Microsoft hit with second lawsuit over WGA

The suit alleges that the antipiracy prgram is spyware

Microsoft Corp. has been hit with a second lawsuit over Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA), its antipiracy program that checks if the Windows operating system on a machine has a valid license.

The class-action suit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, just four days after the first one. The new suit lists its plaintiff as Engineered Process Controls LLC and Univex Inc., along with citizens Edward Misfud, David DiDomizio and Martin Sifuentes, who are listed as owners of licensed copies of Windows XP running WGA.

The suit alleges WGA is spyware and that Microsoft misled consumers by labeling it as a critical security update. The plaintiffs maintain that Microsoft did not make users aware that WGA frequently contacted its central servers.

"WGA gathers data that can easily identify individual PCs, and WGA can be modified remotely to collect additional information at Microsoft's initiation," according to the filing.

WGA collects a computer's IP address, BIOS data, system version and local language and settings information, the suit says.

Microsoft acknowledges that WGA collects hardware and software data but maintains that it is only used to verify that just one copy of an operating system has been registered on one computer. If Microsoft finds a discrepancy, WGA can use pop-up warnings to notify users that their operating system may be unlicensed.

Users have complained that WGA is flawed and identifies legitimate copies of an operating system as fraudulent. If an operating system is judged to be invalid, Microsoft blocks the download of some programs but allows security patches.

Last week, Microsoft changed some features of WGA, including adding an option that lets users turn off the warnings that say their operating system may be invalid and reduce the frequency with which WGA communicates with its servers.

The suit asks for compensation and calls on Microsoft to warn users of the risks of WGA and to produce tool to remove it.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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