Microsoft dodges multi-million dollar WGA payout
Spyware case lacks class
Microsoft has dodged a potentially-expensive legal fight after a case against Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) was denied class-action status.
This means lawyers cannot represent individuals as a group of defendants in the case, and that's likely a cost saver for Microsoft. Class-action status can push case costs and any final settlements into the multi-million-dollar range.
The dismissal is a victory for Microsoft, whose lawyers last year slammed the three-year-old case as "fictional," "demonstrably false," and from an "alternate universe."
The case alleged that WGA breached privacy because it was spyware used to gather information about users Windows XP machines and accused Microsoft of making false claims about the software
WGA is used by Microsoft to combat piracy by checking to see if the copy of Windows running on a users' PC is legitimate. The suit alleged that WGA was falsely advertised as a security update.
By denying the case class-action status, US District Court Judge Richard Jones has prevented any Windows XP user who purchased a machine in the middle of 2006 from joining the case without needing to hire their own attorney. Microsoft began promoting WGA in 2006.
The judge's action limits the size of the case, and any potential damages, as plaintiffs would need to be passionate and committed enough to foot the cost of their own attorney and other potential charges.
The case was scheduled to go to trial on January 25, but the judge has now asked for a new date.
You can read the US court filing here (warning: PDF). ®
It still annoys the hell out of me that they tout it as a security update - thus supply it via Automatic Updates even if you avoid Windows Update in order to avoid it. Not that it seems to be an issue beyond the first version that you have to install to use WU first time round, or any others that you have to install periodically to continue to use it.
The one that is a so-called 'security' update can be deselected, hidden and never installed and it doesn't appear to affect anything beyond easier access to extras that are so crappy they should pay us to download them. I wonder if the Court would allow _that_ as a Class Action?
I refuse to have the WGA 'Security update' on my own machine on principle. It is the most frequent and visible example of M$ still bullshitting their customers and treating every last one of us like idiots. The continued justification that there is some sort of advantage in being able to access certain software every example of which I've ever tried was a steaming pile of manure - no, on second thoughts the manure would have a use - may have been the historically-last nail in the coffin containing the vestige of any respect I might ever have had for M$. But the blatant attempt to make white black and black white that is their claim that WGA is for _our_ benefit, enabling us to know if our copy of Windows is non-pirated and finally get some sleep of a night; and that doesn't get removed after the first time they 'verify' it; and that after 8 years click 'Help' in Explorer and you _still_ see "Is this copy of Windows legal?"...yes, M$, it fucking well is! - I think that's the one that changed me from thinking 'I just don't care any more, as long as they stay away from me' to 'I hope Microsoft crumbles into dust to become a mere footnote in the history of what was culturally possibly the worst period of the 20th century'.
Microsoft personnel are as bad as Government ministers. And as uncool. So uncool they think they're not, like the way _really_ thick people think they're smart.
Well they're partly right
"The suit alleged that WGA was falsely advertised as a security update."
As far as I'm concerned, that's true. Every time I go to Windows Update on an XP machine that little fecker appears in the "Critical Updates" list, otherwise reserved for security updates, service packs and anti-virus/anti-malware kit. And of course, there's no link in any version of WU I've seen to "not show this update again."
WGA vs. WGA Notifications
There is a lot of confusion here, and it's due to the reference of two different components by the same name. (Not that I'm defending Microsoft or WGA in general--to think that I am is to miss the point!)
Windows Genuine Advantage (more correctly known as WGA Validation) is a non-invasive one-time process that pops up from time to time when you run Windows Update or go to download certain things from the M$ web site. (I don't know what it would do if it fails. Since it's not hooked into the system on a deep level, I suppose the worst it can do is make a polite suggestion that you become "genuine".) Some M$ installers (like the one for M$ Security Essentials) run WGA validation.
The component that is the subject of this failed class action is Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications. WGA Notifications is an optional component that can be added to Windows XP. It ships standard with Windows Vista and Windows 7. It *is* deeply invasive, difficult to remove, prone to mistriggering, phones home and makes its presence known should your copy of Windows fail whatever checks are run by WGA Notifications. It also masquerades as a "critical" update and doesn't always have the decency to show up when you go to Windows Update. Automatic updates will prompt you about installing it (smarter users will notice this and banish it).
You also have to agree to a new EULA when WGA notifications will be installed. Rejecting it causes the installation to fail (and so far, it doesn't try again at a later date).
WGA Notifications also has a real "thing" about unsupported versions of XP. If you were running a copy of Windows XP that is no longer supported (the gold or SP1 releases qualify), WGA will helpfully harass you about this until you give in and A) buy a Mac, B) install Linux, C) reinstall Windows and try to make sure the damned WGA notifications app doesn't get installed, or D) update Windows to a supported release.
It is because of WGA Notifications that I will /not/ use any version of Windows newer than XP for production systems. I've never stolen or pirated Microsoft software, don't intend to start and dislike the assumption that I am a criminal. I'm thinking Macintosh more and more lately. And Linux grows more promising every day.