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New Microsoft Dirty Tricks Revealed 207

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the sleights-of-hand dept.
Conrad Mazian writes "Robert X. Cringely has an article on the Technology Evangelist web site where he claims that Microsoft destroyed evidence in the Burst vs Microsoft case. Specifically Burst's lawyers had asked for certain emails, Microsoft claimed that they couldn't find the backup tapes the emails would be on, and while this was happening the tapes were in a vault at Microsoft — until they mysteriously disappeared. It's a fascinating story, and even names one person at Microsoft."
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New Microsoft Dirty Tricks Revealed

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  • Oh, NO! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WED Fan (911325)

    Oh, No! A corporation wrangles, delays, misplaces, obfuscates in the face of a lawsuit. Heaven's, what is the world coming to?

    Microsoft must be the very first to EVER do this.

    • Re:Oh, NO! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eno2001 (527078) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:48PM (#18052074) Homepage Journal
      It's not like the story is looking at this wide-eyed and saying that this is the first time it's ever happened. We all know it happens all the time. The main point, is what can be done to stop this sort of thing from happening short of killing all business owners who resort to this type of evil behavior. There is nothing noble about it, therefore it shouldn't be defended nor should it be ignored or allowed to continue. This type of behavior should be brought out in the open, the perpetrators brought to justice and the business made to pay for it's crimes. Frankly, I'd love to see them all lined up and shot, but that's just me. I'm in this business purely for technical interests and could give a rats ass about anyone making a buck.
      • by jd (1658)
        I don't agree. Bullets have feelings too and we should not subject them to such a fate.
    • by B3ryllium (571199)
      X-Files said it best:

      Deceive. Inveigle. Obfuscate.

      Coincidentally, this is also Sony's tactic. :)
    • Ballmer duck tape me to the wall, and told me "I'LL f**king kill you!" and threaten to throw a chair at me!
      • by h2g2bob (948006)
        You mean,

        "I'm going to f-ing bury that email, I have done it before and will do it again... I'm going to f-ing bury that email."
        *throws chair*
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Oh, no! Some guy goes out and kills his workmates in a rage. Clearly, he must be the first to do it.

      Oh, no! Your SO is cheating on you. How terrible! Must be the first time...

      Oh, no! A country gets attacked, some thousand lives are lost, rage prevails and two countries are invaded, hundreds of thousands killed, civil wars started to further break the lives of millions. Must be the first in history!

      Oh, no... People drink and drive under influence and kill innocent ones. Heck, I bet this never happened before
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by killjoe (766577)
      Destroying evidence is illegal even if you are not the first one to do it.

      Honestly your defense of MS consists of "everybody else does it". Isn't it amazing what the defenders of MS have been reduced to.

      Not every business breaks the law. Some do, but many don't. Please don't defame the entire business community and capitalism itself by saying that every business breaks the law.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Paradise Pete (33184)
      Microsoft must be the very first to EVER do this.

      A fine counter-argument. I'm surprised it isn't used more often.
      "Come on, Your Honor, it's not like I'm the first to EVER commit this crime!"

  • Jesus Christ! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by His name cannot be s (16831) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:40PM (#18051990) Journal
    This is *real* journalism:

      - Nth hand unverified, information (My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with a girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious. )

      - this is about stuff along time ago. ... the headline here said somehting about Microsoft's "NEW" dirty tricks? WTF?

      - There is a lot suspect in what's being claimed in the article as well.

    Well, as the tagline says:

    • Re:Jesus Christ! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by stubear (130454) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:52PM (#18052102)
      I agree but did you read the comments? A user named Bob Cringley claims to have corraborating evidence and while he names the source as anonymous, they are not anonymous to him. WTF?!? If he had corraborating evidence he should have mentioned it in the article don't you think? What can you expect when it's a story about Microsoft allegedly doing something bad though?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kestasjk (933987) *
      I heard, from a second hand but reliable source, that evidence destruction goes all the way up to Steve Ballmer.

      He's mostly just in charge of the destruction of chair evidence though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by multisync (218450)

      - Nth hand unverified, information (My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with a girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious. )

      According to Cringley:

      The former Microsoft contract employee who contacted me on this issue did not do so anonymously, by the way. I know his name and how to reach him. We have talked on the phone more than once. He did not hesitate to name names.

