RealTime IT News

Microsoft Sued Again Over WGA

Microsoft has been slapped with a second lawsuit over the Windows Genuine Advantage program, a mandatory utility in Windows XP designed to catch pirated copies of Windows.

The suit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle on behalf of companies Engineered Process Controls, LLC, and Univex, Inc., and three individuals: Edward Mifsud, David DiDomizio, and Martin Sifuentes.

The suit alleges that WGA is spyware because users are mislead into installing it on their computer because WGA is presented as a mandatory security update via Windows Update, the built-in update function of Windows that searches for updates to the operating system.

It also cites the daily check-in feature of WGA, which has since been disabled.

Microsoft  maintained that the daily checks were done because the software was in beta.

But users claim the company is pushing beta software on them without their knowledge.

The first lawsuit, filed in California last week, made similar complaints, alleging that Microsoft's WGA functionality violated the state's antispyware statutes, as well as laws in Washington.

The Washington state suit seeks class-action status and an injunction to prevent the use of the "phone home" feature in future WGA releases.

It also demands Microsoft provide an automatic update to remove WGA and allow users to download any updates without having the program installed.

Microsoft has, after considerable pressure, made it optional to remove WGA, but any computer that does not have WGA installed cannot download non-critical updates from the Microsoft Download Center.

The suit is not asking for financial damages beyond compensation for consumers who have been harmed by WGA and attorney's fees.

"It appears this lawsuit has claims that are common with the first suit, and we believe both suits are without merit," Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler told internetnews.com.

"This is a program that we have carefully developed to focus on the industry-wide problem of piracy and is done in a manner that's entirely respectful of our customers and lawful."

Greg DeMichilie, senior analyst with Directions on Microsoft, can't believe Microsoft has been so foolish.

"You'd have to have your head in the sand to not know that software that phones home once a day would be an issue, and it just feeds the paranoids out there," he said.

"Things like this undermine what Microsoft has done in the past four years of putting a human face on the company with things like blogging, and trying to build a better perception with users. One event like this can really set that back," he added.

While DeMichilie respects Microsoft's right to protect itself from piracy, he felt making WGA a mandatory install and calling it as a critical update was a big mistake.

"This violated one of Microsoft's big principles, which was disclosure," DeMichilie said.

"I'm really surprised after all the hullabaloo about privacy that they don't have the discipline to say what this is and what it does before shoving it out on the market."