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Watchdogs file Win-XP complaint with Feds

'Unfair and deceptive trade practices' cited

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Watchdog groups the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and Junkbusters have filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), asking that the launch of Win-XP be postponed due to privacy threats.

Redmond secretly intends to track and profile millions of Netizens with its .NET initiative, via its Passport authentication scheme and Wallet and HailStorm services, the groups reckon.

"Central to the scheme is .NET, which encompasses HailStorm, Passport and Wallet; and its design to gain personal information unfairly and deceptively," EPIC says.

Microsoft "is trying to put itself in the middle of all transactions and all private information on the Internet. They are an unsuitable party for this role," Junkbusters president Jason Catlett said at a press conference Thursday.

The assumption here is that if the .NET scheme has diabolical potential, which it certainly does, MS will automatically use it against us. That may or may not happen; but even with the best of intentions behind it, we shudder to think of the consequence when one of the vast databases MS intends to accumulate inevitably gets hacked, and millions rather than thousands of consumers are affected.

That concern, more than any other, should inhibit Netizens from signing on.

Of course, demanding that an operating system be scuppered on the strength of any such concern, however real it might be, is absurd. The scary thing here is the .NET scheme itself, which the OS merely makes it convenient for users to join. We could say the same thing about computers themselves: they are, after all, as essential to the .NET scheme as anything else. Or does EPIC hope to ban them as well?

If the .NET initiative is dangerous (and we imagine it is), then the .NET initiative should be attacked. But since it isn't yet in evidence, EPIC and company are going after the only target they've got handy -- an OS tailored to make use of it.

The whole thing reeks of publicity stunt-work like US Senator Chuck Schumer's recent denunciation of XP's media applications -- only worse.

His self-serving tirade, after all, contained an actual point. ®

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