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Big Brother Award nomination for WPA, Passport pains MS

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Microsoft Austria has reacted with horror, pain and angst to the company's nomination for this year's Austrian Big Brother Awards, and has asked for the nomination to be withdrawn. But the begging email it sent to the organisers merely seems to have drawn more attention to the nomination - the awards themselves take place tomorrow, and are bound to rain on somebody's parade.

The Big Brother Awards are run under the umbrella of Privacy International, but separate awards processes take place in several different countries. Austria, Switzerland and Germany are scheduled for tomorrow, 26th October, but the latter two don't seem to have released their nomination lists yet. Austria however has nominated Microsoft in the Business and Finance category for an "unprecedented attempt to win complete control over its customers."

Sounds fair enough to us. But the nomination goes on to cite "mandatory registration" for XP, and for the "almost unlimited surveillance potential of Passport." A pained Microsoft Austria spokesman, Thomas Lutz, promptly emailed Awards organiser Hans Zeger protesting that Windows Product Activation (WPA) wasn't registration, and (at some length) that Passport conformed to strict data protection and privacy guidelines. He requested that the nomination be withdrawn, or the claims proved.

Zeger sportingly published the email, here (in German), and retorted that as regards WPA, people's consumer rights were being infringed by the obligation to use WPA, while it is the potential for Passport privacy infringement that is of concern.

He could also have pointed out(we don't think he did, but our German's not up to it) that the distinction between Activation and Registration is an entirely Microsoft-manufactured one. Sure, Microsoft doesn't get any personal data on you, sure it doesn't know about your hardware, but it does have a logged tag on your machine, which is registered in Microsoft's database. Are we missing something?

Anyway, there the matter rests, there seems to be talk of a meeting between Lutz and Zeger where we presume Lutz will get chewed up some more, and the awards go ahead tomorrow. ®

Related links:
The nomination list

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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