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Microsoft Patents Your Rights Online

Bill Gates Knows What You Did Last Summer 303

Posted by samzenpus
from the tell-us-everything dept.
theodp writes "Give Bill Gates your 'pictures, videos, documents, e-mail, instant messages, addresses, calendar dates/scheduling information (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries, appointments), voice mail, phone logs, RSS feeds, subscriptions, bookmarks, mail lists, project management features, computing device data, tasks and location data,' and he'll improve your 'quality of life.' That's the promise behind a patent issued Thursday to Bill Gates and his 20 co-inventors for 'Personal Data Mining', which Microsoft notes 'can include a monetization component' that 'could initiate an auction to sell information to the highest bidder.'"
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Bill Gates Knows What You Did Last Summer

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  • Privacy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @01:30PM (#31024230) Journal

    Is not privacy essential to a high quality of life?

    • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Funny)

      by Hijacked Public (999535) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @01:33PM (#31024288)

      Not for everyone.

      The way to combat this is to kill the monetization component. The way to do that is to beat Bill to the punch and give all your data to everyone before he does, so they have to motivation to buy it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by causality (777677)

        Not for everyone.

        The way to combat this is to kill the monetization component. The way to do that is to beat Bill to the punch and give all your data to everyone before he does, so they have to motivation to buy it.

        Another way to combat this is to gather such information on Gates, other high-profile corporate figures, and politicians. Then publically post them onto highly visible Web sites. I mean after all, they think no privacy is such a great idea, right? Let them be the pioneers.

        Like the notion that if the average Congressman knew that he had to depend on Social Security for his retirement, it would have been fixed (i.e. made sustainable) a long time ago.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Another way to combat this is to gather such information on Gates, other high-profile corporate figures, and politicians. Then publically post them onto highly visible Web sites. I mean after all, they think no privacy is such a great idea, right? Let them be the pioneers.

          I agree.

          The ChaosComputerClub in Germany published a government official's fingerprints in a magazine after he introduced legislation to get everyone's fingerprints.
          I think they did them on an easy to 'apply' foil sheet.

          I believe someone

        • by gtall (79522)

          'Like the notion that if the average Congressman knew that he had to depend on Social Security for his retirement, it would have been fixed (i.e. made sustainable) a long time ago."

          What have you been smoking? In Congress-Critters had to rely on SS, it would have been made insolvent long ago as they would have larded it up with baubles for "next of kin" which would have included first, second, and third cousins and the family cat. Remember, a Congress-Critter feels an election cycle has been wasted if s/he c

        • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Informative)

          by Hatta (162192) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:29PM (#31026456) Journal

          The Video Privacy Protection Act [wikipedia.org] was passed after the video rental records of a Supreme Court nominee were leaked. So your suggestion does have precedence.

      • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:03PM (#31024698)
        Okay, I'm confused. Whenever privacy is discussed around here, we say "wouldn't it be great if we could retain personal control over our data, and could willingly decide whom to sell our data to?"

        So know someone with a great deal of economic leverage is trying to push exactly such a system, and all of slashdot goes "Oh my god, how evil! Quick, everyone give your data away for free, so nobody can monetize them any more, not even yourself!"

        Guys, Bill Gates stopped being the most evil man about five years ago. I care much less about the shortcomings of Windows than I care about Google and Facebook knowing more about me than I do myself. At this point, I'd be willing to pay Bill Gates if he offers to secure all my personal data.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by causality (777677)

          Okay, I'm confused. Whenever privacy is discussed around here, we say "wouldn't it be great if we could retain personal control over our data, and could willingly decide whom to sell our data to?"

          I think I can dissolve your confusion.

          Real privacy would mean you get to decide whether this data is collected in the first place. If it's going to be gathered anyway and you might get a little discretion over how it is used once amassed, that's not real privacy. Sort of like the way that the ability to choos

          • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @03:24PM (#31025632) Homepage

            You CAN do that by limiting the amount of data created.

