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How Microsoft Spied on Austrian Linux Users

Sep 25, 1999, 16:17 (18 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Sabine Buerger)

Linux Today reader redaktion blackserver writes:

It started with an illegal spam and turned into a violation of copyright. Finally, Microsoft Austria collected useless data and had to recant.

Austrian Linux users, all members of the Linux counter (http://counter.li.org), were spammed with e-mail by Microsoft. They received two questionnaires: the first with the questions attached as an MS Word file; the second in ASCII-format. The sender of these unsolicited mails, "g3 gmbh", was allegedly an "independent market research firm".

The spammer asked for information about the "prospects and potentials in the software industry", attitudes about Linux and the use of Linux, "how Linux know-how is passed on", the job title and the size of the employer.

Some sample questions:

  • "From what product did you turn to Linux: UNIX, Microsoft, Novell, other?"
  • "Your Linux knowledge: I am - beginner, - advanced, - expert"
  • "I use Linux for: - games, - programming, - internet server, - file/print server, - mission critical, - security (firewall), - server, - workstation, - mixed servers environment, - other application"
  • "What I find lacking/dislike in Linux"

As a reward for answering the questions, they offered ten "Linux surprises".

"g3" explained, that the inquiry was being carried out on behalf of an enterprise, whose name they did not want to mention. To the surprise of the spammed, the author of the Word document turned out to be a product manager for Microsoft Austria.

After this was published in the news, http://www.blackserver.at/linux/ reported, the Webstandard (http://derStandard.at/www/) received a statement from Microsoft Austria. They admitted that they ordered an inquiry about Linux in Austria from "g3" and "that is quite usual in industry and economics ... in order to obtain a better view of the market and current trends. ... that is nothing offensive ..."

Well, this was part one.

Part Two: violation of copyright

The copyright regulations of the Linux counter say:

"Under Norwegian law, it is a crime to send out advertisements without indicating the source of the address used for the recipient, so all such use of addresses found from the Linux Counter without attribution is per se illegal. ... Permission to use for mass mailing will not be given."

In a second statement, Microsoft Austria regrets and washes its hands of it: "of course" one assumed that no laws were broken.

Except expenses ...

The Linux community will be pleased -- Microsoft Austria has finally announced the destruction of the data.

As of September 25, the Linux counter shows 964 Austrian users -- this is 12th place in the density statistics. Austria needs 218 more users to pass Netherlands; Canada needs 219 users to beat Austria. (Source: http://www.blackserver.at/linux/)