Windows 10 EULA: Microsoft can killswitch your unauthorized hardware and pirate games

When you click through the Windows 10 "agreement," you agree to let Microsoft subject your games and hardware to authenticity tests and to shut down anything it doesn't like the looks of. Read the rest

Even when you turn on Win 10's "privacy" flags, it still spies on you

By default, Windows listens to you, gathers your keystrokes, watches your browser history and purchases and sends them to Microsoft and its partners -- but even if you turn off all the tickboxes in the hellishly complex privacy dashboard it still gathers and sprays your data. Read the rest

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Wall Street phishers show how dangerous good syntax and a good pitch can be

Major Wall Street institutions were cracked wide open by a phishing scam from FIN4, a hacker group that, unlike its competition, can write convincingly and employs some basic smarts about why people open attachments. Read the rest

Gates Foundation mandates open access for all the research it funds

Effective January 17, all research funded in whole or in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation must be published in journals that are immediately free-to-access, under a Creative Commons Attribution-only license. Read the rest

Microsoft wants to rename Internet Explorer to shed negative associations

Turd-polishing at its finest. What do you think they should call it? Read the rest

Microsoft says it won't use contents of emails to target ads

Alan sez, "Microsoft is pushing out an update to its privacy policies." Read the rest

Microsoft non-pologizes for misleading judge, seizing No-IP's DNS

Yesterday, Microsoft convinced a judge to let it take over No-IP's DNS service, shutting down name service for many websites, in order to stop a malware attack. Today, the company fake-pologized. Read the rest

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Microsoft changes policy: won't read your Hotmail anymore to track down copyright infringement or theft without a court order

Microsoft read the email of Hotmail users without a warrant, in order to catch someone who'd leaked some Microsoft software. When they were caught out, the pointed out that they'd always reserved the right to read Hotmail users' email, and tried to reassure other Hotmail users by saying that they were beefing up the internal process by which they decided whose mail to read and when.

Now, citing the "'post-Snowden era' in which people rightly focus on the ways others use their personal information," the company has announced that it will not read its users' email anymore when investigating theft or copyright violations -- instead, it will refer this sort of thing to the police in future (they still reserve the right to read your Hotmail messages without a court order under other circumstances).

As Techdirt's Mike Masnick points out, this is a most welcome change. The message announcing the change by Brad Smith (General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs) is thoughtful and forthright. It announces a future round-table on the questions raised by the company's snooping that the Electronic Frontier Foundation can participate in.

Smith asks a seemingly rhetorical question: "What is the best way to strike the balance in other circumstances that involve, on the one hand, consumer privacy interests, and on the other hand, protecting people and the security of Internet services they use?" That is indeed a fascinating question, but in the specific case of Hotmail, I feel like it has a pretty obvious answer: change your terms of service so that you promise not to read your customers' email without a court order. Read the rest

Microsoft has always reserved the right to read and disclose your Hotmail messages

Microsoft's "Scroogled" campaign (no relation) boastfully compared Hotmail's privacy framework to Gmail's, condemning Google for "reading your mail." Now, Microsoft has admitted that it scoured the Hotmail messages belonging the contacts of a suspected leaker in order to secure his arrest, and points out that Hotmail's terms of service have always given Microsoft the right to read your personal mail for any of a number nebulously defined, general reasons.

The company says that is had an undisclosed "rigorous process" to determine when it is allowed to read and publish your private email. In a statement, it sets out what the process will be from now on (though it doesn't say what the process has been until now) and vows to include the instances in which it reads its users' mail in its transparency reports, except when it is secretly reading the Hotmail accounts of people who also work for Microsoft.