            #1 - Store loyalty cards? GET RID OF THEM.
            #2 - Use ONLY CASH for every transaction. Some really big ones you cant, but you can limit the data creation.
            #3 - DONT register warranty cards, or registration of anything.
            #4 - Xbox live user? Use a not connected to you information base and ONLY use scratch and sniff cards. make a random person that cant be connected to you, this is not hard.
            #5 - Prepaid cellphone with only cash bought minutes from cards linked to fake information.

            There are a lot more, but it can be done. The problem started with YOU not getting verbally upset with banks selling your information to everyone. Along with stores, etc... The time to have stopped this was 20 years ago before an entire industry was created around collecting data on everyone.

            Some places now have cameras at the card swipe machine pointing at your face from the keypad. I guarentee these are taking a snapshot of you and can be used to attach your cash purchase to you. Simply covering the camera before you enter view will solve that.

            If you want to protect your information and privacy you have to work hard at it because your government does not care one tiny bit about it.

            • Re:Privacy (Score:5, Insightful)

              by PotatoFarmer (1250696) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @03:51PM (#31025892)
              The fact that someone would do all those things is in itself more data about that person's habits. The real trick is to selectively limit your audit trail so that you still appear in the middle of the distribution curve. Like schooling fish and flocking birds, the best form of anonymity is to surround yourself with a few million things just like yourself.

              Sadly, the end result of this sort of behavior is that Netflix recommends I watch Transformers 2. A high price to pay, but such are the wages of freedom.
            • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Funny)

              by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:36PM (#31027380) Journal

              #1 - Store loyalty cards? GET RID OF THEM.

              A few friends and I used to rotate our Kroger cards randomly about once a week. We were all from different walks of life, so I can imagine what Kroger thought after a while. "One week: 5 packs of Ramen and a 24-banger of Bud. Next week: Filet, salmon, fresh vegetables, and a couple $30 bottle of wine. Next week: Weight Watchers Meals and 'Vitamin Water'. WTF?"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Gerafix (1028986)
      Privacy is to quality of life as hookers are to blackjack.
      • You seem to be referencing the episode of Futurerama(sp?) where Bender is visiting the moon. Bender is suggesting they start their own moon theme park, 'with blackjack and hookers', only to pause and add that the blackjack isn't really essential.

        Ironic, no?
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        How so? Privacy affects quality of life, but I don't see how hookers affect blackjack unless the hooker is dealing.

        I thought you were joking, but since the mods didn't thing so I'm confused?

        A thought: hookers and winning at blackjack affect the quality of life.

      • Ah, so that is the answer. I always got this one wrong on my SAT.
    • by goldaryn (834427)

      Is not privacy essential to a high quality of life?

      It's helpful for a "high" quality of life..

      • You are probably poking fun about it, but its not actually as bad as everyone makes it out to seem. My girlfriend for example, she isn't exactly a computer programmer like you or I, but she's more than affluent in its usage. I don't know where you set the standard for the average user, but she's reformatted her hard drive herself, reinstalled the OS and drivers for a fresh start, nothing particularily difficult for anyone who browses this site, but I'd go as far as to say more than the average user. Anyways
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by inviolet (797804)

          I don't doubt a bit of data mining went into that. I don't see the harm it could have produced. I only see a successful result, both her and the companies are happier for it.

          Yes, we all know that data-mining makes a market more efficient. Why should my mailbox be stuffed with ads that I do not care about? I, and the marketer and the retailers and everyone else, would rather the ads were relevant.

          The problem is that this same data can be used to identify and persecute people who behave unfashionably. The

    • How do you figure? I could see a very high quality of life where you have very little privacy.

      Perhaps you should take a moment to define what sets the quality of your life - I define it by clean drinking water, warm shelter, and having access to entertainment.

      • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @01:47PM (#31024490) Journal

        Being free from the manipulations of other people who think they know what is best for me is an absolutely indispensable part of a quality life. Be it marketers or moralists, I don't care.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by vux984 (928602)

        Perhaps you should take a moment to define what sets the quality of your life - I define it by clean drinking water, warm shelter, and having access to entertainment.

        Ah, so for you 'Brave New World' was utopia.

        • Brave New World was utopia. John just wasn't conditioned with the proper morality for such an environment; and Bernard was somewhat of an accident and thus hard to account for. They even would have sent them to be with other free thinkers like them if they had wanted it.

          Or to pose a more interesting question: What is utopia if not happiness, and if you don't care how does an invasion of privacy (in and of itself) affect your happiness?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by vux984 (928602)

            John just wasn't conditioned with the proper morality for such an environment

            That pretty much applies to any environment. Working hard in the sugar mines for your insect overlords is utopia too. Serving the insect overlords is good, and serving them should bring you a sense of tranquil satisfaction. The pain they inflict in their whippings is cleansing, and motivational, and while you should avoid failing to live up to their expectations you should take pride in knowing that they care enough about you to in

        • Re:Privacy (Score:4, Insightful)

          by An ominous Cow art (320322) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:45PM (#31025234) Journal

          I think it's time to post a link to this story [sff.net] again.

    • Come on, Bill, what's all this "Ask" crap about? In a Man's World, you just take someone's data, you don't "Ask" like some panty-waist privacy advocate! You think Sergey Brin would "ask" before he takes my data? Hell, no! Sergey will just take it, sell it to the NSA, and then create an Android app that will let me dial in and get it back again -- for a fee.

      Seriously, Bill... first combating world hunger, then curing disease, and now ASKing me before you breach my privacy? You're getting soft. Time to

    • If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place,

      -Eric Schmidt, Google CEO.

      I'm guessing Google has prior art for all of this. Although Google claims all of the information it has on you is for serving you ads, I've yet to see an ad that didn't have something to do with what was being searched for at the time.

    • by spun (1352)

      Privacy is not essential to a high quality of life. Having other people merely know everything you do will not decrease your quality of life. To do that, others would have to act on that information in a way that hurts you. If you are confidant that others can not use personal information against you, then there is no need for privacy. For instance, if everyone knew everything about everyone, then everyone would know that someone was using your information against you, and could act against that person.

      Howe

      • Re:No (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:15PM (#31024846) Journal

        If you are confidant that others can not use personal information against you, then there is no need for privacy. For instance, if everyone knew everything about everyone, then everyone would know that someone was using your information against you, and could act against that person.

        You don't think that a guarantee of privacy would have made, say, Alan Turing's life much better? If you do things that are not morally wrong, but other people think they are then privacy is very much essential for your quality of life.

    • Is not privacy essential to a high quality of life?

      According to Mark Zuckerberg [guardian.co.uk], the answer is "no". The really sad part is that most of the general public will blithely go along with this asinine assertion.

    • Privacy is like the answering "No" to a request. It will keep you out of trouble, and avoid risk. However it will avoid a lot of reward.

      For example having you information public or more public will help better targeted adds to you (Yea sound bad at first but... If you are in a market for say a new computer and the computer you were looking at happen to have an add with a 15% off coupon then you are better off getting 15% off then not.

      Or knowing what type of food you like. You go to an area and it will sho

    • being so boring and uninteresting as to induce coma in people looking into your life is all you need.

      We are a social society, far many will decry privacy loss and turn around post to internet sites and the like

    • by Thaelon (250687)

      Your privacy isn't essential to his quality of life, no.

  • Isn't this basically the engine inside Clippy only writ large?

  • by You'reJustSlashFlock (1708024) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @01:33PM (#31024286) Journal
    When Google does it, it's okay.  Thats why Slashdot has the evil Borg for Bill Gates and the friendly Google logo for Google.
    • by causality (777677)

      When Google does it, it's okay. Thats why Slashdot has the evil Borg for Bill Gates and the friendly Google logo for Google.

