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Microsoft Fires Mac Fan For Blog Photo 1087

Posted by timothy
from the camera-un-obscura dept.
christor writes "Microsoft has fired a full-time temp employee after it discovered that the employee posted in his blog a photo and story concerning Microsoft's purchase of what looks to be around 18 G5s. Check out the blog entry, Even Microsoft wants G5s, and the one that follows it. Microsoft fired the blogger, despite an offer to take the posting down. Note that this is not a free speech issue, even though the blog was hosted on a non-company server, because Microsoft is not, yet, the government. But it does present several other interesting issues, including that of the trade-off between the bad publicity that comes from the firing and whatever bad results follow when employees feel free to post such things."
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Microsoft Fires Mac Fan For Blog Photo

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  • so what ? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Bill Gates is God, I just don't believe in him.
    • Re:so what ? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fmaxwell (249001) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @12:54PM (#7338723) Homepage Journal
      This guy's mistake was mixing up his personal life and his work life.

      Let's look at this from an ethics standpoint. If the guy had posted a picture of himself dressed as Mary Poppins frolicking in his yard, then it's not an issue for his work. If he published pictures of his personally owned Windows PC blue-screening and bitched about it in his blog, that's not cause for Microsoft to take action against him, either.

      It's when you cross that line between home and work that it gets ugly. The guy took digital photos of his employer's non-public building areas while there as an employee. He identified himself as a Microsoft employee, in what department he worked, and in what building. He used poor judgement and he knows it. Microsoft didn't commit some horrible atrocity against the Mac community by firing the guy. They did not quelch his free speech rights. They fired some loose cannon who was wandering around the campus taking digital photos and posting them on his own web page. The whole story is just sensationalistic: Microsoft Fires Mac Fan For Blog Photo. It had nothing to do with his being a "Mac Fan." What's next?

      Your Rights Online: Microsoft Fires Linux User For Exercising Constitutional Rights

      somegeek writes "Microsoft has fired a full-time temp employee after it discovered that the employee was carrying a loaded Uzi submachine gun around the campus in his backpack. Microsoft fired the Linux user, despite the person's offer to put the Uzi back in his car...
      Come on folks.
      • Re:so what ? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 1u3hr (530656)
        The guy took digital photos of his employer's non-public building areas while there as an employee.

        So what? It's not a bank, a nuclear research facility, the changing rooms of Moulin Rouge; it's an office building. And if you look at the actual photo, it wasn't even that, but the interior of a truck making a delivery.

        MS, through hiring staff as "permanent temps" can fire them for no cause, so there is no legal recourse But what harm could conceivably be done to MS I can't imagine. It's hardly a secret t

        • Re:so what ? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fmaxwell (249001) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @01:42PM (#7339170) Homepage Journal
          So what? It's not a bank, a nuclear research facility, the changing rooms of Moulin Rouge; it's an office building.

          Was he hired to take digital photos of company property? It's not his office building. It's theirs. If they don't want photos of it floating around the net, that's their call.

          Think about the questions that go through the minds of the security people: Today it was the loading dock but what will it be tomorrow? The new X-Box, our development lab? Photos of company-proprietary memos? Why is the guy wandering around the campus taking pictures with a digital camera?

          You also don't seem to understand how industrial espionage works. They might be just Macs to you. Someone else might have other information that they are able to put together with that in order to ascertain something that Microsoft wishes to keep secret.

          And in all the places I've worked, no one has ever cared what snaps anyone took or what they did with them.

          Where have you worked? JC Penney and Walmart? Most engineering firms are very guarded and don't want pictures of their facilities distributed over the Internet.
          • Re:so what ? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ShinmaWa (449201)
            Where have you worked? JC Penney and Walmart? Most engineering firms are very guarded and don't want pictures of their facilities distributed over the Internet.

            I know you meant individual stores, but its been my experience that retail corporate offices have security policies that would put some engineering outfits to shame. Corporate espionage runs completely rampant in that sector and things like Memorial Day sale prices are kept like were the plans to nuclear weapons. Its absolutely stunning.
          • Re:so what ? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by scenic (4226) * <.sujal. .at. .sujal.net.> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @02:16PM (#7339548) Homepage Journal
            the picture wasn't of any "facility" but of a truck, 2 palettes of G5's, and some trees. Not a buidling (save the loading dock at the bottom edge) in sight.

            Look, you can say that they have a right to protect whatever, but the photographs have no discerning characteristics. He even took care to make sure of that. More importantly, the photo is of just macs... which we all know they get because they have a Mac unit.

            So... your theories are great but ultimately not relevant. If they truly cared about future incidents they could've asked him to take the photo down, reprimanded him, and then sent email to the company asking that people don't do that.

            But, instead they just fired the guy. Your theories don't mesh with the other facts.

      • Re:so what ? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Aidtopia (667351)

        Microsoft allegedly fired him because he created a security risk. But if that were the real reason, then they should have happily accepted his offer to remove the posting. By firing him, they've ensured that the posting stays public and that it gets more publicity. That doesn't seem to correct the security problem.

