By Joris Evers
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
June 9, 2006
Microsoft is cutting the cord on its antipiracy tool.
The software maker this month plans to update the Windows Genuine
Advantage Notifications program so that it only checks in with
Microsoft once every two weeks, instead of after each boot-up, a
company representative said Friday. By year's end, the tool will stop
pinging Microsoft altogether, the representative said.
The changes come after a critic likened the antipiracy tool to
spyware. He found that the program, designed to validate whether a
copy of Windows has been legitimately acquired, checks in with
Microsoft on a daily basis. Microsoft did not disclose in any of its
documentation that the application would phone home.
Microsoft earlier this week had vowed to better disclose the actions
of WGA Notifications. Now the company says it will gradually let go of
the program once it is installed on Windows PCs.
"We are changing this feature to only check for a new settings file
every 14 days," Microsoft said in a statement on its Web site. "Also,
this feature will be disabled when WGA Notifications launches
worldwide later this year."
No meaningful data is exchanged during the check-in with Microsoft,
the software maker said. Unlike the initial validation, which sends
system information to Microsoft, the check-in operation is limited to
the download of the new settings file, the company said.
Microsoft launched WGA in September 2004 and has gradually expanded
the antipiracy program. It now requires validation before Windows
users can download additional Microsoft software, such as Windows
Media Player and Windows Defender. Validation is not required for
Originally, people had to validate their Windows installation only
when downloading additional Microsoft software. Since November last
year, however, Microsoft has been pushing out the WGA Notifications
tool along with security updates to people in a number of countries,
including the U.S.
The first time that users run WGA Validation to check if their Windows
version is genuine, the information sent to Microsoft is the Windows
XP product key, PC maker, operating system version, PC bios
information and the user's local setting and language. Microsoft
discloses in the WGA tool license that this information is being sent.
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