Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft
7 March 1999 Source: http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/03/biztech/articles/07soft.html
The New York Times, March 7, 1999, Page 1
Microsoft to Alter Software in Response to Privacy Concerns
By JOHN MARKOFF
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Microsoft Corporation moved to defuse a potentially explosive privacy issue today, saying it would modify a feature of its Windows 98 operating system that has been quietly used to create a vast data base of personal information about computer users.
Microsoft conceded that the feature, a unique identifying number used by Windows and other Microsoft products, had the potential to be far more invasive than a traceable serial number in the Intel Corporation's new Pentium III that has privacy advocates up in arms. The difference is that the Windows number is tied to an individual's name, to identifying numbers on the hardware in his computer and even to documents that he creates.
The combination of the Windows number with all these data, the company said, could result in the ability to track a single user and the documents he created across vast computer networks. Hackers could compromise the resulting data base, or subpoenas might allow authorities to gain access to information that would otherwise remain private and unavailable. Privacy advocates fear that availability will lead to abuses.
"We're definitely sensitive to any privacy concerns," Robert Bennett, Microsoft's group product manager for Windows, said.
"The software was not supposed to send this information unless the computer user checked a specific option."