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

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:34AM (#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.
  • by ericspinder (146776) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:34AM (#7337265) Journal
    No, the internal print shop! That's where that guy works (rather, did work).
  • by JimRay (6620) <> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:39AM (#7337330) Homepage
    Apparently, his financial situation is a tad bit dire [], so if you really wanna stick it to the man, you might consider paypaling him a buck. Even better, give the dude a job...
  • Re:Oh really? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chewie (24912) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:40AM (#7337338)
    That's right. Depending on what you do to me, I can have you prosecuted for any criminal acts (kidnapping, etc.) you commit, or I can bring a civil case against you (emotional pain, etc.). It's *NOT* a First Amendment issue.
  • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:41AM (#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 [], 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 [], 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).
  • by AnswerIs42 (622520) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:44AM (#7337376) Homepage
    General Motors is a lot worse in that reguard.. you bring any kind of camera into a GM workplace, you are fired on the spot.

    Makes it hard when I went to upgrade my cell phone.. had to find one without a camera feature.
  • Re:Paranoia? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Arcturax (454188) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:47AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:47AM (#7337429)
    Thank you!

    October 28, 2003 @ 04:55 PM | c:4 | tb:0

    First things first -- many, many thanks to the many people who have passed on words of encouragement to me in my time of trial. With a normal readership of about ten people that I know of, I wasn't expecting to get much response beyond my family and a few friends. The 'net being what it is, though, tales of my trials and tribulations seem to be spreading, and I've gotten many nice comments, e-mails, and phone calls, not to mention links on a growing number of sites.

    I've spent part of the day updating my resume (a task that I have to admit I always dread), and have polished it up to the best of my ability and posted it here. With any luck, between the temp agency, my own efforts, and what little notoriety I may gain in my fifteen minutes of fame, this stretch of unemployment won't last too long. In any case, I'm certainly keeping my fingers crossed (though it does make it a bit harder to type, I can use all the luck I can get right now).

    To address some of the concerns and questions I've received:

    Legal recourses

    A couple people have inquired about possible legal recourses. This is an avenue that I don't particularly want to investigate, for a few reasons. First, I don't think that the time and trouble is worth it, and second, I'd be willing to bet that somewhere in the labyrinthine red tape of contracts among my temp agency, the vendor, and Microsoft, this situation is probably covered in one form or another.

    In the end, what it boils down to was a slight misjudgment on my part. While I (and many other people) may find Microsoft's reaction to be extreme and unnecessary, chances are they had every legal right to make the decision that they did. I would certainly have preferred that they simply request that I take the offending post down (which I would have done in a heartbeat), but for whatever reasons, they chose not to take that route.

    Future plans and possibilities

    Thankfully, this appears to be solely an issue between Microsoft and myself. While I got the news from my supervisor, it was made clear to me that there was nothing he could do about the situation, and he was sorry to see me go. As I'd been a valuable member of the team in the print shop, able to cover nearly any position outside of administrative duties, losing me will be a bit of a blow to the shop (now, I'm not so amazingly egotistical to claim that the place is going to go down in flames just because lil' ol' me isn't chipping in anymore, mind you -- I just know that I was able to help out wherever I was needed, and I enjoyed doing it).

    Seeing as how he was also caught off guard by this situation, he's said that he'll ask around and see if there might be any other open positions outside of Microsoft that I might be able to be shuffled into. This is no guarantee, of course, but it's certainly nice to know that he thought highly enough of me to at least take a few minutes to ask around about possibilities.

    I've also received a couple of requests for my resume via e-mail, which have been sent out to everyone who asked for them.

    In the end, though, I'm still crossing my fingers, waiting to see what may come down the pike.


    A few people have inquired about how I'm doing financially. I have to admit -- things are a little dicey here. Rent is due in a week, and while I'll be able to dip into some emergency money to get me through this round, I will need to have stable income by the time November 5th rolls around or I'll be in very dire straits. It's quite typical, in a Murphy's Law kind of way, that this would happen just a few weeks after I blew my savings on a new computer. Ah, well -- there was certainly no way to plan for it.