        I'm not sure what MS's real reason was. The security concern seems exaggerated, and the publicity problem is minor. My guess is MS has some other beef with this guy and they saw this as an

        • Re:so what ? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by fmaxwell (249001) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @01:56PM (#7339322) Homepage Journal
          Microsoft allegedly fired him because he created a security risk. But if that were the real reason, then they should have happily accepted his offer to remove the posting.

          The guy was wandering the campus with a digital camera taking pictures of non-public areas. Wouldn't that make you a bit suspicious if you were in corporate security? Wouldn't you wonder how many other pictures he had taken and who he had given them to? Why should Microsoft take a chance on some temp when there are hundreds of others lined up at their doors begging for jobs?

          So it does make me wonder what the real reason is.

          Right... It's Microsoft, so there must be some nefararious, hidden, evil plan at work. I forgot. Sorry.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:31AM (#7337223)
    I bet they were going to Windows Longhorn R&D-department. :)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:46AM (#7337409)
      I interviewed at Microsoft last week. One of my interviewers had both a Linux machine and a G5 in his office.


      I don't think there is that much OS discrimination within the company, with the exception that each developer needs to have a windows machine for obvious reasons. I think MS fired him because he was blatently trying to embarrass the company.


      MS is making a big push towards platform independent applications via managed code. I heard from one employee that the vast majority of products will need to be re-written for the .NET Framework sometime during 2004, with little exceptions. Everything from Outlook to Live Meeting will be rewritten in managed code. That being said, I would not be surprised in the least if these machines were going to random employees who requested them, OR the .NET Framework team who just might be working on a OS X port for the .NET Framework.

      • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:17AM (#7337760) Journal
        I don't think there is that much OS discrimination within the company, with the exception that each developer needs to have a windows machine for obvious reasons. I think MS fired him because he was blatently trying to embarrass the company.

        This is not really the issue (or it's very unlikely that it's the case).

        There are probably two factors that played a role. First, while the particular picture is not a big deal, maintaining a policy of not sending out pictures *is* a big deal. If people get in the habit of snapping pictures, sooner or later, important data will leak. Where I work, you just can't have cameras, and just can't take pictures. It's not unusual. Most companies won't just let you walk in and start taking pictures wherever you want. I've known people over the course of my life that *have* been involved in corporate espionage, and a small camera is a seriously useful tool for someone who can't afford to be standing in front of something for a couple of minutes scribbling things down on a clipboard. It's not an unreasonable policy demand at all, though I think it should probably be made more clear to temps. I applaud the guy for not flying off the handle over this.

        Second of all, this information *could* be damaging. It's a pretty safe bet that Microsoft conducts competitive research (though the building name tends to make me think that this is not the case). If competitors know what Microsoft is examining, it could put them on guard as to what Microsoft is trying to use from them. Furthermore, it lets them arm the lawyers, so that the moment Microsoft steps near infringing on a patent or whatnot, they can smack them. In this particular case, there's not a lot of suspicious information, but if, say, Microsoft was picking up a handful of iPods, something that doesn't generally have a direct business application (and it seems unlikely that the guy here would stop at snapping a picture with a caption of "Even Microsoft Wants iPods"), things might be a bit worse. Even if it's not competitive research, the contents of a company's loading docks can be quite valuable information. If Boeing has crates and crates marked "titanium sheets" sitting around, you can damn well bet that other airplane-producing defense contractors will be very interested. If Sony's Aibo division has a bunch of bales of fake fur on their loading docks, competitors have a good guess as to where the product is going, and time to produce marketing campaigns and make deals appropriately.

        So...I have to say that I can see how frusterating it is for the temp guy, but it's not as if Microsoft Security is firing him for liking Macs and working at Microsoft. Hell, of the people I know that have worked at Microsoft, two of them really like Linux, and one kept a Tux doll in his cubicle. MS doesn't really care about something like that -- they care about potential leaks, or precedent being set that could lead to future leaks.
        • by Nintendork (411169) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:36AM (#7337986) Homepage
          Hell, of the people I know that have worked at Microsoft, two of them really like Linux, and one kept a Tux doll in his cubicle. MS doesn't really care about something like that -- they care about potential leaks, or precedent being set that could lead to future leaks.

          I'll back you up on that statement. I was supporting Microsoft products (Windows 2000 Professional. Then NT Server, Services for Unix, Services for Macintosh, and Proxy 2.0.) through an outsourcer and had plenty of contact and meetings with regular employees as well as temps (a- accounts). There are several employees that are fans of other OSes. Heck, I personally had a big 20th Anniversary Macintosh poster in my cubicle. Microsoft understands diversity and embraces it in the company.

          On the other hand, if you come to work taking pictures of internal affairs and publish them on the web with blatant intentions of making your employer look bad, how the fuck do you expect them to react!?!

          -Lucas

    • by DrEldarion (114072) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:08AM (#7337657)
      Well, considering that they DO develop mac software (Office, IE), I don't think it's really a mystery why they wanted the boxes.
  • by stevesliva (648202) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:31AM (#7337225) Journal
    It is difficult to develop Mac applications without Mac boxes.
    • by diersing (679767) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:46AM (#7337411)
      No no no, this crowd does not want to hear that. Are you suggesting while developing the Office line of products for Mac they might actually want to test on a G5? Absurd!!!

