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HP's web-connected printer, set to air later this month will be capable of being targeted by ads from a third party that may automatically print out in full-color glory, all on the user's dime. HP insists it will not do anything like that. But it has teamed up with Yahoo to deliver printed ad-driven content such as newspapers or magazines.  (Source: HP)
Connecting your printer to the web could have some significant downsides...

Hewlett Packard's new web-connected ePrint printers are coming this month and should be able to print email, documents, and photos remotely.  While the prospect of a webOS driven printer alone is somewhat exciting, it was a bit hard to figure out just why HP was so enthusiastic about the new devices.

We might have just received an answer to that question.  HP is apparently looking to use the platform partly as an ad delivery service.  It has partnered with Yahoo's advertising team to deploy ad-driven content.

In current trials the scheme works like this -- a customer can remotely print certain "ad-free" content, such as personal emails.  However, they can also sign up for reoccurring content like newspaper and magazine articles.  That content would print along with a set of ads.  

Users participating in the scheme would, of course, have to pay the cost of ink to print those ads.  HP claims that people are very excited about the idea.  Stephen Nigro, senior vice president in HP's Imaging and Printing Group states, "What we discovered is that people were not bothered by it [an advertisement].  Part of it I think our belief is you're used to it. You're used to seeing things with ads."

HP's staff acknowledges that there's a need to respect the customer. Nigro also points out that the printers have a unique IP address and states, "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."

Sniffing could allow for HP to target ads based on location, by looking up data requests and comparing those IPs to a list of registered users (with locations and gender, which could be used for targeting purposes).  That raises an interesting point, though.  If the printer is on a home wireless connection it may be discoverable.  And that means that it could in theory receive unsolicited advertisements as well.

The idea of delivering ads via the printer may face legal challenges.  The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 banned sending ads over fax machines.  The law was slightly relaxed by the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005 [PDF].  The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates advertisement faxes, also passed additional modifications in 2006.

Neither law bans the receipt of solicited ads, which would be the case for newspaper content. The law does not offer specific provision for advertisements being sent over printers, but the FCC will likely soon take up the issue once these devices hit the market.

For now buyer beware -- if you purchase an ePrinter, you are purchasing a web connected device with its own unique identity (IP).  That identity could indeed allow for third parties to utilize the provided protocols and send ads to you, on your dime.  You may however be able to block such traffic, with sufficient savvy, including via filtering/firewall software.

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By hughlle on 6/17/2010 7:10:21 AM , Rating: 2
so basically HP are gambling that ignorance will sell the product? certainly this can work, but when the product needs refills.

i don't think they realise however, just ho short this ignorance will be. 1 month from release and you'll have some very irate customers asking why they are needing to spend a fair sum on new cartridges already. i assume these will be full colour ads.

By aharris on 6/17/2010 7:33:46 AM , Rating: 2
Absolutely. Until now there has been nothing people hate more about printing than replacing ink cartridges.

Somehow I think 'targeted ads straight to my WAN-connected printer' will surpass consumers' hatred for buying more ink.

By Suntan on 6/17/2010 11:25:32 AM , Rating: 3
I still fail to see how this is compelling. Why would I care about being able to print a page from anywhere I am at when I still have to physically travel to the printer to get the print? Wouldn’t it make sense to just print said page once you return to the area (local network) where the printer is?


By Lazarus Dark on 6/17/2010 11:45:43 AM , Rating: 2
Who prints so much anyway? I print something at home maybe once every couple months (usually a concert ticket or something). Even at work, I print way less than anyone else in the office, why waste paper when I can do most everything electronically?

By hughlle on 6/17/2010 12:09:30 PM , Rating: 2
it would be logical to have the usert be in control of what and what does not get printed (who here has had an email forwarded by their mother, they're like a mile long of just the same repeated forwarded email :D)

if that is the case then yeah, i don't see why someone would find the ability to print emails without the use of a computer, what's the point, i'd rather read the email and print it if i deem it paper worthy, which any rarely are.

i think they have a bigger market if they made printers and an app to sync via wireless your android handset and your printer and press print on the phone, not printer.
so ironically all books are trying to buck the trend and become digital and HP are trying to take digital emails and make them paper again. fail!

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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