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Man sues MS after FBI uncovers smut surfing habits

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A US man awaiting trial on firearms offences is suing Microsoft after FBI technicians found self-made sex videos and evidence that he frequented porn sites on his PC.

Michael Alan Crooker, currently on remand in a Connecticut jail on charges of selling illegally modified firearms and possessing bomb-making equipment, is inflamed that security settings on his PC failed to prevent Federal agents from finding out about his smut-surfing habits. He's suing Microsoft in Massachusetts Superior Court for privacy violations that he claims caused him "great embarrassment" in a lawsuit that seeks $200,000 in damages in compensatory and punitive damages.

Crooker bought his Compaq Presario PC, which came preloaded with Windows XP and several security utilities, at a Massachusetts branch of US retailer Circuit City in 2002. Circuit City assured Crooker that the security technology bundled with the PC would protect his privacy.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents seized the PC when they raided his home in June 2004 over allegations stemming from the alleged sale of an air rifle equipped with a silencer.

Unable to examine the PC itself, BATF agents sent it to the FBI's Cryptologic and Electronic Analysis unit, where technicians were able to take an image of the PC for forensic analysis despite protection supposedly afforded by Compaq's DriveLock security software. This analysis found video files of Crooker and his girlfriend making out along with evidence that he frequented pornographic Web sites, medical records and correspondence between Crooker and his attorneys. They also found Internet history files that showed Crooker's fondness for pornographic Web sites.

Crooker said he set Internet Explorer to delete his internet history file every five days and is upset computer forensics investigators were able to obtain data on his porn-surfing habits. "Any day beyond those parameters is supposed to be permanently deleted and is not supposed to be recoverable," Crooker said in the lawsuit, Information Week reports. He's also aggrieved that Compaq's DriveLock security software was capable of being circumvented by the FBI.

The plaintiff, filing from behind bars, cuts an unsympathetic figure and his charge against Microsoft is clearly preposterous since Microsoft makes no claims that internet history tracks are erased by Internet Explorer. Simple deletion does not put files beyond forensic recovery, as any tech-savvy Reg reader will know.

There again we're talking about the US, where everybody is entitled to their day in court and perhaps Crooker may yet win out in his legal bid. In the court papers, Crooker said he's reached settlements with Hewlett-Packard, which owns Compaq, and Circuit City. ®

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