Here's a PGP tool that claims to work with Hotmail, and would theoretically leave your Hotmail messages unreadable to Microsoft, though the company could still mine your metadata (subject lines, social graph, etc). Read the rest

Chinese-language Bing searches in the USA censored to match mainland Chinese results

Freeweibo, an anti-censorship organization that works on free speech issues in China, has discovered that the Chinese version of Microsoft's Bing search-engine censors its US version to match the censored results that would be shown within China. Search terms such as "Dalai Lama, June 4 incident (how the Chinese refer to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989), Falun Gong and FreeGate" return results dominated by censored Chinese news outlets like Baidu Baike and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The same searches run on the English version of Bing return pages from Wikipedia, BBC, the New York Times, etc.

Google's Chinese-language competitor displays much more parity between the Chinese and English editions -- the Chinese Google results for controversial subjects include Chinese articles from the BBC and Wikipedia.

Microsoft will not comment on the matter.

Update: Microsoft has commented:

"Bing does not apply China's legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China," Bing Senior Director Stefan Weitz notes in a prepared statement. "Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results-removal notification for some searches noted in the report, but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China.

As of 10PM Pacific on 12 Feb, many of the "controversial" search terms still generate results pages dominated by Chinese state media. Read the rest

Microsoft video attacks Google's Chrome as surveillance technology

A leaked internal Microsoft video attacks Google's Chrome Everywhere campaign, drawing pointed attention to Google's program of monetizing personal information, extending Microsoft's "Scroogled" attack ads that characterize Google as a surveillance company.

Read the rest

Microsoft Word considered harmful

Charlie Stross really, really hates Microsoft Word. So much so that he's written a 1600-word essay laying out the case for Word as a great destroyer of creativity, an agent of anticompetitive economic destruction, and an enemy of all that's decent and right in the world. It's actually a pretty convincing argument. Read the rest

How the feds asked Microsoft to backdoor BitLocker, their full-disk encryption tool

As the astonishing news that the NSA spent $250M/year on a sabotage program directed against commercial security systems spreads, more details keep emerging. A long and interesting story on Mashable includes an interview with Peter Biddle, an ex-Microsoft security engineer who worked extensively on BitLocker, a full-disk encryption tool with a good reputation that was called into question by the latest leaks. Biddle (disclosure: a friend of mine) describes how he was approached to add a backdoor to BitLocker, and how he rebuffed various government agencies. Read the rest

Six million instantly obsolete Surface tablets poised to flood the retail channel

Yesterday, Microsoft announced a $900 million writedown triggered by the failure of their Surface tablets. According to David Gilbert at the International Business Times, this means there are about six million unsold tablets in inventory, shortly to flood the market at deep discounts. What should we do with these? Jailbreak 'em, install a free/open operating system, and use them as control systems for projects too complex for Raspberry Pi or Arduino? (via /.) Read the rest

Microsoft does a 180 on DRM in the Xbox 360++

As the specifications for Microsoft's upcoming Xbox One have emerged, more and more gamers have expressed, forcefully, their dismay at the developing picture of a console that is totally built around DRM, taking away cherished customer rights like lending or selling their games. Microsoft has stubbornly refused to acknowledge that this might even be a problem (see their talking points memo for an example of the lengths the company was prepared to go to in order to dodge this question), but the pressure appears to have built to a breaking point. Yesterday, the company abruptly announced a complete 180' reversal from its rigid DRM commitment, such that the Xbox One will have about the same level of DRM as its predecessor, the Xbox 360 (which, it must be said, is DRMed up to the eyeballs).

“After a one-time system set-up with a new Xbox One,” Xbox executive Don Mattrick wrote in a blog post, “you can play any disc based game without ever connecting online again. There is no 24 hour connection requirement and you can take your Xbox One anywhere you want and play your games, just like on Xbox 360.” Mattrick added that Xbox One would be region-free; any Xbox One disc would function in any Xbox One console.

Additionally, Mattrick wrote, players will be able to “trade-in, lend, resell, gift, and rent disc based games just like you do today. There will be no limitations to using and sharing games, it will work just as it does today on Xbox 360.”

Xbox 180: Microsoft Fully Reverses Xbox One’s DRM Policies [Ryan Rigney/Wired] Read the rest

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