      For as valid as your point is, its kinda of unrelated to the topic of a company terminating an employee for iReason. The posting is suggesting that the employee was fired for.... what? Saying Microsoft was buying Macs? I don't think so. I would imagine it had more to do with taking images from the Redmond campus (unapproved images from his digital camera), off campus and making them available online. There are many business campus' that have very specific rules (that you agree to as part of employment) about what can and can't happen on campus. Understanding the images were captured in a loading dock, but they could have been pictures of code (screen captures or documents) or other MS IP. Since the guy was a temp, he prolly wasn't afforded a detailed explanation, just a seizure of non-personal items an personal escort the edge of the property.

      • by stevesliva (648202) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:00AM (#7337579) Journal
        Well sure, if ya'll want me to lay it out. When I interviewed for an internship with MS's Mac Office group in 2001, there were big turquoise G4s sitting right on people's desks and a big lab full of just about every Mac PowerPC model ever released. Shocking! And you know what? The developers were even using a non-MS IDE. Astonishing!
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:03AM (#7337609)
        Considering you didn't RTFA you managed to guess a lot of what he actually wrote. But you got one thing wrong:

        The picture itself might have been permissible, but because I also mentioned that I worked at the MSCopy print shop, and which building it was in, it pushed me over the line.

        But I do agree with you. This guy would have had to sign an NDA (and possibly other security docs) and outlined in it would be any such rules. He clearly leaked information the company considered private, and he should be sacked.

        If a company can't trust an employee, they should not have to keep that employee around. I, too, had to sign an NDA where I work, and I actually read it, so I know what I can and cannot do. The guy said he thought he had taken appropriate precautions based on what others experienced (I'm guessing in different companies), but clearly didn't check to see what was appropriate for MICROSOFT. And that is, after all, what matters when you work for Microsoft.

        In conclusion: If you violate your contract/NDA/whatever other official document you signed, you get canned. It's a simple cause and effect (the very purpose of these documents), hardly newsworthy at all as I'm sure it happens every day. Just because this guy found a new way to violate his contract (and it isn't that new either), doesn't set him apart from the rest.

        • Are you saying that the NDA you signed:

          Won't let you talk casually about what you do at work ("I develop a word processing application")...

          Won't let you talk casually about what see at work ("My boss got fired")...

          Won't let you talk casually about your working environment ("I use a fast PC with two monitors")...

          ??

          I have to ask, if you work for a private company, why would you let your company control that level of detail? I'm all for not blabbing about all the details of your work, but where do you dr
          • by fitten (521191) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @12:16PM (#7338314)
            I have to ask, if you work for a private company, why would you let your company control that level of detail?

            Quite simply, you *don't* have to. When you interview for a job, you are typically given a bit of paperwork to sign. In this package, you usually get NDAs and the like that tell you what you can and cannot do with respect to information that you will have and/or be privy to at the job as well as things you can and cannot do with the expected results if you break the agreement. It is YOUR DUTY to READ and UNDERSTAND the documents BEFORE YOU SIGN them. If you find something you do not understand, you should ask them to clarify it and/or consult your own lawyer BEFORE YOU SIGN. If you have specific "what ifs" to test the terms, do this BEFORE YOU SIGN. If you find certain terms are not agreeable, you can then negotiate for more agreeable terms BEFORE YOU SIGN. AFTER YOU HAVE READ AND UNDERSTAND what you are AGREEING to IF you sign the document, YOU make the CHOICE of whether to sign the document or not, thereby agreeing to the terms. If you found that you cannot agree to the terms and/or haven't arrived at a reasonable set of terms through negotiation, you have the option of NOT SIGNING and going about your own business elsewhere.

            Otherwise, you file this sort of situation under YO FAULT. He agreed to something then broke his agreement, the penalty for which is termination of employment. Case closed.
        • by lone_marauder (642787) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @12:22PM (#7338371)
          He clearly leaked information the company considered private, and he should be sacked.

          I call bullshit. The photo was taken outdoors, and I doubt the mere acquisition of G-5s could be considered private information. Unless they are stolen, somebody has to know they were purchased.

          I think it's a case of Microsoft being pissed off because of perceived embarassment. That the firing is more embarassing to them than the photo was is yet another example of how damaging the mass neurosis is that separates them from truly long-term successful organizations.
  • Uh Oh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:31AM (#7337226)
    I sure hope he's got unmetered bandwidth on that site.
    First he gets fired and now Slashdot posts 3 links to his server? Poor guy!
  • by Mr Guy (547690) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:31AM (#7337228) Journal
    Microsoft fired the blogger, despite an offer to take the posting down

    And if he doesn't want to take it down, damn it we'll take it down FOR him.
  • or just do what they always do, have reference machines so they can keep any eye on the competition.
  • Paranoia? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BWJones (18351) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:32AM (#7337235) Homepage Journal
    So, what was the deal? Was Microsoft genuinely spooked at his revealing what building he was in, or were they upset that it was revealed they purchase Macs? They do have a Macintosh business unit, so I would guess the former, but it does appear a little extreme.