    Now, I've never been much of one for asking for money -- I'm quite stubborn by nature (according to my parents, one of my first words as a child was "self!"), and generally, if I can't handle something on my own, well, th

  • Image Mirror (Score:3, Informative)

    by jwilhelm (238084) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:51AM (#7337476) Homepage Journal
    Mirror of the Image: []
  • by Faeton (522316) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:03AM (#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.

  • by Jacco de Leeuw (4646) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:16AM (#7337743) Homepage
    Or satellite pictures []...
  • Not same problem (Score:3, Informative)

    by Rui del-Negro (531098) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:18AM (#7337777) Homepage
    I think it was a Pepsi employee drinking Coke [], 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 taken without permission in a private property, quite possibly in an area where it was expressly prohibited to take pictures (and where he may not even have been authorised to be).

  • by pi radians (170660) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:24AM (#7337838)
    They no longer develop IE for Macintosh. But they still do Office and now they are the developers for Virtual PC (something that doesn't work on G5s just yet).
  • by Carnage4Life (106069) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @10:33AM (#7337949) Homepage Journal
    I am a Microsoft employee so I might be biased but there are a number of developer communities around Microsoft technologies including
    1. Code Project []
    2. SQL Server Central []
    3. .NET Weblogs [], SQL Junkies []
    4. ASP.NET forums []
    5. 4 Guys from Rolla []
    6. ASP Alliance mailing lists []
    7. CodeGuru discussion forums []
    8. TopXML discussion forums [] - this is mostly about Microsoft XML technologies
    9. .NET Junkies []
    10. SQL Team [] .
  • by leerpm (570963) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:08AM (#7338253)
    Come on, the camera as security issue is bogus. What are you gonna do, stop everyone with a cell phone because you can now snap 1.2 megapixel pictures with some models and send them in real time?

    Yes, cell phones with built-in digital cameras have been banned in several major research & development labs even as of this moment today. This includes facilities at Samsung Electronics, and at least one of the major domestic car manufacturers (GM or Ford -- trying to find the story for it now).
  • by fitten (521191) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:16AM (#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 Masami Eiri (617825) <{brain.wav} {at} {}> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:26AM (#7338416) Journal
    Furbys don't actually record. It was just major paranoia on the DoD's part...
  • by Svartalf (2997) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @11:31AM (#7338464) Homepage
    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 people violating the NDAs all the time.

    The two tidbits combined isn't proprietary info either.

    If it's not proprietary info, it's not coverable by an NDA.

    He wasn't ejected from the MS campus over a breach of an NDA (By the way, do you have any idea how silly you look making it sound like this is a worse thing that a leakage of IP to the world?)- it was someone at MS taking Umbrage at the blog entry and using "security" reasons as an excuse to get him booted from the campus.
  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @12:41PM (#7339150)

    They could confiscate things that are illegal to posess, like drugs explosives or concealed firearms.

    Yep, as long as those things are illegal. Back in the day, the legal right for a civilian to carry a concealed weapon in Texas was limited to "travelers." There wasn't a good, legal definition of traveler but there were a few court cases on point. In general, it was considered foolhardy to rely on your travel status to justify carrying. But there are the exceptions. For years, whenever anyone was caught with a concealed weapon at Intercontinental Airport in Houston, the person would be denied access to the gate area but the local prosecutor would decline to prosecute. Obviously, if you were about to get on a plane you were a traveler and, thus, your concealed carry was legal under state law. And since the screeners caught you before you got into the secured area of the airport, you hadn't run afoul of any federal law. The only real consequence was that getting all this sorted out was guaranteed to make you miss your flight.

  • Security?... My Ass! (Score:2, Informative)

    by UtSupra (16971) <> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @07:54PM (#7343169) Homepage Journal
    Lots of people are justifying the sacking of this poor guy, as if it made sense to think of a picture as a security threat. If you are threaten by pictures, How are you going to stop the small phones with cameras on them? Your enemies can take as many pictures as they want! (unless you are a military base).

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein