Trust Us, We’re Microsoft

Have you read your EULAs lately?

If Auntie were a farm girl, she’d be madder than a wet hen this morning. (Do hens really get mad when they’re wet? Why?) Happily ensconced as I am on my little city lot, though, I suppose I’m madder than a commuter with no parking spot. What’s got Auntie distressed this morning? Why, the latest End User License Agreement (EULA) madness from our pals in Redmond.

I like to watch the occasional movie in Windows Media Player (no, not those movies—shame on you!) so I was a tad concerned by the release of the MS02-032 cumulative patch for Media Player. Apparently if you don’t install this patch, the Evil Hackers can log on to your machine, run software of their choice and generally make your life miserable. (Fabio claims the unpatched version also sends your home phone number to space aliens, but I don’t think he has any actual evidence.) I prefer to decide what code runs on my own computer, so I quick-like-a-bunny downloaded the patch and told it to install.

And there, in black and gray, was Microsoft’s latest EULA. Here’s the, um, interesting provision:

Digital Rights Management (Security). You agree that in order to protect the integrity of content and software protected by digital rights management (“Secure Content”), Microsoft may provide security-related updates to the OS Components that will be automatically downloaded onto your computer. These security-related updates may disable your ability to copy and/or play Secure Content and use other software on your computer. If we provide such a security update, we will use reasonable efforts to post notices on a Web site explaining the update.

Um, excuse me? Pardon me for reading legalese as if it were English, but if I click OK, I’m giving Microsoft permission to disable software on my computer? And it’s OK as long as it decides that this is in the name of DRM? And that Microsoft might let me know on some Web site somewhere (perhaps in a disused basement lavatory behind a door with a sign that says, “Beware of the leopard”) when it’s done this?

As far as I know, there’s never been a good deep-pockets, knock-down, drag-out legal fight over whether such EULAs are binding. Just to be safe, I clicked Cancel and uninstalled Windows Media Player. I’ve been using software from Microsoft for decades, but there are limits to my trust.

And speaking of limits, I wonder whether there are any limits to the extent to which Microsoft wants us to trust it? By now you’ve probably heard of “Palladium,” Microsoft’s code name for the next-generation security software and hardware combination that will protect your e-mail, whack viruses for you, handle digital-rights management and put out the cat at night. You’re forgiven if you’re vague on the details because, so far, Microsoft has been just as vague. The first round of stories in the press this summer were in the nature of trial balloons, deliberate leaks arranged by Microsoft’s crack PR team (which, somehow, missed briefing Auntie directly) to see what people think.

It’s hard to know what to think of Palladium, because details are scarce; but, apparently, it’s all about trust. Palladium will decide which software and content to trust, or it’ll help you decide, or it’ll lock out software you shouldn’t run—or something. But we should all just trust Microsoft to do it right. After all, it would never do something nefarious like, I don’t know, disable software on your computer without telling you, would it?

Auntie will be keeping an eye on this Palladium thing, and she’s trying to keep a somewhat open mind. Maybe we do need more trust in our lives. In the meanwhile, I’m going to go watch a movie—on the VCR.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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Reader Comments:

Fri, Mar 19, 2004 raj india

hi
i am raj i always trust microsoft because it is vary easy to understand learn and more securable

Tue, Nov 5, 2002 Andy Maryland

M$ is nuts!

Tue, Oct 8, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Who made Microsoft the cops anyway. I hate when other people decide what is good for me and what is not. It is my choice and Microsoft can stay the off my computer. Microsoft should look at their own crappy ethics before they start pointing fingers at the rest of us. Microsft does not will God....the Devil is more like it.

Wed, Oct 2, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Brian...if you trust Microsoft, that is up to you, but for me, Hell NO!!!! They decide what is "secure Content" and what is "stolen." They cannot decide what they want to do ( they constantly flip-flop) and they are attempting to shove this down our throughts. At any time Microsoft can have an update that changes the EULA. I have had way too many problems with Microsoft service paks, operating systems with security holes and 130 MB patch downloads. They never get it right the first, second or third time, so until they start doing their job, stay the hell off my computer.

Wed, Oct 2, 2002 Brian Mincey Ohio

Beh! Do some research before you write your articles. The EULA referred to "Secure Content" which is content specifically designed to prevent piracy. The EULA indicates the ability to disable this type of media (i.e. if you've STOLEN it...) Microsoft's committment to security (i.e. Palladium) will make our computers and transactions safer and more secure, and easier for idiots to manage this security.

Mon, Sep 30, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Great article on "Trust us, we're Microsoft." Just one more reason to buy a different operating system other than Microsoft. That SOB Mr. Bill is basically bent on controlling whatever software you can put on your PC. What's next, taking over the world...don't people realize that basically the are putting the software police on your computer? To Microsoft I say, enough is enough, your can not control the entire computer industry. This from a MCSE+I.

Sun, Sep 29, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

good article

Sat, Sep 28, 2002 Scott Spiess Redding, Ca

Ok, I work for a systems integrator that does installs and configs for a few of the county court systems in my area (Northern California). I let one of the judges read the EULA and they laughed. Microsoft, little hint, don’t sue in Northern California. The judges up here don't like your type and they deal with the law, not a marketing campaign. Microsoft does not have a legal leg to stand on and they know it. They are trying to steer (once again) you from having the ability to control your own resources and what you are willing to pay for them. They are figuring that if they lie to you enough that you will believe that you don't have a choice. Just say NO!!! use Winamp instead of the Windows media player, use Star office or Word perfect instead of Microsoft office. Hey even better, use your old version and don’t upgrade. The old versions do not have all the security holes in it. Honestly the end users see little to no difference from Office 97 to XP unless they are complaining about how slow it is.

Scott Spiess
MCSE, CCNA, CCDA, CCEA, CCA, CNA

Sat, Sep 28, 2002 Scott Spiess Redding, Ca

Ok, I work for a systems integrator that does installs and configs for a few of the county court systems in my area (Northern California). I let one of the judges read the EULA and they laughed. Microsoft, little hint, don’t sue in Northern California. The judges up here don't like your type and they deal with the law, not a marketing campaign. Microsoft does not have a legal leg to stand on and they know it. They are trying to steer (once again) you from having the ability to control your own resources and what you are willing to pay for them. They are figuring that if they lie to you enough that you will believe that you don't have a choice. Just say NO!!! use Winamp instead of the Windows media player, use Star office or Word perfect instead of Microsoft office. Hey even better, use your old version and don’t upgrade. The old versions do not have all the security holes in it. Honestly the end users see little to no difference from Office 97 to XP unless they are complaining about how slow it is.

Scott Spiess
MCSE, CCNA, CCDA, CCEA, CCA, CNA

Fri, Sep 27, 2002 Anonymous US

A Dotnet Developer now multi-booting with Linux!:


I used to work more on Unix, less on Windows till I switched to MS world nearly completely. Now, I am a developer with 2X MCSD and working on Microsoft toolset at a senior position. Guess what made me to install Linux and multi-boot with it? My Norton firewall found too much of traffic to various sites from "Windows Subsystem" ???

Fri, Sep 27, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

When I read Orwell's book "1984", I wondered who Big Brother would be, now I know.

Fri, Sep 27, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Microsoft simply sucks!
I have no idea why anyone would put up with this sh!@ except they don't read the End User License Agreements.

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Jerry Alabama

This has been, I thought, common knowlege for about a month. Is this the first the Microsoft Certified Pro magazine got a whiff of this? You gotta be kidding.
Anyway, reading the post it seems most of M$ customers enjoy the fleecing. I think you people had better look further into this. I do not think you realize exactly what this is. You are giving M$ permission to hack you computer. If anyone else did it you'd scream foul and demand jail. Odd, you allow the convicted criminals uncontrolled access to your machine yet scream if some script kiddie scans you ports.

I once upon a time tried to educate the microserfs*. I see that is a complete waste of my time. All I have to say about it now is you all deserve what M$ does to you. In the meantime I'm sitting here with my unassimilated computer that I control laughing my XXX off at you.

I won't even wish you good luck. Anybody that chooses to stay with M$ does not deserve it and no amount of good luck will protect you.

Adieu

*microserf - One who willingly pays a software monopoly to be enslaved and give over rights to their personal property to this software monopoly.

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Gary Seattle

I guess I'll be reading my EULA's from now on, expecially from microsoft!

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Mark Texas

Looks like after 6 years of Intel/Microsoft based PC's it's back to the Mac.

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Jason NY

Has anyone considered the implications of this language to HIPAA. I believe the privacy aspects of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act would specifically prohibit this type of action, also once the security components are completed I imagine that allowing a third party to alter the configuration or components on your PC's would be completely unaceptable.

Microsoft Beware this language will cause a large number of healthcare related businesses to reexamine their relationship with your software.

in the meantime I guess the answer is to set automatic updates to manual and remove windows media player and at least use a different browser than Internet Explorer. It does seem though that the only way to get around "features" such as this is to follow best practices, turn off unnecessary services don't run the PC with administrative rights unless it is off the network, and don't allow administrator workstations to access the internet. We should be able to avoid the er "helping" hand of big brother Microsoft that way.

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Kevin Weinrich Athens, GA

Before this article, I mostly ignored EULAs. But "disable your ability to ... use other software on your computer?" That's too much! This story needs to be told.

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Nice Job and Thanks for the INFO. No I don`t read their EULA´s, but I don´t (and never will) pay for their Software either....I guess this makes us even... ;-)

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 J Dallas

After learning about the EULAs in the Media player patch and SP3...I've lost all of respect for them. I had been a very strong supporter of M$ for a long time...but after this: I've now obtained my first copy of LINUX. --MCSE, MCP+I

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Would a properly configured firewall let you decide which updates to install and when?

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Marshall Foo Oklahoma City, OK

I hadn't been reading the EULA, so I'm glad that someone had been. I WILL start reading them now!

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Jason Anonymous

I have given up on Microsoft. Xine runs my video's just fine.

I was an MCSE, and for a time, it was a rewarding experience. However, that time has long passed, as I am tired of explaining the licencing issues and using the legal department to read EULA's. It seems that Microsoft has become the company it once set out to differentiate itself from, IBM.

But unlike many hypocrites, I have completely purged myself of MS products. I went and got my RHCE, got rid of my Pocket PC's and Windows boxes, and rebuilt all my personal systems with Linux. I use the Treo 270 for my PDA funtions now. I use Evolution for email, Star Office for productivity, VMware running Win2000pro for apps that will absolutely not port, like Sony's OpenMG, and Transgaming WineX for games that don't run natively. I notified all my friends and relatives that I would be using ICQ instead of MSN. It is entirely possible now for someone to completely rid itself of MS products if they choose to do so, and it will be this type of thing that makes MS change its position if it is going to at all.

The truly sad part of this is I used to be a staunch supporter of MS, but I think that this EULA shows you what happens to a company that has not been challanged in the marketplace over time. Hopefully some intelligent people at MS will see posts like this and rethink their strategy before wholesale masses discover what I have with Linux. As for me, I am done with MS.

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I do not believe EULA's are legally binding. What if FORD Motor Co. had a similarly worded EULA. For instance you can't hold FORD Motor Co. responsible for any damage caused by the use of their product. How ludicrous is that? If a software company created a program that caused your computer to overheat, catch on fire, burning down your house and killing your family you can't hold them responsible. I don't think so! I don't remember ever reading a EULA that didn't say you can't hold us responsible for damage resulting from the use of this product. Suppose a ladder manufacturer had a EULA on their ladders so that if you open the box the ladder comes in you agree to their EULA. Then you get hurt because of a defect in the ladder and you can no longer work so you go broke. You don't think you can sue that ladder company. Now suppose a software company makes an accounting program that has an error in it and that error cause you to lose your business. According to most EULA's you can't sue them. I know that there are laws that protect consumers no matter what a EULA says. I think software companys need to be brought to task on license agreements.

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I do not believe EULA's are legally binding. What if FORD Motor Co. had a similarly worded EULA. For instance you can't hold FORD Motor Co. responsible for any damage caused by the use of their product. How ludicrous is that? If a software company created a program that caused your computer to overheat, catch on fire, burning down your house and killing your family you can't hold them responsible. I don't think so! I don't remember ever reading a EULA that didn't say you can't hold us responsible for damage resulting from the use of this product. Suppose a ladder manufacturer had a EULA on their ladders so that if you open the box the ladder comes in you agree to their EULA. Then you get hurt because of a defect in the ladder and you can no longer work so you go broke. You don't think you can sue that ladder company. Now suppose a software company makes an accounting program that has an error in it and that error cause you to lose your business. According to most EULA's you can't sue them. I know that there are laws that protect consumers no matter what a EULA says. I think software companys need to be brought to task on license agreements.

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 lapianoman Florida

Maybe Microsoft would also like to send out emails on my behalf? (No, wait...I use Lotus Notes...)

By the way, great reference to "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy."

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Dan Barcelona

MS has gone too far. I decide what happens on my machine or any machine I am responsible for, not them.

We're in the process of migrating from MS to open source, and I have no intention of renwing my MCSE or recommending an MS solution to any client or potential client.

We don't *have* to use MS products. They piss me off, I'll go elsewhere.

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 David Ohio

That is kind of unsettling, yet not suprising. I will start reading eula's again. Has anyone contacted Microsoft to inquire about the statements in the eula? What is Secure Content?

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Parvino Texas

Well this is why almost every system administrator I know is testing Linux.
My company just laid out 200,000 on licenses(forced pay now or pay twice as much later) When this happened my CFO said find something else "WE wil not do this again". Microsoft is cutting its own throat. Because even if they change back my CFO said no more ever they lost our business.

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Lysol the Ether

I have to support MicroSlop's NOS every day, ever since NT Advanced Server in fact. One word for you folks:
Lindows.

Lysol
MCP,NT4.0 MCSE, Win2K MCSE, MCT, CCA, CCNA, SHODAN, ONEG, BLT, NO, MAYO, PEP, SI, PDQ, MIC, KEY, MOU, SE, TLA's

Thu, Sep 26, 2002 Bob Summers Appleton, WI

Great Article. I couldn't stop laughing. No, I never read the EULA because I want to have a life.

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I think we should all smarten up adn not let this large cmpany take advantage of their size and bully their Trust Us statements.

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Chris Weaver El Dorado, KS

Damn! I stopped reading them a long time ago. You know all that legal jargon/crap. I guess I'll go back to reading the fine print. Thanks!

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Marc Erickson Edmonton AB

Trust Us, We’re Microsoft? Their staffers can't even read past the first line of emails that are sent to them!

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Frankie DuJour Los Angeles, Ca, USA

For the last year I believe MS is placing spyware inside patches for all types of MS ware. I downloaded the patches for W2K OS and installed them. From that point on I couldn't get my system to run correctly. It's my belief they will sniff your software keys and if they aren't registered with MS they'll disable the software or OS. I've since reloaded the OS and everything is okay. I wouldn't install a MS patch unless I was extremely desperate. They will find a way to configure your PC to their liking.

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Bart Connor Anonymous

Good job spotting that!

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Tim Matson Bellevue, WA

I sure that Auntie would never install an app that would create a security hole in a microsoft product and then go to the press about finding the "severe" security problem. We can't have it both ways! Either we allow Microsoft to make disussions that produce a secure OS or we stop attacking them for not making their OS secure.

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Bud Ohio

They have more money and smarter lawyers than any of us can afford so they don't care whether or not we approve of their eula's or anything else they come out with. When you have the best game in town it's a given that the money will keep pouring in and what little competition comes along will always take the back seat because the masses don't want to take on a new way of doing things. So we keep on paying and when we pay we at least get the right to complain about it. It's not wrong to be successful or rich or powerful but a line should be drawn when it comes to individual rights. If the government were really concerned about us they would get off the monoply kick and look into privacy infringements of not only microsoft but several others that continue to pour money into political coffers of both parties. Well enough ranting .Thanks for some great columns and info. maddensr@buckeye-express.com

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

GREAT STORY GOOD INFO

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Another thought
There is a service that they monitorsyour system and if they find anything wrong, they will fix it for you.
There's a product that dosen't have any gurantte but everybody use, called apache. Hoping someone checked code since it's open source.
People drive a machine runs at 60mph from companys making recall every month. It's kiling people.

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 gone Anonymous

Microsoft Who?

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Mark Anonymous

Poor Research, sensational reporting style, you need to focus more on the facts of what the sofware does rather than getting the masses hyped up. Remember people react more strongly to a written word so take care with what you write,

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Derek Austin, Texas

Eh, excuse me? I don't happen to peruse EULs anymore, but have tried to ensure that I at least skim them and I absolutely missed the latest 1984 warning you listed on your column referencing the disabling and automatic downloading of software onto my system. I am in the process of removing Media Player and about to remove XP too since it has caused problems with my HP scanner (software stopped working – but the MS stuff says it will work better) and my HP printer (see previous parenthetical remark).
I am appalled by Microsquirts latest attempt to disable the universe until it feels timing is appropriate. Thanks for the heads-up Auntie, keep up the good work and articles.

Derek

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

We can't even trust MS to sell a product that will run without the users (after we pay) beta testing it for months and then we have to spend time/money to fix the lousy coding. If the MS products were cars, the federal goverment would force a recall . and MS would pay US not the goverment

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Barry Phoenix

So this is a surprise? I wonder if Microsoft is going to go after the US government. Would it be fun to watch Gates and the current Attorney General in a dueling trust us battle or what!

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 Anonymous Redmond

A friend of mine may go Microsoft-less in the near future because of this license agreement, which he's been blasting for multiple months.

He's transitioning to open-source apps like Open Office and some email client whose name I forget, in preparation for making the move to Linux unless MS backs off on the "we'll automatically update your computer when we wish" EULA's.

IMHO, anyone in the business world would see that EULA as a kiss-of-death for client (and server) stability. Just like how, in the real world of enterprise computing, you don't install MS latest security patches without at least a week or so of testing prior to wide deployment, you don't let someone else put new code you haven't verified on your users' desktops.

Wed, Sep 25, 2002 t k

Ok, I know I will get killed for this one based on the previous comments but here are my two cents...MS has been working with Music vendors to create an securing content that is distributed to only work on the computer that the user purchased in from. Lets say they implement this but it does not work (not that they would ever release something that does not work :) and so you think you are getting secured content but it seems to still run on the other players and can still be copied to other computers. If they put out a patch to fix this problem, your content will then not run on these other computers that previously functioned.
I own a small sw dev company and have employeed some very good lawyers to write up my contacts. This has saved my company a lot of money in the long run by preventing lawsuits. We live in a land where people sue for the dumbest things so companies need to protect themselves. Though Microsoft is far from perfect, I side with them on this one.

Thu, Sep 19, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I can't help but wonder, does Microsoft's arrogance have any limit?

Thanks for keeping us informed. Keep it up.

Wed, Sep 18, 2002 Bill Gates Redmond

What do you expect from convicted monopolists?

Wed, Sep 18, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Best article I've read in a while

Wed, Sep 18, 2002 Zelduh LA

I would have rated this "excellent," but the "Divine Ms. Em" was a little too gentle in her observation of the problem with WMP.

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