Windows 2000 Compulsory Registration Warning

Intel's [NASDAQ:INTC] inclusion of a traceable number associated with each of its new Pentium III processors, designed to aid in authenticating Internet users online but viewed by many as a privacy infringement flaw, has raised awareness of the issue of computer privacy. Certain to add wood to the fire is a report from Junkbusters Corp. President Jason Catlett that says Microsoft Corp.'s [NASDAQ:MSFT] upcoming Windows 2000 may require periodic payment to the company for its use, which would lead to inevitable identification of the user.

Currently, virtually no software programs require mandatory registration with the developer. Once the product has been purchased it is usually left to the user whether they want to register with the company or not. Companies often tie registration in with technical support services and future upgrade promotions to make it more attractive for users to register.

But critics of Microsoft claim that mandatory registration for using Windows 2000 infringes on individual privacy rights. Catlett says in his report that Microsoft's "ability to coerce mass registration of personal information from users in Windows 2000 may threaten both consumer privacy and competitiveness."

Evidently, news that the company was considering such a tactic came to light through documents released as a result of its ongoing competitive practices trial, covered extensively by Newsbytes. Catlett adds that the compulsory registration would also give Microsoft "an opportunity and economic incentive to treat consumers and competitors unfairly."

Catlett, president of a company that says it "helps consumers defend themselves against intrusive marketing and protect their privacy online," also has harsh words for Microsoft, its MSN division, and other electronic commerce sites for "failing to provide the fundamental privacy protections that consumers need before they will be willing to participate freely and fully in the online medium."

The increasingly vocal criticism of Microsoft's privacy strategies reached new heights in November when Bill Gates apparently promoted the Online Privacy Alliance. Said Catlett of that incident, "The monopolists of the information age cannot be relied on to make decisions in favor of privacy when they have a huge economic incentive to exploit all the personal data they can collect. The bigger the company, the more comprehensive the profile they can build."

He concluded: "Consumers should think about how much of their private lives go through computers, and ask themselves whether they want Intel inside their PCs and Microsoft in the middle of their business."

Junkbusters' 2,600 word report is available on the Web at


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