      You are welcome to quest

  • And your point? (Score:5, Informative)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:42PM (#18052008) Homepage Journal
    These days when you are as large as microsoft is, it doesnt really matter if you break the law.

    If you do, and actually get caught, you get some token fine and you chalk it up as a cost of doing business and move on.
    • Re:And your point? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by truthsearch (249536) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:57PM (#18052138) Homepage Journal
      Which is why Enron is still around...
      • Re:And your point? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Coryoth (254751) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @01:25PM (#18052354) Homepage Journal

        Which is why Enron is still around...

        Enron is not gone because they broke the law and got obliterated for it, Enron is gone because the reality that they actually had no money overtook their fiction and they collapsed into overnight bankruptcy. Legal recourse against Enron only really began after it was long gone, and was against the company's directors.
        • That's exactly my point. There are sometimes consequences, whether by the market or the government. Once their questionable activities were realized by investors they all ran and the stock collapsed.

          To blindly say there are never any consequences is wrong. There are rare legal and often economic consequences.
          • '' Once their questionable activities were realized by investors they all ran and the stock collapsed. ''

            But not because of their questionable activities. Enron didn't collapse because they were lying about their financial situation, they collapsed because their financial situation was bad in the first place.
        • It's sad... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Xenographic (557057)
          The only way to kill an evil company appears to be to bankrupt it.
          What on earth does it take to revoke a corporate charter these days?
          • by khallow (566160)
            So you want to destroy a business, corporation or not? Seize their assets. That's why a business isn't as powerful as a government.
            • > Seize their assets. That's why a business isn't as powerful as a government.

              Oh, that can destroy a government, too. If I live long enough, with the US Federal Deficit as deep as it is and climbing like it is, I might even see it happen.
              • by sumdumass (711423)
                lol.. Nope. You will never see it happening to the US government. Congress passes the laws determining how a deficit is paid and what action can be taken to collect it. They won't allow it to happen. Also, in times of an emergency, the feds can sieze property for their own use. If selling this property to pay the deficit bills is what they see as usable, nothing would stop them short of a revolution. But the left has succesfully taken guns away from law abiding citizens so this won't likley happen and you c
                • Just as a matter of interest did the citizens of the Confederacy have the right to bear arms? And if they did how did they, going by gun owners' logic, ever lose the war?
                  • by sumdumass (711423)
                    Are you talking about the confederate states of america that was around right before we became the united states of america or the confederates of the civil war time? Cause yes, one did and one didn't.

                    And if your talking about losing the ware, your probably talking about the american civil war. And they lost because a general gave up in Appomattox Virginia. But that wasn't the end of the war, It was just the official folding of the south back into the united states. The gun owners of the south continued to
              • by khallow (566160)
                For an extreme counterexample, consider the regime of Pol Pot in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. He supposedly killed off an eighth of the population, emptied the cities, and otherwise was working to completedly destroy the country. The only reason he stopped was because Vietnam invaded. If he had played his diplomatic cards competently, that wouldn't have happened either (since his troops were harrassing the Vietmanese). Who knows how far he'd have gone? But to summarize, it's an example of a government that w
        • Enron is not gone because the reality that they actually had no money overtook their fiction, Enron is gone because they changed their name to CrossCountry Energy Corp. While most of their business activities stopped they were too well connected to just disappear.

          http://www.enron.com/corp/pressroom/releases/2003/ ene/062503release.html [enron.com]
          http://www.igorinternational.com/press/bloomberg-c orporate-business-name.php [igorinternational.com] - read down a bit.
          http://money.cnn.com/2002/02/22/news/enron_roundup /index.htm? [cnn.com]

      • didn't the enron guys only get in real (criminal) trouble after the buisness had already collapsed because they could no longer keep up the illusion of profitability?
      • by eyegone (644831)
        s/Enron/Arthur Andersen/
        • by Hooya (518216)
          Andersen Consulting spun off most of it's viable business into Accenture. So with a nice shell game, there are no *real* legal consequences for Arthur Andersen.
      • Microsoft do actually have something to sell unlike Enron.
        I notice Ford is still around despite some evil behaviour (although they seem to be in some financial shit finally) as are IBM (they weathered their financial shit) and no doubt dozens if not hundreds of evildoer corporations which haven't been destroyed for their crimes. The all-powerful market doesn't punish criminal corporations only unprofitable ones and most corporate crime convictions don't really affect profits.
        • IBM and Microsoft (and maybe Ford, I don't know) have adjusted their accounting practices in the wake of Enron. Microsoft stock was affected (and hasn't grown much since). IBM still has a great balance sheet after adjustments and so their stock is still high. Ford's stock is in the toilet.

