Windows Update will block "pirates"
It seems that Microsoft finally decided to make their Genuine Advantage "anti-piracy" checks mandatory. If I remember correctly, when this thing was first introduced, they said it will never be mandatory. So much for promises from MS :P
Don't you love how they give the most positive sounding names to things that are really evil? The Genuine Advantage is peaty much equivalent to having your car searched by police every time you take it for a tune-up. Before you yell at me for exaggerating, think about it. How does MS check for "illegal" copies? I don't know the details, but I'm peaty sure it involves registry scan because your cd key, registration and activation details are kept somewhere in your registry hive.
So, if MS can access that info, they can also access any other part of the registry. And guess what - that's where information about every single piece of software you have installed is kept, and that's where you can find clues about hardware you are running. If you have ever attempted to clean up your registry, you will also know that even after uninstalling, many programs leave traces in the registry.
Seth Schoen from EFF in an article at The Globe and Mail points out that:
Microsoft would not be able to identify customers personally through the program. But the data collected are unique to every customer, just as human fingerprints are unique, and the issue becomes how long the company holds onto the details and whether they could become personally identifying later on, he said.
This essentially means that Windows Update with Genuine Advantage check will exhibit spyware like behaviors. Could this be the reason why MS wanted to buy Claria? It appears that these talks did not go anywhere, and the deal is off - but it still makes you think. Was the real intention for that purchase to acquire Claria's spying technology for use in Genuine Advantage? This is a very scary thought...
But again, they do not need Gator tech to scan through your registry, and collect enough information to generate a unique signature for your computer. Then they can track how often do you update, what kind of software do you use, how often do you update your hardware and etc.
Hell, what is stopping them from grabbing some system logs while they are poking around, or running a file system scan to see what kind of pr0n do you watch? I'm not saying they will do it, but they could do it, and you wouldn't even know it!
I don't like this :(