PC = Public Computer

Define “Check for a solution”. What would an option, called like that, probably do, considering the wording? I (once upon a time) actually believed this would mean, the software would go and check for a “solution”, if I selected that. But what actually happens (as well), is that an error report is sent. Is this supposed to be some sort of newspeak? Where does “checking” include “transferring data”? Someone give them a dictionary, so they can learn what actually is synonymous. This dialog appears every time on Windows 7, after a program crashed/stopped working correctly. The action taken can be configured through 4 degrees of various intensity, reaching from complete automation (sending without user prompt) and sending “everything” to doing absolutely nothing/skipping this dialog.

I got put on this track, when I used the BitDefender Online Scanner and decided to get a second opinion. I remembered reading about the “Microsoft Security Essentials” – which is supposed to be a “basic” virus scanner. Again, the title security essentials tells anyone it’s a virus scanner at first glance… Its first action was to enable Windows Update again without telling me (there is a patchday once a month, so it doesn’t make lots of sense, to have WU check for patches more often, let alone every day…), but what I really disliked, was the Microsoft SpyNet (Yes, I know! They really called it that! Awesome!). The difference between Microsoft SpyNet and the formerly mentioned Windows 7 “solution checking” is, that the program wasn’t intended to work without sending data back home. This time there are only 2 settings, allowing to send “some”, or “even more” information (The information will be automatically collected and sent.).
Of course the text says, that Microsoft will never use the collected information to identify or contact users, but when a program crashes while writing a letter (or something like that) the name might be sent anyway – along with the rest and (even current, let alone future) memory capacities can only suggest it will never be deleted again, only archived.

The sole thing that’s getting transparent here, is: MSE is free of charge* software, but it’s not free of charge like – I don’t know – VirtualDub is or other stuff like Password Safe, Replacer, InfraRecorder, Audacity, yadi and VLC. Stuff like this can just be downloaded, tested, used, discarded or whatever, without any further consequences. And to me, this is suddenly changing now (almost in a surge), for more and more products.
Look at Steam, how it collects data about players gaming times and hardware, or even offline/single-player games like Dragon Age: Origins, that now require the player to stay logged in for access to some of their (fully paid for) content.
The sheer number of software that changes this way makes it appear to be more than just a few products altering their behavior (as they always do), but rather than a general change of policy in the entire mass market software world.

*FREE of charge – because you MIGHT end up paying by other means.


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