    • Re:Paranoia? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Arcturax (454188) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:47AM (#7337422)
      Well, I think it was justifiable firing. He likely signed a NDA and here he goes putting up pictures of their computers on the web. Even if nothing critical was revealed, they have to enforce their NDA or people will violate it left and right. This is far more serious than a leak of a Windows beta which is already widely distributed anyway. This is taking photos of systems used for internal company buisiness. If I were his employer, I would have fired him too.
      • Re:Paranoia? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jdvuyk (651327)
        It seems a pretty stupic move from Microsoft to NOT have the information removed tho. If they simply requested it to be removed, give him a stern talking too and get on with life, very few people would have been the wiser.

        Now however, half the geek world and anyone else who cares to take a look sometime in the future can look all they like. It has now become wide public knowledge. NDA or not the knowledge (no matter how useless) is now widely public. How NOT to manage the situtation....

        This is all

      • NDA's cover PROPRIETARY, as in only known to the company and it's partners that have entered into an NDA, info.

        Microsoft buying G5's isn't proprietary and the reseller could legitimately disclose this info- they can expect MS to NOT continue doing business with them if MS didn't want that info disclosed, but it's not something that could be considered proprietary all the same.

        The fact that this individual worked at a specific location on the MS campus isn't proprietary info either. Otherwise you'd have p
  • Non-issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EABird (554070) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:32AM (#7337237)
    I'm pretty sure that if I posted confidential information about my company, they would fire me too. All I have to say to this person is, duh.
    • Re:Non-issue (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Is what you see in the parking lot or shipping dock confidential information?
      • Re:Non-issue (Score:2, Insightful)

        by timbloid (208531)
        No, but if it brings the company into disripute by me taking photos of it, then that's a different matter...
      • Re:Non-issue (Score:4, Insightful)

        by diersing (679767) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:50AM (#7337460)
        If on THEIR campus.. yes.

        Where is the line drawn? The loading dock? A developes cube?

        From what I understand, the campus is pretty much a gated community. If the pic was taken from a public street, then yeah you have a point. But when on they're property, you gotta play by their rules.

    • Re:Non-issue (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jwjr (56765) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:04AM (#7337621)
      I'm surprised so many people take Microsoft's side on this issue. I run a small business. I've worked for a few small businesses. At each of those places I and the people I've worked for would have had no problem with an employee putting information like this on the web. I hope that if my business ever grew to be huge, managers at the level of the copy shop would have similar perspective: it just doesn't matter. In fact, making this a firing offense probably made thing worse.

      As far as I can tell, the facts disclosed are:

      1. MS copy shop operations are in the same building as shipping and receiving.

      2. There are trees, asphalt, and trucks somewhere on the MS campus. Sometimes there is sunshine.

      3. MS bought a few Apple G5 machines.

      As several people have pointed out, item #3 is no surprise, given that MS develops software for Apple computers.

      What's the big deal?

      Wouldn't a more enlightened company have requested that the employee go ahead with his offer to remove the text, or simply have asked that he note the preceding in a rebuttal? They can't call the information back, and does it really help MS to cultivate so much fear among employees about discussing even such innocuous details? If so, why?
      • Re:Non-issue (Score:3, Insightful)

        by budgenator (254554)
        MS bought a few Apple G5 machines. and the next time MS buys a few Apple G5, three of them are stolen off the loading dock after they've been signed for would it still not be a firing offense? The guy just let the whole world know,
        1. where the loading dock is,
        2. What high value items are recieved on the loading dock.
        3. physical security isn't enough to keep unauthorized photos from being taken.
        4. MS extends the security thru obscurity paradigm to the real world as well as the cyber-world.
    • by Rary (566291) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @12:16PM (#7338317)
      I hope that if you posted confidential information about your company online, in addition to firing you, your employer would take immediate actions to remove that confidential information, rather than leaving it where it is, declining an offer to remove it, and drawing attention to it so that the entire Slashdot crowd sees it, rather than just the 10 people who regularly visit the site in question.
  • I bet one of those Macs is for Billy himself.
  • by BMonger (68213) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:34AM (#7337256)
    The person was fired mainly for taking a photo of the Microsoft Campus and posting it online plus telling people where he worked (short answer anyhow). Why is Microsoft so secretive about what is in the different buildings? I seem to remember a few other stories of people not being able to find anything on their land because nobody would tell them where anything was... it just seems weird. But I'm sure there is some sort of explanation for it. Anybody?
    • by buddhaunderthetree (318870) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:37AM (#7337304)
      Well, you probably won't like the answer but I have it on good authority that in case of emergency, (i.e. the Govt. really enforcing anti-trust laws) the buildings on the MS campus will transform into giant robots, march on Washington D.C. and install Bill Gates as our new overlord.

    • by Illserve (56215) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:49AM (#7337444)
      A. He's just a temp

      B. He's demonstrated a propensity to take photos of things "behind the scenes" at Microsoft and publish them on the internet.

      I don't expect they cared too much about this incident, but it identifies him as someone willing to snipe at his own place of employment on the internet. Being a temp, no reason to negotiate, just fire and forget. Why bother getting promises of good behavior from him that he'll likely reneg on next week when you can push the recycle button.