          So there have been consequences. You're correct that none have gone out of business, but that certainly doesn't mean they didn't pay some price.
          • Microsoft have never been punished by the market for their illegal behaviour, IBM were punished at the beginning of the 90s and are a much more pleasant company and Ford are in the crapper right now but their bad behaviour was a very long time ago and the market is punishing them for not having as good products as the competition pure and simple. The market, like I said, punishes poor financial performance and has no interest in whether that financial performance was earned within the law or not. The conseq
    • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
      ``you get some token fine and you chalk it up as a cost of doing business and move on.''

      It's always like that. The only thing that matters is whether the rewards and "cost of doing business" do or don't exceed the rewards and cost of working within the law.
    • This particular offense, not producing evidence on request, is just the thing to make a judge go ballistic. Courts see it as a direct attack against their authority. Lawyers will stall discovery, bury evidence in piles of other material, or fight discovery, but it's near unthinkable in their world to destroy evidence and the penalties are severe.
    • by inviolet (797804)

      These days when you are as large as microsoft is, it doesnt really matter if you break the law.

      If you do, and actually get caught, you get some token fine and you chalk it up as a cost of doing business and move on.

      Sad but true. And I think I finally know why it happens...

      Microsoft is so large, so widespread, and so universally relied upon, that it is very hard to punish Microsoft the corporation without also significantly hurting the rest of the country. For example, if we force them to reveal their s

    • by drsmithy (35869)

      These days when you are as large as microsoft is, it doesnt really matter if you break the law.

      On the flipside, when you're as large as Microsoft, it doesn't really matter if you don't break the law - you'll still get sued by gold-diggers.

  • by physicsboy500 (645835) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:43PM (#18052020)
    Microsoft didn't loose the tapes, it's just that the backup server was being run by Vista!
  • New? (Score:4, Informative)

    by NoTheory (580275) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:44PM (#18052024)
    As far as i am aware these aren't new allegations, i remember hearing about this back as far as 2 years ago at least. Some casual googling [google.com] turns up documents from that time period.
  • names (Score:5, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:44PM (#18052030)
    It's a fascinating story, and even names one person at Microsoft.

    Oooh! It names someone at Microsoft. I'll tell you, but you gotta keep it a secret, okay? Bill Gates. Shhhh, don't tell anyone I told you...
  • the irony (Score:5, Funny)

    by troll -1 (956834) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @12:51PM (#18052100)
    Microsoft was saying that it couldn't find the tapes and that it would take millions of man-hours to search for them ...

    And Microsoft wants to be number one in search?
  • by SEMW (967629) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @01:04PM (#18052184)
    Cringely posted the story in two parts, but the summary only links to the first. Second part here [technologyevangelist.com].
  • "Burst lawyers caught a pattern of apparent destruction of e-mail evidence on the part of Microsoft."

    The same repeating pattern: msft destroy's evidence, then msft accuses others of destroying evidence. Msft steals code, then accuses others of stealing code. Msft abuses the public by controlling the standards, then msft has a screaming hissy-fit accusing others of trying to control the standard. Msft lies to the public with astro-turfing, and hiring others to front for msft etc., then msft screams and crys
  • I think we need a corporate records retention law to help avoid these sorts of situations. Besides intentional destruction of evidence, many corporations intentionally destroy email as quickly as possible, to make it difficult for anyone to find any evidence of wrongdoing in future civil or criminal litigation.
    • by killjoe (766577)
      Destroying evidence is already against the law. The problem is that MS is above the law. They can commit any crime they want and they know that the govt will never hold them accountable.

      It's a criminal organization that is completely above the law. Passing more laws isn't going to curb it.
    • by drsmithy (35869)

      I think we need a corporate records retention law to help avoid these sorts of situations.

      Good point. Accurate and long-term recording of, say, username <-> timestamp <-> IP mappings would be great for some lawsuits...

