Windows Genuine Advantage falsely accuses millions

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Windows Genuine Advantage falsely accuses millions

Windows Genuine Advantage is a controversy wrapped in an enigma buried
inside a migraine headache. Or at least that's what it is for the
millions of users who have been falsely identified as software pirates
as a result of WGA's attempt to root out piracy.

Since July 2005, one in five computers running Windows have failed
so-called Windows Genuine Advantage tests according to data from
Microsoft. More than 22 percent of over 500 million systems that were
subjected to the browser-based validation scheme were identified as
invalid copies of Windows.

All told, some 114 million systems failed the test, which, in terms of
retail sales of Windows XP, accounts for over $5 billion in lost
potential revenue. The problem with such estimates is that it is
unclear why all of these systems failed. Less than 0.5% of these
systems were reported as having counterfeit software. Were the rest
necessarily pirated by end users? No.

Last summer Microsoft admitted that over 20% of WGA failures were
caused by something other than key piracy, that is, piracy involving
either a product key generator or use of a volume licensing key.  The
company would not reveal the exact nature of these results, other than
to say that a portion of them stemmed from unauthorized use of OEM keys
on non-OEM hardware (i.e., someone using a Dell copy of XP on a
non-Dell machine). At the time, Microsoft refused to comment on the
rate of pure false positives, that is, the rate of verifiably incorrect
identifications of pirated software.

With the release of this latest data, Microsoft said that WGA had a
false positive rate "under 1 percent." A more precise number has not
been forthcoming.

This is an impressive figure until you realize that this means that as
many as 5 million people were wrongly accused of being software
pirates.  From Microsoft's point of view, the error rate appears to be
acceptable. 1 percent sounds pretty low, doesn't it? That slice grows
to almost 5 percent if you talk only about false positives as a total
share of all "hits" on pirated software.

The concern, of course, is scale. WGA is not in use all over the globe
yet, but one can easily see how this 1 percent could bloom into truly
astounding numbers. Add to this the fact that Microsoft has big plans
for Office Genuine Advantage, and we start to see a world in which
being accused of software piracy becomes statistically more probable
than winning the Pick 5.

Regardless, Microsoft is touting these numbers as showing the need for
Windows Genuine Advantage. There's certainly something to be said for
the high numbers of pirated software found via the process, and
Microsoft's right to expect to be paid for its products is not in
question. The company does risk something of a public relations mess
with all of this, however, and it is disheartening to see technology
being used once again to "stomp out piracy" with little care for how it
treads on the backs of honest folks.

Re: Windows Genuine Advantage falsely accuses millions says...
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And I've seen it properly detect pirated XP on 4 machines, and seen it
properly not fail on thousands of machines. I've yet to see a single
machine, personally, where it's failed.

I'm not saying it is fail proof, just relating my own personal

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