Microsoft Slapped with Spyware Lawsuit

Microsoft, in a never ending attempt to prevent piracy of their software, has apparently crossed the line of acceptability in recent ventures. A lawsuit has been filed against the Big M that claims the company has violated consumer rights and spyware laws in California and Washington.

The flap concerns Microsoft,s Windows Genuine Advantage program. The software acts as a watchdog to confirm that Microsoft software installed on a PC is authentic by collecting information about the computer,s configuration, product keys, computer make and model, bios versions and hard drive serial numbers. The big concern is that WGA, without the computer owner,s knowledge or permission, stealthily contacts the remote centers to verify that all software on the computer is legal and not pirated. The lawsuit has charged that Microsoft misinformed and misled consumers about the real purpose of the program by referring to it as a “security” update, when in fact, it was actually a device to spy on consumers.

The lawsuit states that, "The updates from Windows Automatic Update installed WGA 2006 Verification without specific notice to or approval from the users, even when the users sought to specifically control what was installed on their system through the Custom installation setting.”

According to Vnunetwork, Microsoft identified the WGA update as a “high priority update” and batched the program with several other security updates on April 24. The WGA program contacted Microsoft servers on a daily basis, whenever a computer with the WGA program was booted up, to report any illegal software present on the computer. A warning would appear on the user,s computer if any such items were found.

Australian IT reported that many computer repair companies were being inundated with angry customers who complained about the WGA program. The customers, without being aware of it, had purchased computers from third party retailers who installed pirated operating systems. One user said, "Most people say the validation procedures are probably fair enough, but if your software is legitimate and they come back and check it every day, well, that’s why people are a bit reactive. It ended up on my machine without me knowing about it. The fact that they didn’t tell anyone was the worst part of it.”

The WGA software was loaded onto computers through the Windows automatic update feature. Software is placed automatically onto a user,s computer by Microsoft for “maintenance and updates”. This feature, which few users know about, can be turned off to prevent software from being downloaded onto their machines. A Microsoft representative said, "WGA is not spyware. It’s installed with the consent of the user and seeks only to notify the user if a proper license is not in place.”


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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