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Microsoft Government Privacy The Courts News Your Rights Online

Microsoft Sued by a Beijing Student Over 'Privacy Violation' 157

Posted by Zonk
from the guy-thinks-highly-of-himself dept.
freakxx writes "Xinhua report that a Beijing University student has sued Microsoft for allegedly gathering personal information via Windows Genuine Advantage. He has demanded a compensation of 1,350 RMB (around US$ 180) and an open apology printed in a national newspaper. The student has accused Microsoft of using WGA to gather information about his computer and himself, rather than solely checking whether or not the installed Windows XP system was genuine. A Microsoft spokesman has declined to speak on this issue and said that the matter is under investigation."
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Microsoft Sued by a Beijing Student Over 'Privacy Violation'

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  • Priceless (Score:5, Funny)

    by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Thursday September 13, 2007 @04:26PM (#20595231) Journal
    Copy of Windows in China: $10

    Settlement of legal dispute: $150

    Suing Microsoft for collecting your personal info when you live in the People's Republic of China: Priceless.

    There are some things you can blame on the government. For everything else, there's Microsoft.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by necro2607 (771790)
      /me watches as Mastercard sends a takedown notice to /. regarding the parent post ;)
      • by davester666 (731373) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @08:53PM (#20598197) Journal
        "A Microsoft spokesman has declined to speak on this issue and said that the matter is under investigation"

        In a press release, MS claims:

        We have NO idea what information is gathered as part of WGA. We promise to investigate what information is gathered, and then blame the collection of personal information on a rogue programmer who did it without the permission or knowledge of management. In the future, we promise to encrypt all the personal information we collect so you can't tell that we are doing this anymore.

        No more than 2 puppies were killed to produce this press release.
    • There are some things you can blame on the government. For everything else, there's Microsoft.

      How do you tell the difference [slashdot.org]? The severity of punishment for thought-crime in China makes privacy a very serious matter.

      I'd like to make a joke about in how Communist China, you sue the BSA, but it's just not funny. People who look at the wrong web page are put in jail and executed for their organs. Technicians have testified before the US congress that prisoners were skinned alive to better preserve the s

      • by darkmeridian (119044) <william...chuang@@@gmail...com> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @06:54PM (#20597037) Homepage
        I would be careful about relying on the testimony of technicians. The United States was lulled into the first Gulf War partially on the testimony of a woman saying Iraqi troops were breaking into Kuwaiti hospitals and stomping infants in incubators to death. It later turned out the woman was a member of the Kuwaiti royal family, and made the whole thing up as part of a systematic Kuwaiti campaign to get America to attack their invaders.

        That's not to say the charges against China are without basis. I'm just advocating some skepticism about people who may have a grudge against China, or have a good reason to lie about torture back home (so they can get asylum and citizenship here in the United States).

        • by Erris (531066)

          I'm just advocating some skepticism about people who may have a grudge against China, or have a good reason to lie about torture back home (so they can get asylum and citizenship here in the United States).

          You must realize that the desperation people feel, which you think makes them less than honest, is also an indictment of China. Technicians are comparatively privileged people without economic reasons to immigrate. What grudge can they have that's great enough to make them leave their friends and fam

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ShakaUVM (157947)
          Huh, really?

          One of my roommates in college was a Palestinian guy who grew up in Kuwait. His family was in vacation (thank heavens) in America when Saddam invaded. They broke into his house, pissed on the carpet, stole his TV and anything else valuable, and lived in it for the duration of the occuptation. His family's bank accounts got frozen, which he never got back. Fortunately, his father was a big believer in cash when going on vacation and had two hundred thousand dollars *on hand* in LA, with which the
          • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

            by mrchaotica (681592) *

            Of course, whenever the 8 year old kids saw a big white dude, they always offered the porn first. We must have a great reputation for being lechers over there.

            And stupid too, apparently -- what idiot pays for porn?

        • Would a delegate to the People's Congress have a reason to have a grudge against China? Because one stated last year that they executed a hair under 10,000 people, a rate which is over sixty times that of the US's on a population-weighted basis. (We're #2 on absolute and population-weighted counts among major nations.) Amnesty International, noted human rights organization, was skeptical -- based on Chinese newspaper reports, they think China merely killed at a multiplier of twenty, with an unknown addit
      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by miffo.swe (547642)
        The US greatly surpass both Communist Soviet and WW2 Germany when it comes to propaganda. If you blindly believe things said by US authorities i have a bridge to sell you cheaply. Havent you asked yourself lately where all the WMD from Iraq is? China is does terrible things to its people but damn, how many people havent died in Gaza, Afganistan, Iran and Iraq because of direct involvment from the US? Atleast China maims and kills inside its own borders.
        • by dedazo (737510)

          Atleast China maims and kills inside its own borders.

