Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Bill Gates will be frisking you with a simple point and click

Users who visit the Microsoft website looking for patches and upgrades will find their computers and software being probed as part of an attempt to crack down on priated software. To be eligible for patches (other than security fixes), software will audit to see if "U R Legit". No surprise, but there are some concerns about privacy when Microsoft rummages through your PC, particularly after other companies have covertly collected personal information through similar means.

The Globe and Mail: Bill Gates will be frisking you with a simple point and click

"It sets an extremely negative precedent," Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum, a non-profit public-interest research centre in San Diego, said of the company's initiative. "Microsoft is saying, 'Before I let you do anything at all, you have to open your computer to us.' I really object to this."

The company will scan machines for a variety of information, including product keys or software authorization codes, operating-system version and details on the flow of data between the operating system and other hardware, such as printers.

It is access to this information that particularly upsets the privacy advocates. Ms. Dixon says the only information Microsoft needs to fight piracy is the product key and the operating-system version, and she says that Microsoft will be able to identify users uniquely based on some of the information the company collects.

"They are grabbing more information than they need to deter piracy," she said.


Microsoft said no personal data will be collected during the validation process, and information will remain completely anonymous. The company said it commissioned TÜV-ITÖ, an independent German security auditor, to test how well its Windows Genuine Advantage program protects customers' data, and the firm concluded that Microsoft does not collect any personal information that would allow it to identify or contact a user.

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