      Seems like a perfectly reasonable decision to me, and this guy had it coming.
    • It's pretty simple, actually. If you knew certain people worked in certain buildings, and you knew what those buildings were working on, you could possibly get some idea of what direction they're headed. For example, if they have a building that's dedicated to MSN Search and you find they have an unusual number of people in that building who have are experts in translation software and can speak fluent Chinese, you'd be able to tell they're working on some form of translating Chinese in their search engin
    • Security? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333)
      The original link [washingtontimes.com] is 404, and their search isn't working, so:

      U.S. intelligence officials said Islamic terrorists have picked

      economic-warfare targets inside the United States. This includes
      intelligence that al Qaeda terrorists plan to attack Microsoft's
      headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

      The data were among information found during military operations
      inside Afghanistan.

      Microsoft's sprawling "campus" is located west of Seattle and includes
      47 buildings with a combined 5.3 million square feet of office space.
      The co

  • by levik (52444) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:34AM (#7337257) Homepage
    Miscorosft fired an employee for painting the company in a bad light on a world-accessible medium?

    I don't see an issue. Imagine yourself running a small firm - if one of your employees were to go and make a post that clearly makes fun of your company, how would you feel about it?

    The move may be a bit harsh, but definitely not anything to raise privacy issues - as an employee, you are obligated to look out for the well-being of your company.

    As far as the G5s go, why wouln't MS want them? They have a bunch of products that target Mac OS, I would imagine they want to test them on everything from the G3 iBooks to the G5 desktops.

    • "...painting the company in a bad light...(a)s far as the G5s go, why wouln't MS want them?"

      Everyone here seems to be commenting about the fact that it's obvious Microsoft would have G5s. They do, after all, develop Mac software. So then, why is it "painting the company in a bad light" to point out the obvious fact that they happen to have some G5s on campus?

  • In case of /.ing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:34AM (#7337263)
    Even Microsoft wants G5s

    October 23, 2003 @ 10:34 PM | Macintosh

    It looks like somebody over in Microsoft land is getting some new toys...

    I took this shot on the way into work on the loading dock (MSCopy, the print shop I work in, is in the same building as MS's shipping and receiving). Three palettes of Dual 2.0Ghz G5's on their way in to somewhere deep in the bowels of Redmond. Hopefully they're all in good condition when they arrive -- the boxes are slick enough that a few of them took a bit of a tumble (you can see them back in the truck)!

    October 27, 2003 03:08 PM

    And that simply, as of about 2pm today, I once again joined the ranks of the unemployed. more

    The day started like any other day -- get up, dink around for a bit, bus into work, and start working through the stack of jobs. Just shy of an hour after I got in, my manager came in and asked me to step into his office when I had a chance. Sure, no biggie, and I headed over as soon as I finished the job I was setting up.

    "Okay, here's the first question. Is this page," and here he turned his monitor towards me, letting me see my "Even Microsoft wants G5s" post from last Thursday, "hosted on any Microsoft computer? Or is it on your own?"

    "It's on mine. Well, it's on a hosted site that I pay for, but no, it's not on anything of Microsoft's."

    "Good. That means that as it's your site on your own server, you have the right to say anything you want. Unfortunately, Microsoft has the right to decide that because of what you said, you're no longer welcome on the Microsoft campus."

    And that simply, as of about 2pm today, I once again joined the ranks of the unemployed.

    It seems that my post is seen by Microsoft Security as being a security violation. The picture itself might have been permissible, but because I also mentioned that I worked at the MSCopy print shop, and which building it was in, it pushed me over the line. Merely removing the post was also not an option -- I offered, and my manager said that he had asked the same thing -- but the only option afforded me was to collect any personal belongings I had at my workstation and be escorted out the door. They were at least kind enough to let me be escorted out by one of my co-workers, rather than sending security over to usher me out, but the end result is the same.

    More frustrating for me is that, having read stories here and there on the 'net about people who had for one reason or another lost their jobs due to something on their weblogs, I thought that I had done what I could to avoid that possibility. To my mind, it's an innocuous post. The presence of Macs on the Microsoft campus isn't a secret (for everything from graphic design work to the Mac Business Unit), and when I took the picture, I made sure to stand with my back to the building so that nothing other than the computers and the truck would be shown -- no building features, no security measures, and no Microsoft personnel. However, it obviously wasn't enough.

    So, I'm unemployed. I am somewhat lucky in that I'm not technically unemployed -- I am still on the roster for my temp agency, who has been very good to me so far (and hopefully will continue to be), but as their ability to place me anywhere does depend on the current job market, it's not a foolproof guarantee of employment coming in quickly. I've put a call into them and let them know of the situation and that I'm available and willing for whatever can be found, so with any luck, they'll be able to find a placement for me. However, it appears that it's also time for me to start hitting the streets and shopping my resume around again.

    Wish me luck.
  • Bad Publicity? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bearclaw (217359)
    Please. 99% of the public won't even hear about the story. And of the 1% that does, 99% of them won't give a rat's ass who Microsoft fired.
    • Re:Bad Publicity? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TWX (665546)
      More like, 100% of the people who hear about the story are either Slashdotters who already hate Microsoft, or Apple nuts, who already hate Microsoft. Honestly, I don't really see what Microsoft did wrong in this particular instance. If the knowledge of them posessing the Apples is what the company took exception to having had spread, then they are within their rights to terminate someone who doesn't maintain company secrets.