          Yeah, we should all be grateful for that. Most especially the people of Tibet.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Please point to a single case of people looking at the wrong web site, and then being killed, with their organs harvested. China has its major political problems but just the idea of what you're saying is totally ridiculous.
  • Self worth (Score:5, Funny)

    by athdemo (1153305) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @04:28PM (#20595263)
    $180? Where's the self-esteem, guy? They violated you!
  • If only... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Starteck81 (917280) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @04:28PM (#20595265)
    ...He could do the same to his own government.
  • M$ should be able to force you to sing extra contract like Eula's on top of the ones at time you payed for XP for things like updates at are part of first contract / terms of sale.
  • Mr. Burns: "Yes. But I have ten high-priced lawyers."
  • Customers. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @04:32PM (#20595321)
    > "What we can say is that Microsoft is fully committed to letting customers control their personal information."

    "Customers." They keep using that word. I do not think that word means what most of us think it means.

    OEMs are the customer. The end user who purchases a PC from an OEM and finds himself dependent on Microsoft is not the customer, he is the product.

    • by fireboy1919 (257783) <rustyp.freeshell@org> on Thursday September 13, 2007 @06:24PM (#20596761) Homepage Journal
      Customer:
      1) Person who potentially buys things. The one they buy from is known as a vendor.
      2) (Microsoft dfn). Ugly bags of mostly water+some money. The idea is to get the money out of the bags and then be able to keep it. For some reason, the bags sort of hold on to it when it's being taken.
    • by suv4x4 (956391)
      "Customers." They keep using that word. I do not think that word means what most of us think it means.

      OEMs are the customer. The end user who purchases a PC from an OEM and finds himself dependent on Microsoft is not the customer, he is the product.


      Oh, really. I really don't like when a Slashdotter pulls a one-bit logic on a painful issue.

      How about a more realistic look: OEMs are the customer who buys the Windows licenses. And end-users are the customers of the hardware vendors who preinstall Windows on the
      • Re:Customers. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2007 @07:09PM (#20597245)
        > How about a more realistic look: OEMs are the customer who buys the Windows licenses. And end-users are the customers of the hardware vendors who preinstall Windows on their machines to make them usable for the masses.

        The problem with Microsoft is they're no longer working this way. Their business model is much more like that of RIAA/MPAA.

        The guy watching Battlestar Galactica isn't the customer of the Sci-Fi Channel. He's the product. Sci-Fi's customer is the advertiser, who purchases the product (us). BSG is merely the means by which Sci-Fi delivers the product (us) to the customer (advertiser).

        Similarly, Microsoft's installed base is the product. OEMs are the customer, users are the product, and the operating system is the means by which Dell gets to monetize its investment in Microsoft OEM licenses.

        • by suv4x4 (956391)
          Sci-Fi's business model and Microsoft's have nothing in common.

          Microsoft doesn't hand out free copies of Windows with embedded ads in them. But I enjoy your circular logical nonsense nonetheless. Enjoy.
    • by argStyopa (232550)
      ""Customers." They keep using that word. I do not think that word means what most of us think it means."

      I think you're being too narrow minded. If you're male, gay, and a big fan of 'receiving' .... then you're pretty much spot-on.
  • Hear me out. If he truly didn't want to be spied on, have his details collected, he should be getting the hell out of china, not using it's legal system to sue a company for doing what the government does to everybody everyday.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RealGrouchy (943109)
      If he lives in China, where the government censors a hella lot of information, how do you expect him to know that the government is spying on him?

      - RG>
    • by Rycross (836649)
      I doubt its that easy to just "get the hell out of China." Living and working in foreign countries can be quite difficult, even (especially) if you're a skilled laborer.
      • by ncc74656 (45571) *

        I doubt its that easy to just "get the hell out of China." Living and working in foreign countries can be quite difficult, even (especially) if you're a skilled laborer.

        ...and that's before you even take into consideration the lengths to which most communist countries go to keep people from escaping.

        • by Howzer (580315) *

          take into consideration the lengths to which most communist countries go to keep people from escaping.

          There was an interesting little bit about this topic in the transcript of the conversation when Nixon met Mao.

          Nixon: We're concerned that people in your country don't have freedom of movement, Mr Chairman.

          Mao: (thinks for a moment) Tell me how many million you want, Mr President.

          Needless to say, the topic was dropped, and has never been raised again. How many tens of millions do you want?