  • One small problem (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Wolfraider (1065360) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @02:33PM (#18053022)
    Any one noticed one big problem in this post. All of Microsoft's email is stored in pst files? Wouldn't they be using a email system like Microsoft Exchange that stores all emails on the server? It does not make sense from a company standpoint to download all email to your desktop at work and not have it available anywhere.
    • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @02:51PM (#18053202) Journal
      Exactly. If this one company can't archive emails successfully, what does that say for the likely success of sarbanes-oxley compliance in the US business world?

      I'm kind of confused why this story is being treated as it is in the comments. MS is supposed to be helping other businesses avoid the possibility of losing data... hmmmmm MS wants to be the preferred supplier of software to government agencies and this is a bad mark on them if you ask me. Sure, they might have lost tapes which is not part of their software per se' but they are supposed to be designing software / systems that provide REALLY good backup processes in mind. If you can't demonstrate that you know how backup processes should work, perhaps your software shouldn't be used by anyone with legal requirements to backup data?
  • What if this was the work of one individual?
    A person who had her own agenda, wasn't in sync with the goals of our company?
    Well, that usually works.

  • Microsoft was saying that it couldn't find the tapes and that it would take millions of man-hours to search for them ...

    Yes, it is best if they have a person search through the tape backup database to see where the tape is physically stored. It would take millions of hours. A computer could perform the database search in a couple seconds, but the query keeps crashing SQL Server ever since the Vista upgrade.
  • Everybody knows that PJ took the tapes, and she's attempting to index them right now.
  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @06:38PM (#18055006)
    If I remember correctly, Burst started a court case against Microsoft for patent infringement a few years ago (one of those that we all love on Slashdot), and Microsoft paid them about $60 million in settlements. The court case looked very bad for Microsoft, not because there was any evidence of any wrongdoing, but because Microsoft had "lost" emails exactly for a critical time period, but not others just before or just after that time period. These are exactly the emails that this article is about.

    To the courts, it doesn't make much difference whether you say "sorry, we lost these emails by accident" and say the truth, or you say "we destroyed these emails, take that!" and say the truth or not, or whether you say "sorry, we lost these emails" and are in fact hiding them. In each case, the emails are not there, and the courts will assume that whatever they might have contained was not good for you. So whether Microsoft really lost these emails or was just hiding them, it doesn't matter.

    Similar, if you are taken to court because someone claims you downloaded music illegally, and you just happen to format your harddisk by accident, you are in deep shit. And it doesn't matter whether there was evidence on that harddisk or not.
  • It's a fascinating story, and even names one person at Microsoft. (Emphasis mine)

    You can name someone within a company as the perpetrator of a crime all you want-- we all know from experience that when someone does something as part of a corporation, it's virtually guaranteed that they will never face personal legal consequences for it. (And, similarly, no matter how bad a company is, there is no "corporate death penalty".)

    Corporations have evolved into legal entities in which people can do illegal th

  • by Myria (562655) on Saturday February 17, 2007 @08:17PM (#18055752)
    Regardless of your opinion about Microsoft, it seems like this is a case of stupidity of either Microsoft IT or their contractor, not malice. The last thing you want to do when you're being sued is destroy the documents subpoenaed during discovery. Having a corporate policy of deleting all emails regularly is one thing; expressing deleting a document that you know will be subpoenaed is quite another.

    Microsoft's lawyers aren't stupid, though other parts of the company may be. If Microsoft were deleting incriminating documents that are subpoenaed, how does my signature exist? How could these documents be any more damaging than the others that did get released?
    • You could use that same argument for Arthur Andersen during the Enron case.

      The key question is very simple: what makes them KNOWINGLY risk this, or (put another way) what are they hiding that would be worse when discovered knowingly and willingly destroying potential evidence?

      In both cases (Enron and Microsoft) I had a real problem with accepting things of this magnitude as 'accidents'. Too convenient, and too much a feeling of even more skeletons present in the mass burial closet than were discovered. In
  • Something to think about very carefully if you are a sysape and you are asked to 'lose' evidence. Especially if you know of an ongoing legal action.

    Could you be sued? Thrown into jail for obstruction? Probably.

    If anyone asks you to do this, or help out, just say 'no'. Then look for another employer because the one you are working for is both evil and stupid.

Thus mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true. -- Bertrand Russell

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