      I don't exactly care for Redmond's largest company myself, but for a change thi
  • I know that there have been other cases of people being `persecuted' = fired from their positions due to things they said on the blogs.

    I have to question the legality of that kind of action as infringing upon the freedom of speech, of punishing someone for their opinions.

    Perhaps it is naive to think that the non-discrimination due to race, creed, etc would also apply to thought.

    Because in essence firing someone for what are their opinions and thoughts is a form of thought police.

    While that doesn't relat
    • I'll play devil's advocate here for a second. Perhaps it's not that Microsoft was concerned about what the employee was saying. Maybe their concern was, if he's leaking information about their computers today, what's to stop him from leaking information about new software they're developing tomorrow. With as many people who want to work at Microsoft, it's not to their advantage to keep someone around who's a potential liability in the future, based on their actions in the past.
  • by Peyna (14792)
    I recall reading a story awhile ago about a Coke employee who was fired for drinking Pepsi while working. This is along similar lines for justification of firing someone; however, in this case it is a little more iffy if they could actually fire him for this depending on what sort of contracts he signed when agreeing to employment with Microsoft.

    In the Coke/Pepsi deal the worker had to sign something saying he wouldn't publicly endorse another product (by drinking it) while working. I imagine MS might ha
    • Not same problem (Score:3, Informative)

      by Rui del-Negro (531098)
      I think it was a Pepsi employee drinking Coke [glowport.com], actually.

      Anyway, this is not the same problem. First because he wasn't using a Mac, or endorsing Macs. Second because Microsoft does not manufacture computers (and, even if they did, it would make perfect sense for them to test the competition's systems). In fact, Microsoft makes software for Mac OS, so they need Macs to develop and test it (and you don't need a picture to know they have them, you just need common sense).

      What this guy did was post a picture t
  • Bad publicity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:35AM (#7337283) Homepage Journal
    The thing is, the bad publicity will hit the Mac-loving crowd, the anti-Microsoft crowd, and probably nobody else will hear about it or give a damn.

    Most of the mainstream press doesn't even understand why Microsoft is considered distasteful by many people. I doubt that many news outlets will even consider this news.

    The Blog Nation may spread it around for a few nanoseconds, but most of them are already open-minded enough to realize that there are viable alternatives to Microsoft products.

  • I think there's more to this story we're not getting told.

    Why would MS care if someone talks about MS buying Macs on their weblog?

    1) MS *does* still provide software on the Mac -- Office if nothing else. That means they need Mac hardware to test on (yeah yeah, joke about MS and testing, but seriously).

    2) Even if they DO care about being seen buying Macs, it's a frickin' weblog. This wasn't a videocap that got shown on CNN or something...

    So, I'm betting this *temp* employee (which is actually a rarity at
  • So through the course of someones job, they get some private information, then broadcast it to the world.

    Well maybe this was a bad idea. Generally when you come across non dangerous information detrimental to your employer you shouldn't announce it, that's just unethical.

    This obviously doesn't apply to matters of public safety, which is why we have/are working on whistleblower protection.
    No matter how much you like them, buying Macs is NOT an issue of public safety.

  • Overreaction? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by toupsie (88295) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:37AM (#7337298) Homepage
    Microsoft does have a Mac Business Unit that produces an excellent version of their Office package. Microsoft has every right to can anyone they (barring contracts) but this seems like an overreaction. A Microsoft stockholder would want to know that Microsoft is testing and developing their Mac Business Unit products on the latest and greatest Macs.

    However, there is probably more to this story than we are reading -- mainly because the site is /.-ed.

  • An agent of Microsoft lies when they make up a person who switched from Mac to Windows. That person does not get fired. But when Microsoft actually does switch, the person who points it out gets fired. Very funny!

  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby&comcast,net> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:39AM (#7337322)
    For those who can't get to the article, he wasn't fired for posting the pic about mac's at Microsoft. As he pointed out Microsoft is widely known to have used Mac's in different operations (like their Mac software unit) for years. He was fired for a fairly innocous describing of part of the physical layout of their campus. While I'm not exactly fond of beast of Redmond, they do have some pretty valid security concerns. After all, if you made something that routinely pissed off millions of people every year you'd probably be a little paranoid about your security too.
  • I don't like MS. Yeah, some might say I was an OSS zealot. When I gave up MS at home I went as far as to give away my MS Wheel mouse and replaced it with a Logictech.

    Chances are he signed paperwork saying that he couldn't disclose company secrets. He took the pic at work and posted it on the web, there are often policies about this. He let the world know what MS was up to.

    No matter how much I like MS they did exactly what they should have done.

    I know I'm up to my neck in NDAs and ethics processes, so
    • by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:17AM (#7337756)
      Chances are he signed paperwork saying that he couldn't disclose company secrets. He took the pic at work and posted it on the web, there are often policies about this. He let the world know what MS was up to.... No matter how much I like MS they did exactly what they should have done.

      I agree with you completely, on a technical level.

      There's probably no doubt the guy broke 'the rules' as its very, very easy to do. Almost everyone breaks one of the standard workplace 'rules' per day. Same with the law - I am a total criminal, I jaywalk multiple times a day, and I've run red lights before.

