Groups fears China could "

The technology used by Microsoft's Beijing-based researchers in analyzing web surfing patterns to guess computer users' gender, age and other demographic information could be misused by the Chinese government, the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders quoted by an Associated Press report, said.

The Associated Press report said in a paper presented at the May 2007 WWW conference in Banff, Canada, Microsoft's researchers looked at the web surfing history for people whose gender and age they knew, then applied that data to predict how likely a gender or age group was to visit certain web sites.

The researchers grouped similar web sites together, assuming people of similar demographic profiles visited similar sites, the report said.

The Associated Press report further quoted a statement from Reporters Without Borders, as saying that the group is concerned the Chinese government could use this type of technology to track down Internet users who access controversial material online.

Microsoft declined to grant an interview on the subject, but said in a written statement sent through its outside public relations agency that the focus of the research is not personal identification, and that no information that could lead Microsoft to identify individual users was used in the research, the report said.