    • So basically, if I catch M$ spying on me, I should get the hell out of the US?
    • by deets (1072072)
      The difference here is that Microsoft won't kill you if you try to stop them from spying on you.
    • by Petrushka (815171) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @05:45PM (#20596279)
      And, er, which country would you suggest he move to? Are you under the impression that there are any countries that don't collect personal data on their inhabitants and conduct surveillance on them? (I omit wiretaps, of course, as there are lots of countries that don't do that.)
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        And, er, which country would you suggest he move to? Are you under the impression that there are any countries that don't collect personal data on their inhabitants and conduct surveillance on them? (I omit wiretaps, of course, as there are lots of countries that don't do that.)
        Sealand!
  • by porky_pig_jr (129948) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @04:35PM (#20595361)
    to those living in United States. before you start making fun of China, think of the situation with privacy in your homeland. Love, PPJ.
    • At least I, as an American, am allowed to think of such things.
      • Yes, to think freely and even to post freely on Internet. Let us all make sure that won't disappear one day.
      • by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @05:01PM (#20595757)

        At least I, as an American, am allowed to think of such things.
        So are the Chinese. The problem is, how much are you practically able to express these things publicly? Recent events have shown that to be rapidly eroding in America.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by E++99 (880734)

          The problem is, how much are you practically able to express these things publicly? Recent events have shown that to be rapidly eroding in America.

          Such as what? What are you not able to express publicly in America?

          A guarantee you that somewhere in America right now someone is standing on some street corner with a megaphone (covered in and-written cardboard signs probably) shouting that Bush did 9/11, that he's a war criminal, and should be tried and found guilty of treason. And if the police are doing any

    • bad

      getting worse

      still a couple of orders of magnitude better than it is in china

      this stunt is more of a nationalistic chest thumping exercise. were microsoft a chinese company and this guy had done what he did, he would be ignored, reprimanded, harasssed, or arrested. but being an american company, the authorities probably approve of it

      and who said i found the situaiton in china, or the usa, funny?
    • by E++99 (880734)
      Okay, thought about it. Yes, it is pretty laughable that the US Military has to now go to a judge before spying on a suspected member of a foreign terrorist organization. As goofy an inept as that makes us look, I still want to make fun of China. China's problem isn't exactly goofiness.
  • I'd imagine MS has a tough decision to make... just pay up as going to court would be a lot more expensive (but perhaps set a precedent allowing others to sue them or threaten suit), or go to court and spend a lot more to hopefully prevent a precedent (assuming the guy wins).

  • I applaud this person for taking a principled stand against spyware that has been forced upon him.

    The fact it's made by Microsoft should be irrelevant, just analyze the behavior of the application and judge it on that.

    WGA communicates unique information at any time to an American based advertising company (msn anybody?) with you the user having no idea of what data and what the implications are of giving this company that data.

    Can your business really risk an application like this on your systems? Are you
  • by asphaltjesus (978804) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @04:43PM (#20595489)
    WGA works the same here as it does in China. The notion that they collect "no personal information" is very clever, but untrue.

    Microsoft can easily associate your pc with a record in their backend because each pc generates a unique signature. They don't have your name at the moment, but that doesn't mean they don't know who's using their OS when and where. Given the number of times a windows box phones home when it goes online, I'd say there's plenty they know about you.

    This is exactly like the story some months ago where AOL gave out search data that was supposedly private. Same situation, bigger fish.

    BTW, if you are still married to a microsoft OS, your software firewall should be good enough to alert you when it attempts these connections. My Kerio firewall at work does it. And marriage is the right word for it because sometimes you wonder what the hell you got yourself into.
    • I think nobody does it in the US because here in the US we're all talk and no action. That, and we're also much more afraid of the corporations and their power than we say we are - in major part because we buy everything they feed us and we're afraid of what will happen if that hand suddenly doesn't come out for lunch. I may live hand-to-mouth with my computers, but at least it's my hand.
    • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @05:17PM (#20595943) Homepage
      The notion that they collect "no personal information" is very clever, but untrue. Microsoft can easily associate your pc with a record in their backend because each pc generates a unique signature.

      I have some experience in this area. According to our attorneys, but being informally paraphrased by myself, it was important to never mix personally identifiable information (PII) and non-personal information. Any mixing or linking would cause the non-personal to become PII and therefore under the jurisdiction of US and international legislation, with more legislation on the way given the new found importance of this topic. So to make life simple, I may collect the operating system version for demographic reasons but I can not record an account name, IP number, or other PII with that information, nor could I have some common key to associate records in PII and non-personal databases.
      • Wait a minute.

        I may collect the operating system version for demographic reasons but I can not record an account name, IP number, or other PII with that information

        I still don't see how that should make Windows users feel secure.

        History has repeatedly shown it's quite easy for Microsoft to argue in court they don't "collect" PII despite the fact they most likely do. Anecdotes abound of Judges and cases where technical fiction often passes as fact.