      The difference is in the interpretation. Like the law, the spirit is supposed to be observed, not just the letter.

      What I am saying is this: he broke the rules and he shouldn't have been fired. Yes it was a picture of a part of the MS campus, a loading dock. Yes, technically it was a security breach. Yes, it was against the rules. No, he should not have been fired. Why?

      Because anyone can see he has not actually caused any damage to Microsoft. Nothing has happened. No one seriously thinks he has imperiled their development efforts, physical security, or anything else. Every one of these managers knows that the kid just screwed up, but they're going by the book and not with their brains.

      If we don't cut each other some slack, and use some bloody judgment, we may as all submit to the Giant Corporate Shell Script that tells us when to take lunch, when to take a shit, when to make small talk with workers. Rules are there to be interpreted with wisdom and intelligence. That's the way I see it.

  • by JimRay (6620) <<jimray> <at> <gmail.com>> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:39AM (#7337330) Homepage
    Apparently, his financial situation is a tad bit dire [michaelhanscom.com], so if you really wanna stick it to the man, you might consider paypaling him a buck. Even better, give the dude a job...
  • Two Words (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LittleGuy (267282) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:40AM (#7337334)
    "For Cause".

    Unless you have enough money not to care, or are in a union powerful enough to stick by/up for you, that is the terms of employment in 21st Century America.

    Welcome to your well-regulated life. The schools cover it with "Code of Conduct", and businesses continue it with "Policies and Procedures for Employees".

    When you retire, you'll probably be covered under "Retirement Home Procedures for Residents".
  • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:41AM (#7337349)
    I think Microsoft realised a couple of years ago that the really powerful thing about OSS was actually the community. And they want to try to make such a community themselves. That's one of the reasons I think there seem to be so many MS staff who have blogs - they want to be seen encoraging an MS community. And why they have taken to "accidentally" releasing alpha/beta stuff into the wild recently.

    Some of their efforts have been laughable in the way that they have tried to make corporate efforts look as if they are really community based. I've tried to find evidence of a genuine MS community but there isn't much about. The only equivalent to Slashdot for MS lovers in ActiveWin [activewin.com], which has about a dozen people that post to it, mainly when a story about Linux or critical of MS comes up.

    There is a lot of activity on GotDotNet [gotdotnet.com], but mostly it is technical queries.

    Are there other, genuine examples of MS community sites? Or alternatively, attempts that are obviously MS driven? I'm just interested to compare the strength of the OSS community with the MS community (yes I know they are not logically exclusive, but in reality it seems to be pretty much the case).
  • But it does present several other interesting issues, including that of the trade-off between the bad publicity that comes from the firing and whatever bad results follow when employees feel free to post such things.

    To me the big thing to think about is this...MS would know that this would get out. The only benefit to this is if their are a lot of other embarassing points that could make blogs, their employees will think twice. So there must be a lot of shinola on their floors.
  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:43AM (#7337375) Journal
    ... and what should worry you too is his job description, full-time temp employee. Sounds like Microsoft was getting all the benefits of a full-time employee without having to worry about any of the associated costs. And if companies like Microsoft, with its $60 billion cash reserve can pull this kind of crap, what does that say about today's job market, labour laws and how skewed they are in favour of big business?

    Heck, being a "temp" probably made firing him that much easier.

    Should he have been fired for breaking confidentiality? I don't know, because I can't even see his side of the story (as his site is /.ed). But should he have been a "full-time temp employee"? No fucking way.
    • Nothing worrisome about it. He works full time at Microsoft, but he's paid through a contract agency. And yes, it does make firing him that much easier. That's one reason why they do it, but usually where it comes into play is if a project gets cut back they can let contingent staff go without having to worry about severance pay and the like. Another is that it costs Microsoft less to pay for him and let the contract agency worry about benefits, payroll taxes, etc.

      Like I said, nothing worrisome, companies
  • by jridley (9305)
    I can't believe that there's anyone that doesn't think that an organization of Microsoft's size wouldn't own a little of everything. Certainly they have G5's. I'm sure they have some Suns in their organization somewhere too. I'm sure they have linux boxes, if only to study. Every company of any size has people who get paid to use the competition's products, to compare them to their own.

    However, what he was really fired for was divulging info about what's in which building. This seems way over the top,
  • not unusual (Score:4, Insightful)

    by avandesande (143899) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:49AM (#7337450) Journal
    Many corporate companies I have worked for explicitly forbid bring a camera of any sort onto the campus. If a person is unhappy with such a restriction they should work somewhere else.
  • Image Mirror (Score:3, Informative)

    by jwilhelm (238084) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:51AM (#7337476) Homepage Journal
    Mirror of the Image:
    http://www.jeffwilhelm.com/files/msg5.jpg [jeffwilhelm.com]
  • I dunno about this (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jeffkjo1 (663413) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:53AM (#7337507) Homepage
    I'm going to get modded down for advocating the MS position, but, despite reading the blog entry where he says he was fired for revealing MS's deep dark secret, I tend to believe there is something else going on here.

