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'OZ' - The 'Other' Side of the Rainbow: Microsoft cracks down on software piracy

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Microsoft cracks down on software piracy

Microsoft In a controversial effort to stop software piracy, computer users who go to the Microsoft website for Windows updates will have their system scanned, to check whether their copy of Windows is a counterfeit.

Privacy advocates have called the tactic an extreme invasion of privacy.

Microsoft has said that no personal data will be collected. Instead, a program called Windows Genuine Advantage will search computers for a Windows product number.

Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum, told The Globe and Mail that Microsoft's tactic still sets an "extremely negative precedent."

"Microsoft is saying, 'Before I let you do anything at all, you have to open your computer to us.' I really object to this," Dixon said.

Users who find that their software is counterfeit can fill out a piracy report, and send in their illegal copy along with a proof of purchase to get a genuine version of Windows Home Edition or Windows Professional for free.

The piracy report asks users to detail where the illegal copy was purchased, how much it cost, whether it came with a certificate of authenticity, and who sold it.

If users are missing a proof of purchase, they can still get either copy of Windows for approximately half price.

Those who refuse either option will be unable to download software updates, except for security patches.

Tim Prime, who works for Microsoft Canada Co., told The Globe that he is not worried customers may feel angered by the search.

"Customers want to know whether retailers have sold them genuine software," Prime said.

Microsoft had an independent security advisor, TÜV-ITÖ of Germany, test the Windows Genuine Advantage program if it protected the personal information of users. TÜV-ITÖ found that the program does not obtain any information that would allow users to be identified, according to The Globe and Mail.

Microsoft started testing the Windows Genuine Advantage software last September, on more than 40 million customers, according to the Associated Press.

It is unknown how many pirated copies of Windows were found, although Microsoft claims that one in five American computers is running an illegal copy.

Microsoft says that at least a third of all computers in the world use pirated software, making efforts to crack down on counterfeit programs extremely difficult. News Staff


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