      I don't really understand how either of them could patent this idea. Haven't companies discovered decades ago that the personal information (names, addresses, phone numbers) of their customers can be collected, "monetized", and sold to various advertisers advertisers (junk mailers, telemarketers) for a fee? This is starting to look like one of those "somehow completely different when a COMPUTER is involved" sort of patents.

    • by EzInKy (115248) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @01:55PM (#31024598)

      For the most part that is because Google doesn't require using Google software on your personal computing device to access Google services. Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to take offense if you are not using their platform.

      • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:05PM (#31024722) Journal

        Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to take offense if you are not using their platform.

        I guess it's why e.g. Office Live Apps officially support [msdn.com] Firefox (including on Linux and Mac), and Safari.

        You could say that using IE (or at least Silverlight) is nonetheless suggested, but then again, every time I log into GMail with my favorite browser (Opera), I see the ad urging me to try out Google Chrome...

        • How long did that take them? Look at Outlook Web Access - it still doesn't allow you to use the useful interface if you don't use IE, despite the fact that Firefox handles it fine. (try switching your useragent)

          They've just *barely* started supporting other browsers. I guess that's cause for some praise, but Google has supported other browsers since the beginning.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            How long did that take them?

            Longer than I'd like, yes. Nonetheless, things are changing.

            Look at Outlook Web Access - it still doesn't allow you to use the useful interface if you don't use IE, despite the fact that Firefox handles it fine. (try switching your useragent)

            Fixed in Exchange 2010 - full version of OWA is now supported [robichaux.net] in Firefox and Safari.

            Yes, that took a while, too, but better late than never.

            They've just *barely* started supporting other browsers. I guess that's cause for some praise, but Google has supported other browsers since the beginning.

            I'm not saying that Google isn't historically doing much better on that front (for one thing, it annoys me that neither Office Live nor OWA support Opera).

            I was merely correcting GGP's generalized assertion that "Microsoft ... take offense if you are not using their platform".

        • by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:30PM (#31025050)

          (apologies for the formatting, I just created this 20 minutes ago for my own purposes). Bottom line: the entire intention of this Office.Microsoft.com "feature" is misguidedly implemented, showing a complete lack of testing using the common 'alternative' platform.

          Visiting Office.Microsoft.com with FireFox and NoScript gives the following message:

          <noscript>
          <table border=0 height=95%>
          <tr><td valign=middle>
          <div><center><b>One Moment Please...</b></center></div><br>
          <div>To help optimize how your Web pages are displayed, we are checking to see if a 2007 Microsoft Office program is installed.</div><br>
          <div>If this page does not automatically redirect, you have scripts disabled. <a href='/_services/errors/error.aspx?id=5'>See more information on scripts.</a></div><br>
          <div><a href='http://office.microsoft.com/search/redir.aspx?assetid=FX010562591033'>Follow this link if the page is not redirected.</a></div>
          </td></tr>
          </table>
          </noscript>

          Enabling scripts, loading the page, then disabling scripts, results in the message at the top of the page, along with the requested page content (which doesn't appear prior to loading scripts):

          Warning: This site requires the use of scripts, which your browser does not currently allow. See how to enable scripts.

          That seems to be a disconnect. The second message shows that the site can be used with scripts disabled. The only reason I see the "One Moment Please..." message is the lack of cookies. In theory, the browser would check which versions are installed, and then show customized content for your version. IE browser allows ActiveX controls which could access the local filesystem, which can report that information.