    After all, MS develops office for Macs, amoung other software packages they port for Apple computers. This would infer that they at least test these ports once or twice, and they would obviously need macs for this.
    The idea that he blew the whistle on something is bogus, at least IMHO.
  • by phillymjs (234426) <slashdot.stango@org> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:57AM (#7337555) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft Security doesn't want anyone to know that somewhere on their sprawling campus, they have a loading dock for the purposes of shipping and receiving goods from the outside world?

    Yes, I can see how the disclosure of this confidential information will cause the destruction of the company. As we speak, hordes of Linux-loving commandos are probably filing into semi trailers purporting to be carrying cases of Jolt Cola or some such, in a classic "trojan horse" maneuver.

    ~Philly
  • by Faeton (522316) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:03AM (#7337598) Homepage Journal
    I almost had the same experience, only that I was fortunately not fired (Unions ARE sometimes useful). I work at a nuclear power plant, and I posted some things in my blog that I thought was benign, as I self-censor myself when I write. Too bad the company didn't think it was that benign, even though what I posted is publically available info. PR, security, upper management all nit-picked my blog. After a "chat" with my boss's boss, I took down my site (but still confused about the fuss). Trust me, during that few days I was really combing through my blog making sure I didn't let something REALLY important slip through!

    It didn't take me long to realize that the company (or a contractor) had some spiders out there looking for websites with key words (company name, nuclear, etc) and probably found my blog. So, the easiest way to defeat them and still have my blog was to put up a simple login/password to my site. Only my friends/family view it anyways, and I just create one login account for everybody.

    Since then, I've had 2 other friends (A teacher and a programmer) go through almost the same thing, and they've all put passwords on their sites. I would recommend ALL bloggers to do that if they decide to post anything about work, co-workers, etc if they value their jobs. If this guy did that, I bet he would still have his job.

    • Since then, I've had 2 other friends (A teacher and a programmer) go through almost the same thing, and they've all put passwords on their sites. I would recommend ALL bloggers to do that if they decide to post anything about work, co-workers, etc if they value their jobs.

      Here's a brainstorm: How about you just don't say anything about work in your blog?
  • by Zakabog (603757) <johnNO@SPAMjmaug.com> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:21AM (#7337804)
    Doesn't anyone want to know how Microsoft discovered the picture and the story? Do they routinely check up on any website's from their employee's to make sure that no information has been leaked? I would guess they do (don't want that windows source code to be released) but I think that'd probably bother me if I were an employee. What if I wanted to post how much I hated my boss? Or how I'd like to bang that hot new girl in marketing? Those are things you might want to share with the internet that you don't want your co-workers finding out.
  • hahaha (Score:3, Funny)

    by holmengraa (542124) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @02:12PM (#7339510)
    lmao @ american worker rights
  • by nuintari (47926) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @03:04PM (#7340039) Homepage
    Its funny, read back in his journal a few days before the photo and the results thereafter, he mentions the dangers of blogging, and what your boss might not like.

    Take your own advice chief, sorry.
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdoug&geekazon,com> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @04:07PM (#7340642) Homepage
    I don't think it matters that an employer isn't the government. If people can be materially punished by employers for expressing personal views in public, or in this case, making a trivial statement of fact, then people don't have the freedom to speak their minds.

    There are many other cases where editing or suppressing employee speech is perfectly acceptable. For example, newspapers aren't obligated to print whatever their reporters feel like writing. But employers shouldn't be able to take punitive action against people for making non-libelous statements on personal websites.

    Here's a great idea for a startup: create software that mines postings in online forums like Slashdot, associating online personas with actual people and looking for evidence of insubordination or unacceptable opinions. No subpoenas necessary, no court orders, just screen scrapers, AI and a database. If you worked for a large company that could afford such a service would you feel free to speak your mind online?
  • by Aron S-T (3012) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @05:05PM (#7341224) Homepage
    What bothers me most about this story is some of the reactions here, which reflect the worst sort of corporate thinking: "Someone makes a mistake - can him." Even if one concedes that Microsoft is within its legal rights, it was a senseless act on their part to fire him. Being right is no excuse for being stupid.

    If the concern was really about looking bad for using Macs, they would have insisted he remove the post. I take it at face value that they saw this as a security breach. However, their approach to solving the problem shows how inflexible and rigid they have become, a bad sign for an organization competing in a highly dynamic industry.

    On the self-interest level, they just generated for themselves more bad publicity, something Microsoft can ill afford. Microsoft management should be trained to take public opinion into consideration in every act they do, and to think carefully about the PR implications of their public actions.

    On a more fundamental level, a corporation has no real existence. It is a group of people working towards some goal. Proper motivation of employees is a key to success.

    If fear is the greatest motivating tool that corporate management chooses to make use of, that corporation is doomed to oblivion. Firing someone should be a last resort action taken only after other options have been exhausted. If management is seen as cruel and capricious, then the best employees who have a choice of where to work, will go find a more congenial working environment.

    The proper way to have handled this was to ask the employee to immediately remove the offending post from his blog, and point out to him the corporate policies he violated and let him go with a warning. That way they would have avoided bad PR, limited the security breach and would have been viewed as an understanding employer. Microsoft lost on every level by taking this foolish action, whatever the initial motivation might have been.

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