Microsoft Sued for Anti-Piracy Tool

Written by Brett Thomas

June 30, 2006 | 14:35

Tags: #anti-piracy #law #pirates #rootkit #sued #suit

Companies: #microsoft #sony #wga

Our favorite Redmond Giant is being beseiged again in the US court system. A class-action suit has been filed regarding Microsoft's anti-piracy software, WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage).

WGA is something that has not been all that popular from the start with enthusiasts, who often feel a little violated with the information MS takes. The software analyzes the hardware on your system, incorporates that information into an algorythm, and sends it on to MS servers for further analysis to help spot bootlegged copies.

The lawsuit contends that the WGA tool and the information it gathers is not much different from Sony's rootkit debacle, which eventually had the Japanese manufacturer paying out millions and wiping egg off its face. The parallel is drawn quite convincingly, and in many ways:
  • WGA was not specifically announced or authorized. Instead, it was downloaded as part of a month's batch auto-updates.
  • The software does not tell you or illustrate in any form what it sends to the Microsoft servers.
  • MS saves the data, which is connected to your user key (which is connected to you if you register the software with MS), for unspecified lengths of time without disclosing its purpose.
  • There is NO removal tool for WGA, nor can you download proper updates for legal software without it.
Microsoft updated WGA just this week to fix some of the issues, including updating the notifications to make users more aware of the service. There still is no way to update Windows XP, however, without it.

You can read a bit more at The Washington Post.

Overall, it's a pretty convincing argument. MS has a right to reasonably protect themselves against piracy, but what about if that protection comes with your personal info? Even worse than a rootkit, if you declined to install WGA (as if you have much choice), you cannot use your purchase even in the way it was intended. An interesting pickle, indeed.

Got a thought on WGA? Once you've sent your system specs over to our servers, drop into our forums and let us know your thoughts.
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