Ex-Microsoft engineer convicted of 18 felonies after stealing $10M in digital currencies from Microsoft to make extravagant purchases

'Used accounts and passwords of other employees to embezzle digital currency' — DoJ

Microsoft employs a giant plush Clippy whose performer has a large Clippy tattoo

@radmint tweeted a photo from her Microsoft New Employee orientation in which she is posed with a "celebrity Clippy"; the eagle-eyed Kristen Seversky noted that the forearm of the actor in the Clippy suit is adorned with a seemingly permanent, very prominent Clippy tattoo. Read the rest

The sordid tale of Microsoft's epic tax evasion and the war they waged against the IRS

Microsoft maintains the fiction that it has sold its most valuable copyrights and other intangible assets to a tiny factory in Puerto Rico, where, thanks to promising to hire a mere 85 workers, it pays effective zero tax; the company transfers almost all its profits to this factory to "license" its own crown jewels, making the company totally unprofitable on paper, and thus immune from taxation. Read the rest

Microsoft's "Hall of Tortured Souls"

Vaporgoth composers take note for your next music video: the developers behind Microsoft Excel 95 left a marvelous easter egg hidden in the spreadsheet hell. Welcome to the "Hall of Tortured Souls." More background at the wonderful Easter Egg Archive.

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2019 was the year of voice assistant privacy dumpster fires

2019 was the "I Told You So" year for privacy advocates and voice assistants: the year in which every company that wanted you to trust them to put an always-on mic in the most intimate places in your home was revealed to have allowed thousands of low-waged contractors to listen in on millions of clips, many of them accidentally recorded: first it was Amazon (and again!), then Google, then Apple, then Microsoft. Read the rest

Microsoft’s Cortana is sleeping with the fishes

Lots of people are fine with allowing a helpful wiretap into their lives. I am not one of them. None of them. So, when I heard that Cortana was being sent out to pasture by Microsoft, I was pretty excited. The dismantling of surveillance apparatus that’s slimed its way into our daily lives always leaves me feeling a little frisky.

From Gizmodo:

That’s according to a support article Microsoft posted to several regional markets this week, though a spokesperson later clarified to Gizmodo that only users in the following areas can expect to say goodbye to the voice assistant: Great Britain, Australia, Germany, Mexico, China, Spain, Canada, and India. Despite dropping the app in these regions, Cortana itself remains “an integral part” of the company’s business model to incorporate “conversational computing and productivity” into its products according to the spokesperson, so Microsoft doesn’t appear to be closing the coffin on it entirely.

According to Gizmodo, at least in North America, we’ll have to put up with the company’s post-Clippy assistant on our smartphones until January 31, 2020.

Cortana’s death has been a long time coming. Last year, Microsoft’s CEO admitted that the company’s virtual assistant could keep up with the likes of Alexa or Siri.

Score one for those of us who don’t want our gadgets listening in on us. I can only hope that Halo’s Master Chief will be able to quickly deal with the loss of his long-term companion and move on with his life.

Image via Wikipedia Commons Read the rest

Microsoft hires former AG Eric Holder to audit facial recognition tech used on West Bank

Microsoft is hiring former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder to provide legal window dressing for their AnyVision technology, which the company says complies with the ethical principles stipulated during the facial recognition company's Series A. Read the rest

Amazon unhappy Microsoft won $10 billion 'war cloud' Pentagon contract

Donald Trump has long made a sport of mocking Amazon founder and Washington Post newspaper owner Jeff Bezos, and Jeff Bezos is well aware of this. Read the rest

Bill Gates just accidentally proved that even "unsuccessful" antitrust enforcement works

In 1992, the Federal Trade Commission opened an antitrust investigation against Microsoft; in 2001, the company settled the claims, making a slate of pro-competitive promises that were widely derided as too little, too late. Read the rest

Costumes of Greatness: 'Blue Screen of Death'

This is a genius Halloween costume idea. Read the rest

Important legal victory in web-scraping case

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (a 1986 anti-hacking law passed after a moral panic over the movie Wargames) does not ban accessing public information from websites, even if you do so against the wishes of the website's operator. Read the rest

Trailer for new documentary series about Bill Gates

Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates is a new three-part documentary that premieres on September 20. It's directed by Davis Guggenheim who produced An Inconvenient Truth and directed Waiting for Superman.

"When I thought about topics to cover, I knew I didn’t want to make a promotional piece about his work," Guggenheim said. "Instead, I opted to focus on the tougher, more complex problems that nobody wants to think about, like sanitation and nuclear energy. Bill chose to take these issues on, even knowing that he might fail, and I had an instinct that seeing him wrestle with these intractable and frustrating problems would reveal something interesting about him as a person.”

It'll be interesting to see how warts-and-all the documentary really is (or isn't). Read the rest

Microsoft contractors listened to Xbox audio recordings of children in their homes, to improve voice command

Contractors working for Microsoft say they listened to audio captured by Xbox consoles

Microsoft contractors are listening to your Skype conversations

Look, this is getting old. Just assume that everyone one is listening to you fart, copulate and sing in the shower, all the damn time. My former co-worker and professional tall person, David Murphy, took the time today to rap about Microsoft humping up on top of the digital surveillance dog-pile. He points out that, according to Vice, an unnamed Microsoft contractor has spilled the beans on the fact that Microsoft has been holding on to five to ten-second snippets of folks using Skype's translation functionality to yammer on with on another. Did I mention that he provided samples of the audio clips? There's totally samples of the audio clips. Apparently, Microsoft's having their contractors listen in on the clips to improve on Skype's translation chops.

When confronted about their snooping, Microsoft assured Vice's investigator that the snippets were fired over to the company's contractors via a secure web portal, with all identifying data removed from the recordings.

As David points out, there's no way to keep Microsoft from doing this. Worse than this, the company, oh-so greasily, completely neglects to mention that underpaid humans are listening on what you say during your Skype calls.

From Lifehacker:

...Microsoft doesn’t indicate in its FAQ that your speech is being analyzed by real people. In fact, this description almost implies that it’s a fully mechanical process, which it is not—nor could it be, since a machine wouldn’t be able to pick the correct translation. The entire point is that a human being has to train the system to get better.

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Facebook finally cuts 3rd-party 'friend data' access for Microsoft and Sony, under $5B FTC deal

Oops! Facebook says allowing Sony and Microsoft access was “our mistake.”

Linkedin to libraries: drop dead

For years, libraries across America have paid to subscribe to lynda.com for online learning content; four years ago, lynda.com became a division of Linkedin, and this year, the company has informed libraries that they're migrating all lynda.com users to Linkedin Learning, which would be fine, except Linkedin only allows you to access Linkedin Learning if you create and connect a Linkedin profile to the system. Read the rest

Germany says nein danke to Microsoft

Microsoft has a history of attempting to give Microsoft das boot (yes, I know boots in German is stiefel, but work with me here...) Read the rest

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