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MS Passport: "All Your Bits Are Belong To Us" 368

Posted by jamie
from the no-other-way-to-say-it dept.
Apologies for the AYB title, but that's just what everyone is calling it. Passport is the central repository for your passwords and "personal information" I've looked over the Passport Terms of Use and tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. But I can't read it any other way than this. By "inputting data ... or engaging in any other form of communication with or through the Passport Web Site" -- or any of its "associated services" -- you grant Microsoft the rights to "use, modify, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, publish, sublicense, create derivative works from, transfer, or sell any such communication" and -- just when you were thinking it couldn't get any worse -- "exploit any proprietary rights in such communication, including but not limited to rights under copyright, trademark, service mark or patent laws." Am I wrong? Is that not what it means? And, is Hotmail affected by this?

One of the key questions is what Microsoft means by "associated services." The terms of use agreement applies to "the Microsoft Passport Web Site" which they redefine in the first sentence to mean "a Web site and its associated services."

Later in the terms, they explicitly say:

"The Passport Web Site may contain bulletin board services, chat areas, news groups, forums, communities, personal web pages, group calendars, electronic mail postings and/or other message or communication facilities designed to enable you to communicate with the public at large or with a group (collectively, 'Communication Services')..."

That doesn't sound like a simple site for password- and personal-data-storage to me.

The really big thing that everyone seems to be worried about is, how is Hotmail email affected by this? Here's the Hotmail Terms of Use. So is Hotmail an "associated service"? How would we know? Passport is listed as one of Hotmail's "additional Microsoft web sites and/or services"; what does that mean? If Hotmail is associated with Passport, does that mean Passport is associated with Hotmail? (Is "association" associative?)

And the fact that any access of www.hotmail.com redirects me to a machine at hotmail.passport.com worries me a lot. How could these sites not be considered "associated"?

Some more tidbits...

Don't forget that Passport is a TRUSTe licensee. TRUSTe stands 100% behind their privacy statement, so you can really, really trust that All Your Bits Are Belong To Us. (The joke is that TRUSTe doesn't actually guarantee you any privacy. It supposedly guarantees that, if you can wade through the legal mumbo-jumbo, you'll find yourself being screwed in precisely the way that the lawyers tell you you're being screwed.)

Here's a directory of the sites that use Passport for single-sign-in or purchasing.

You read it here first. Slashdot predicted this eight months ago. "Microsoft Passport And Your Privacy," July 29, 2000: "...I'm sure Microsoft uses it as a user-tracking system more than anything else." Go read Joel's article, from eight months ago, in which he explains how Passport "eliminates the last line of defense protecting your privacy" and how Microsoft will "create a massive consumer information database."

An article in the Daily Aardvark points out that Netscape users have a hard time reading Passport Q&A.

Bryan Smith has a thoughtful rant about what this would mean for open-source software. Dual copyright? Hmmmm. Here's your link, Bryan: "Dual-copyright/licensing" of your IP withOUT your permission.

A RISKS submitter calls it "highway robbery."

Don't forget that Passport is the website for which Microsoft forgot to pay its $35 domain registration fee, back around Christmas '99. This is the company you want to entrust your passwords to?

And finally, All Your Bits may be hard to retrieve once they Belong To Us. jasonjwwilliams writes "After reading about the new Hailstorm.net initiative by Microsoft, and how once integrated with Passport.com, any communcations sent in conjuction with the service in any manner becomes the property of Microsoft, I asked Passport.com to remove me. The response: we don't do that, wait 12 months to be auto-removed. After three e-mails here's the bottom line I received:

"Due to security reasons we do not allow nor do we have a feature to delete Passport accounts. Rest assured that if you do not access your account within 12 months our system will automatically delete your account."

"I don't know about anyone else, but I think this is a completely lame response and as far as I understand against the law. Anyone know who to get a hold of? This is arrogance gone too far."

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MS Passport: "All Your Bits Are Belong To Us"

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