Microsoft accused of spying on beta testers

Claims encrypted data sucked back to Redmond

Posted 5 June 1998
By Mike Magee in Taipei

A Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer has complained that Microsoft is using encrypted software to discover details of their technology.

A source from a major motherboard manufacturer based in Taipei said today that his company was a beta tester for Windows 98. He said that his engineers had noticed that encrypted Microsoft software was testing the hardware in systems but were unable to find out what information was being sent back to the company's Redmond HQ.

As part of the hardware beta test, he said that the company had to make frequent reports but that Microsoft had refused to tell him what the purpose of the software was and why it was interested in the hardware his company was using.

He claimed that other Taiwanese hardware companies, which were also aware of Microsoft's tests, had also complained but with no positive result. His software engineers had attempted to break the code to discover what information Microsoft had acquired, but had found it impossible.

He and the other companies were concerned because much of their motherboard technology was proprietary.

Microsoft has come under fire for similar programmes in the past. When The Microsoft Network was first launched, software used to logon to the site interrogated end users' systems. After complaints about the practice, Microsoft included an option which allowed end users to switch off the software.

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