Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Big Brother is watching...you!

Microsoft has announced a new program under which it will scan your computer before it allows you to download software updates. It's called Windows Genuine Advantage, and I've got serious reservations about it. They say it's to combat piracy, and I have no qualm with that. But the depth and breadth of their information retrieval far exceed what they really need to know to verify software authenticity.

I wrote a news analysis - Microsoft Anti-Piracy Move Raises Serious Confidentiality Issues for SMEs - at work, and it was published on the corporate site.

Which raises the question...

Your turn: Is this draconian? Do software companies - or any companies, for that matter - have the right to peek deeply into your computer? If we let 'em get away with it now, where does it end? This isn't a tech issue so much as it is a consumer-focused, abuse-of-power one.

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Update - Thursday, August 4:

Earlier this morning, Info-Tech sent out a press release on this topic. It's entitled Microsoft Anti-Piracy Move Raises Serious Privacy Issues. I'll post updated links to responses here:

9 comments:

amanda m. said...

In October 2003, I switched to an Apple Powerbook. I then bought my boyfriend a used iBook in July 2004. I haven't turned on my self-built AMD/winXP machine since May 2004.
One of the reasons I decided to switch was the whole Microsoft/big brother thing. Instead of fixing bugs and making a great product, a product that could be fantastic if Steve Gibson of www.grc.com had his way, they patch things and make sure you can't use your old scanner and make you call India to verify that your copy of Windows, which you had to do a full wipe and reinstall, is valid. Microsoft just makes everything so hard and complicated and bloated. It's so unnecessary. I loved my old IBM 8086 running WordPerfect and DOS. It was simple. Telnet was simple. Apple brings that simplicity into the 21st century for me.
So this new way of "combating piracy" is just going to far.

Mrs. Fun said...

i think it is going too far.
On another subject. Lets talk about on-star? Okay we just bought a suburban with on-star. At first thought i was so excited, thought it was so cool. One day i tried to call out and hit the wrong button, the on star rep came on and we chatted and then she says, Enjoy that new surbuban,Mrs. D. I started thinking of all the info they have on us and how they can track us no matter where we are. Kind of freaky if that fell into the wrong hands.

Ms Mac said...

Err... No. It is a complete invasion of privacy. But we are all losing our civil rights in every aspect of life, every day now so it's not unexpected.

Christopher Trottier said...

Can you guess who is not using Windows right now? Yep, me! I've been Windows free since 1998. And I'm loving it.

jadedprimadonna said...

Wow - that's just scary.

Easy said...

Yes, that's a blatant invasion of privacy. If software prices were more reasonable, and there was more customer service there wouldn't be so much theft, and it would be a moot point.

Count me in as another one who is free from the hassles of Misrocoft. As a mac user since the original desktop came out--I still have it on the shelf--as near as I can tell Windows is just a poor man's Macintosh.

Putting a Porsche body on a Yugo frame doesn't make it a Porsche.

Better Safe Than Sorry said...

i'm actually extremely paranoid, i think everybody is watching me, i'm afraid to click on those google ads, i'm worried about that blog explosion thing, i just think that somehow everyone can backtrack and find me, yet my life is a whole bunch of nothingness, so what am i worried about?

Zee said...

Having done PR for Microsoft in a not-so-distant past life, I'm intimately familiar w/ the company's policies and procedures. This is nothing out of the ordinary; they often try to get away w/ this kind of data mining and the truth is, the information is more often used for marketing and promotional purposes than it is for anti-piracy measures.

In my view, you're right: they don't *need* the to gather personal information and in all likelihood, they'll not end up being allowed to gather this kind of info because the press and customers will make a big stink.

What makes me frustrated with Microsoft is that they continually try to push the envelope, to do and get more more more. First it was Windows Product Activation - also designed to prevent piracy; guess it didn't work...? - and now this. I fail to see how they can prevent piracy by knowing how my computer talks to my printer. Doesn't make sense. They'll swear up and down that they're doing it to help their customers and that they're 'listening to customers' and talking to them and reading feedback but in the end, they do just what they want, even if it completely flies in the face of customer input.

Oh, and they're not exactly doing so well on the 'product naming' front either. Windows Vista? What is up w/ that??

(Can you tell why I'm no longer a Microsoft PR Flack? ;-)

[/rant]

Jason Nottingham said...

Where does it collect information about your printer?

The data collected is listed here (and verified by a 3rd party)

http://www.microsoft.com/genuine/downloads/FAQ.aspx?displaylang=en

OEM product key
PC Manufacturer
OS version
PID/SID
BIOS info (make, version, date)
BIOS MD5 Checksum
User Locale (language setting for displaying Windows)
System Local (language version of the operating system)