          VBScript function ofctestax() creates objects using the following CLSID values and then calls GetOfficeX() and/or GetOfficeLcid() functions to see what's installed:

          • 4453D895-F2A1-4A38-A285-1EF9BD3F6D5D
          • 6632AA50-49DC-475B-B911-A02B84C7C794
          • C9712B19-838B-45A5-ABF2-9A315DDDED50

          It then calls the function ofcpost() which sets cookies describing which versions are installed. ofctestax() is called inline from a script at the bottom of the page.
          How does this work in FireFox?

          if (typeof(window.external)=='undefined') {
          if (navigator.mimeTypes['application/x-msoffice12'] != null && !IsOpera())
          document.write("<embed id='ofcnp' type='application/x-msoffice12' f='ofcpost' width='0' height='0'>");
          else if (navigator.mimeTypes['application/x-msoffice'] != null && !IsOpera())
          document.write("<embed id='ofcnp' type='application/x-msoffice' f='ofcpost' width='0' height='0'>");
          else
          ofcpost('N','0','N','0');
          } else {
          if (typeof(ofctestax)!='undefined')
          ofctestax();
          else
          ofcpost('N','0','N','0');
          }

          ofctestax is a VBScript function, so in IE and any browsers supporting VBScript, it will run. In other browsers, it will not be recognized, and thus be undefined. ofcpost() function is called with default values, setting cookies to uninformative values.

          With no cookies, this happens, because ofcpost() calls post() function:

          <script language='JavaScript'><!--
          function post()
          {

    • by kabloom (755503)

      Actually, it's not OK when google does it either. You raise a good point though. Maybe we should "Borg" Google as well.

  • by nweaver (113078) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @01:34PM (#31024294) Homepage

    Isn't that already called Google, where you give them your email, your pictures, your videos, your calendar, all your documents, all your web searches, and about half of your total web surfing (*cough* analytics *cough* doubleclick *cough)?

    • Yeah, well, Microsoft did it first, Google just did it better.

      And for the first time ever, no one had a patent on it before two major companies started these methods.

    • by Jeng (926980)

      My MSN email account is so clogged with spam that it is unusable.

      My Gmail account is filtered well enough that I have no problem with receiving it on my phone. If I was receiving a few spam per hour like on the MSN account it would drive me buggy.

      Both MSN and Google are trying to do the same thing, I trust Google more than MSN with my information. MSN will sell all the information to anyone they can. Google sells information stating that I may like (insert variable here).

      • I've had my MSN account 4 years. I've gotten about 5 spam emails in that entire time, and they've all been from "friends" who had their accounts pwned and spam came through their address lists.

    • by rdavidson3 (844790) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @01:55PM (#31024600)

      Isn't that already called Google, where you give them your email, your pictures, your videos, your calendar, all your documents, all your web searches, and about half of your total web surfing (*cough* analytics *cough* doubleclick *cough)?

      That's why double-click and google-analytics are on my blocked no-script list.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Inda (580031)
      I do all that with Google and more. They send me snail mail and they have two of my phone numbers. I don't block JS. I don't use ad-block. I'm from the UK...

      So what advert do they choose to show me on this page? "Chicago Patent Lawyers" --Which is better than the normal "Tidy your SQL" type adverts.

      I don't code any more. I don't live in Chicago or even the USA.

      Most of my RSS feeds on my iGoogle home page are to do with football. Surely that must be the biggest clue for them?

      Google fail. They fail so hard wi
  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by goldaryn (834427) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @01:35PM (#31024308) Homepage
    Gates can have all that stuff, but there's no way I'm giving him my chair
  • Choice? (Score:2, Insightful)

    So I guess the real choice is whether you want Bill Gates to have all your data, or Steve Jobs. But either way, google already has it. :)

  • 'pictures, videos, documents, e-mail, instant messages, addresses, calendar dates/scheduling information (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries, appointments), voice mail, phone logs, RSS feeds, subscriptions, bookmarks, mail lists, project management features, computing device data, tasks and location data,
     
    ... and then he will use your virtual avatar and put it into a military robot... we know where that goes!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by FlyingBishop (1293238)

      Please explain. I'm not sure where that goes. It's very unclear.

