant and targeted ad in the print out.

        As with all new ideas (in this case, potentially a new model for advertisers and free content to customers), people are going to have opinions and thoughts. Thanks for sharing yours in such a constructive way!

        I posted something on the HP blog that gives more info (http://bit.ly/buLbxG if you are interested), and I invite you and anyone else for further discussion either on the blog or even on Twitter. (I’m @LizAtHP).

        Hope that helps and thanks for the discussion…

        1. Thank for following up on this, LizatHP. Tried to post a reply to your blog, but coldn’t: suspect my net connection sucks too badly.

          I always get a very positive vibe from companies that follow up concerns brought up on other websites. Sure, it’s often just a PR goon doing damage limitation, but to me it shows to me that they “get” it, much better than those endless companies that don’t.

          When I’m recommending printers to clients in the past, I’ve generally gone for either HP or Lexmark. This article initially looked like a black stroke for recommending HP, but you’ve fixed that, and to me, it might just be a positive.

          Though I’d still be leery of recommending people subscribe to printed periodicals this way, I can see how technophobic upper management (which seems very common) might get really turned on by the idea, and by spending 10p/page to print out your ads+free premium content, and spending their time to look at the ads, they might genuinely be getting something of value for free that they wouldn’t otherwise have got.

          For normal people, I think my statement stands: they’d effectively be paying twice (once with time, ink, paper, and machine wear to print content+ads, and a second time with their time and eyes to view the ads) for the content that they could almost certainly get for less elsewhere.

          For myself, I doubt I’m the target market, since I have no desire for ecologically unsound printed “premium content”. Far as I’m concerned, a printer is a thing I use very rarely, for pandering to those cretins who haven’t figured out the internet yet, who think signatures in biro are more impressive than digital ones, and who probably still have a fax machine. So long as my printer prints what I send to it, it’s doing the job I want it for.

          But if it printed that stuff out on *free ink*, because it printed an ad for each N pages, before each real print? I’d totally be all over this product, and be recommending it to all my friends. While you’re waiting for it to print, you’ve nothing better to do than read an ad anyway, right? Captive audience for ads.

          And some people might leave those ad-pages on their printouts when they handed them around, so the ads get better exposure.

  25. I purchased a HP ‘dial-in’ printer for my grandmother a couple of years ago. She lives in the middle of nowhere western NY.

    As these do her printer polls ( in her case via dial up ) and pulls down whatever her extended family sends to a tightly controlled email address.

    The HP account administration pages are straightforward and useful. So far she’s never received non-whitelisted email.

    Through this we also subscribed her machine to a few publications – gardening, sewing, a daily SODUKU puzzle.

    She loves all this. It’s easy for her and she gets photos and stories she wouldn’t otherwise get unless someone printed them at their house and drove over.

    It’s worth the $$ in restocking her via Amazon ( much less than via HP as you no doubt suspect ) for paper and ink.

    1. Hi Casey – Liz from HP here. I think I know which dial-in/phone printers you are talking about… Presto? I hadn’t thought of Presto being so similar to these new printers but yes, I guess there are some similarities. Thanks for the comments. I never got my hands on one of those models so I find your insight particularly interesting. Thanks!

  26. Snorkblather sez…

    Yuh start sending ads to my printer, I will throw da mofo out da window and dat will be the end of dat!

  27. I am definitely getting one of these so I can take part in the class-action lawsuit that is sure to result!

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