Microsoft plans better disclosures of tool/Microsoft admits XP phones home every day



Microsoft admits XP phones home every day

Volish plotting Genuine Advantage claim

By Nick Farrell: Thursday 08 June 2006, 09:11

SOFTWARE GIANT Microsoft has admitted that it talks to the computers of punters signed up for its Genuine Advantage programme every day.

Windows XP apparently calls Vole central on a daily basis for no reason which is remotely useful to the user.

A spokesVole told the Associated Press that the reason it does this is in case the software malfunctions and started delivering false results.

Microsoft is worried that since the software snooping scheme is in beta the Vole might need to shut it down quickly.

Windows Genuine Advantage program boss David Lazar said that the software calling home was just a safety switch and no one needed to worry about it.

The only problem is that Vole didn’t tell anyone that is what Genuine Advantage does.

Lazer said it was true that Microsoft didn’t tell anyone and maybe it should have kept users better informed. He said the Vole was “looking at ways to communicate that in a more forward manner” .

He said that the company would tweak the program soon so that it only phones up Microsoft every two weeks.



Microsoft plans better disclosures of tool

By ALLISON LINN, AP Business Writer Wed Jun 7, 7:52 PM ET

SEATTLE - Microsoft Corp. acknowledged Wednesday that it needs to better inform users that its tool for determining whether a computer is running a pirated copy of Windows also quietly checks in daily with the software maker.

The company said the undisclosed daily check is a safety measure designed to allow the tool, called Windows Genuine Advantage, to quickly shut down in case of a malfunction. For example, if the company suddenly started seeing a rash of reports that Windows copies were pirated, it might want to shut down the program to make sure it wasn’t delivering false results.

“It’s kind of a safety switch,” said David Lazar, who directs the Windows Genuine Advantage program.

Lazar said the company added the safety measure because the piracy check, despite widespread distribution, is still a pilot program. He said the company was worried that it might have an unforeseen emergency that would require the program to terminate quickly.

But he acknowledged that Microsoft should have given users more information about the daily interactions.

“We’re looking at ways to communicate that in a more forward manner,” he said.

Lazar also said the company plans to tweak the program soon so that it will only check in with Microsoft every two weeks, rather than daily.

The tool, part of the Redmond company’s bid to thwart widespread piracy, is being distributed gradually to people who have signed up to receive Windows security updates. The company expects to have offered it to all users worldwide by the end of the year.

Lazar said that so far, about 60 percent of users who were offered the piracy check decided to install it. Once installed, the program checks to make sure the version of Windows a user is running is legitimate, and gathers information such as the computer’s manufacturer and the language and locale it is set for.

That information-gathering is disclosed in a licensing agreement. But the agreement does not make clear that the program also is designed to “call home” to Microsoft’s servers, to make sure that it should keep running.

At least every 90 days, the tool also checks again to see if the copy of Windows is legitimate. Lazar said that’s because the company sometimes discovers that a copy of Windows that it thought was legitimate is actually pirated.

When Microsoft believes a copy of Windows is pirated, the user begins to get a series of reminders that the copy isn’t genuine. Such users also are barred from downloading noncritical updates, such as the new version of its Internet Explorer browser. But anyone who has signed up to automatically receive security updates, which repair flaws to prevent Internet attacks, will still get those fixes.

Lauren Weinstein, who is co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility and was one of the first people to notice the daily communications to Microsoft, said he understands and sympathizes with Microsoft’s desire to control piracy. But he said it’s problematic that Microsoft did not disclose all the program’s communications with the company.

Weinstein said he also was surprised that Microsoft decided to release so widely a tool that it says is in a “pilot” mode and might need to be suddenly shut down.

“Really what you’re talking about is someone saying, ‘Look we’ve put something on your computer and it might go screwy, so we’re going to kind of check in every day,’” he said.



My god … how embarassing for M$ … just when everyone thought M$ stocks couldn’t dip any lower … they release something that opens up the company to a barrage of privacy lawsuits.

Good going, Billy boy … considered downsizing lately?