        Judging by the number of times my windows box phoned home on
  • A Microsoft spokesman has declined to speak on this issue and said that the matter is under investigation.
    What I mean is, when you install the "WGA" it says personal information is _not_ sent to microsoft, so why is there any need to investigate, as they are NOT doing it?

    On a more funny note : the spell checker (of course) thinks i should write microsoft with a capital; wasn't really expecting that :)

    • by Dunbal (464142)
      when you install the "WGA" it says personal information is _not_ sent to microsoft, so why is there any need to investigate, as they are NOT doing it?

            Because "we will investigate" is the standard, canned answer for ANY corporation. It sounds real pro-active and nice and all that.
    • by qzulla (600807)
      Which begs the question what is personal information?

      qz
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @04:58PM (#20595719) Journal
    They are gaining in space, have cheaper manufacturing, out-hacked us (pentagon penetration last week), and finally they are taking our last remaining comparative advantage away: law-suits.
         
    • by mathfeel (937008)
      Are you kidding? The Chinese are not catching up at all!! A weesy beesy $180?? What about punitive damages?? On a serious note, asking for a reasonable amount of money and a public apology does make people think that he's doing this out of principle and conviction, not motivated by greed. If the Chinese civic legal system continue to evolute this way, who knows? Maybe in 50 years, it won't be so bad after all.
  • by SpeedDevil (1103763) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @04:58PM (#20595721)
    I truly hope he wins. And I am glad that he is not asking for much. I'm pretty sure Microsoft will try to settle out of court but I am also pretty sure this guy is not really doing this for the money. The Chinese government has been trying to reinforce the people's trust in their legal system so I don't think they will just push the case aside, especially after it being covered on Slashdot. I really hope this case gets the attention it needs because this case could be the answer to protecting the privacy of all of us. Setting the precedent in China will make way for more precedents elsewhere. Lu Feng ... we are with you!!! K PS: I'm pretty sure somebody in Microsoft is going nuts right now ... hehe
  • by Nonillion (266505) on Thursday September 13, 2007 @04:59PM (#20595731)
    Dude, it's Microsoft. You need to move that decimal place at least six more places to the right.
  • Yup, once the Chinese legal system settles in this guys favor, the Chinese government will no doubt use a ruse such as this to ban WGA checks within their borders. For Privacy... Yeah. Not to get free access to all those patches on Windows Update without the check... Oh no, they would never do that... :)
  • Nowhere in TFA does it mention what information he claims it collects, or how it collects it. Until I see some details, I'm calling BS on this.
  • What he just did? He sued them because they did what he previously told them was okay. He accepted the EULA, now they own his PC and his data...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Bloodoflethe (1058166)
      The EULA doesn't claim personal data as their property. In fact, they go to great lengths in their documentation to say that they are not collecting personal information!
  • by gzipped_tar (1151931) on Friday September 14, 2007 @06:51AM (#20601493) Journal
    I'm from Beijing. I understand the situation Mr. Lu Feng is faced with: a monopoly power M$, a considerably corrupted legal system, and the suspected alliance of the two. In Chinese gov't (and persumably court) offices they run the M$ Windiz + Office. M$ is an 'official' choice. If Lu wins, an implication would be that M$ not only voilates out privacy & property rights, but also severely threatens the public security of the country. However the gov't are not fools, neither are M$ men. Gov't clearly knows what M$ is always doing to its costumers. Ergo, PRC Gov't --- M$ is not the same as you --- your software producer. That's why I suspect the two are in alliance with each other --- alliance based on the crime of betrayal and spying. The county is doomed. The PRC collapses and you Amiricans are happy... However that's only some hot air. In reality the lawsuit probably would end in a reconcilation with M$ paying a sum of $ to Lu for his silence. That would be the easiest way for both the court and M$. Even if Lu wins, only a few could benefit from the case --- Lu himself and those private users of authenticated Windiz. The Mass use pirate copies, remember! In my university (Beijing Normal Univ.) there are about 2000 university-owned boxes running pirate Windiz and PowerPoint things, from the library to every classroom ( why do they think every classroom needs a computer??) --- mass violation of the law!! Perhaps the media coverage of this case would encourage more Chinese switching to Linux / (GNU/Linux). Just a wish. Personally, I don't care about it. I'm using Fedora GNU/Linux, remaining quiet over the matter, and I'll be relatively safe. One thing interesting: you guys at /. are much more active on the topic than native Chinese men. You know M$ is just M$. But for many Chinese, M$ means either a large, shadowing power who can sue you against using pirate copies of its products at any time it wishes, or the only OS/office/othersillystuff solution. They don't even know Linux or /. exists.

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