      • Though military robots have been deployed in the Balkans, Yemen, and Iraq, I'd say chances are good that it would head to Afghanistan. Not sure how a military robot would benefit from a user's RSS feeds, however.
  • Minor correction (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dtmos (447842) *

    This patent did not issue on Thursday. US patents always issue on Tuesdays. This one issued on 2 February.

    The USPTO publishes patent applications (18 months after filing) on Thursdays.

  • Fuck. That. Shit.
    • This whole thing, the glorious promise, the free internet, is turning into some sort of totalitarian nightmare alright.

      Will nobody rid us of these troublesome companies?
  • All Bill has to do is give me a book of signed, blank checks and I will improve his 'quality of life'.
  • Here's to hoping that they'll take anyone to court who tries to infringe on their patent!

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:02PM (#31024676) Homepage Journal

    He started watching Caprica.

  • When they sell my info to the highest bidder, I get all the proceeds from that sale, since I'm the owner of the information, right? Couldn't somebody game the system by mass-creating virtual identities?
  • by element-o.p. (939033) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:14PM (#31024824) Homepage
    Ummm...used Linux? :P
  • would be kinda funny if MS came up with an original idea ?

  • I thought we already had Mark Zuckerberg to thank for this.
  • Give him anal probes for 70 years, then inject him into Uranus.

    Even better for life on Earth is if they would go back in time and do it 30 years ago.

  • That's the promise behind a patent issued Thursday to Bill Gates and his 20 co-inventors for 'Personal Data Mining', which Microsoft notes 'can include a monetization component' that 'could initiate an auction to sell information to the highest bidder.'

    'Cause it's not identity theft if you get paid for it?

    Eventually we will all have our own immortal Cylon simulacra dopplegangers.

    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      Eventually we will all have our own immortal Cylon simulacra dopplegangers.

      Except of course that we won't own them ourselves. They'll be owned by corporations who will buy and sell them like patent portfolios and then sue you back for failure to license yourself.

  • by NecroPuppy (222648) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:28PM (#31025012) Homepage

    You get such interesting stuff when it's way off.

    I recently picked up, at a going out of business sale, a piece of jewelry that was normally $1200 for less than $200.

    Since then, I've gotten several high end credit card offers, none of which I would normally qualify for.

    So mess with the system.

    Use your grocery store card... but only when buying beef jerkey and toilet paper.
    Get your name on a couple strange mailing lists.
    etc.

    If the data becomes so worthless that they can't actually use it, they'll stop. But only if enough of us go through with this.

    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      And when the analysts look at the bell curve, the outliers that are the weird are easily isolated and discarded from the analysis.

  • by harry666t (1062422) <harry666t@NOSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @02:32PM (#31025068)

    I was camping in a middle of a fucking forest with a herd of hippies, that's what I did.

    So, how can you improve the quality of my life, mr. Gates? Can you give me a bigger forest? More hippies? Less villagers with pitchforks?

  • Having a patent on doing evil does not mean you have to use it. That's what market lock-in monopoly is for. Oh, wait.

  • Where are all the /. posters who've said the past few months that everyone should move to Bing over Google, because Google is the evil behemoth that doesn't respect your privacy?

    I'm just curious.

  • by Vermyndax (126974) <vermyndax AT galaxycow DOT com> on Thursday February 04, 2010 @04:52PM (#31026776) Homepage

    ...for Gates patenting their complete business model. Is it more evil that Google didn't patent it, or is it worse that they kept it on the down-low?

  • by natehoy (1608657) on Thursday February 04, 2010 @05:48PM (#31027500) Journal

    If you're running AdBlock, click on the blacklist for that site. In my case, it's literally the first time I've seen that AdBlock has a mechanism for handling more blocked scripts than my screen can display.

    If you're not running AdBlock, and you value your privacy at all, don't read the article.

    6 Doubleclick cookies, a Quantserve pixel, cookies AND a pixel image from 2o7, more scripts from more companies than I care to count.

    "My God! It's full of crap!"

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