June 12, 2006
Who wouldn't trust a company that hid built-in spyware on every Windows-based PC in the land?
It turns out that Microsoft's Genuine Advantage anti-piracy program is also keeping daily tabs on Windows users. Who knew?
Well, until a few days ago, nobody outside of Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash., knew.
According to an Associated Press report, David Lazar, director of the WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) program, Microsoft was doing this as "kind of a safety switch."
A safety switch?
Because, Microsoft told 'top Microsoft reporter in the known-world' Mary Jo Foley that "if Notifications went amok on Microsoft's side, Microsoft wanted a way to terminate the program quickly."
Amok? On Microsoft's side?
Help me out. I'm a little confused here. Microsoft wants my Windows PC to phone home everyday so that if Notifications went 'amok' on their servers, it would turn my local Notifications component off?
I don't mean to be paranoid, but when someone tells me that, oh, by the way, they've been checking on my XP and Windows 2000 PCs every day since July 2005 when Microsoft made WGA mandatory or you couldn't download patches, I get a little concerned.
Still, it's not like Microsoft would actually collect more information and then use it against such competitors as Firefox would they?
Oh wait, come to think of it, didn't Microsoft once cause Windows to produce fake error messages if a user was running DR-DOS instead of MS-DOS?
[Editor's note: DR-DOS was the best DOS on the market at the time]
While they never admitted to it, they did finally end up paying Caldera Systems, one of the ancestors of today's SCO, approximately $60 million to make the resulting lawsuit go away.
Here's the point. For over a year, Microsoft has planted a program on every modern Windows-powered PC that reported home every day. They don't have an intelligent reason, never mind a good one, for this move. And, they never told anyone that they were doing this.
I guess it must do a darn good job of hiding itself from firewalls and network monitoring tools too since we've only now found out this daily checkup call after tens of millions of PCs have been phoning in for almost a year.
Maybe you can trust your computer, your livelihood, your home finances, your kids' games, everything you do online, to a company that would do that, but you can count me out.
I've been using Linux for my main desktop for years, and it's revelations like this one that makes me damn glad that I do.
I really don't have anything else to add except this: Ubuntu's latest release is very, very cool. Pretty damned user friendly, too.
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