Summary: Xbox Live caught in the latest NSA scandal and the high degree of collusion seems to be reinforced by Microsoft’s reluctance to comment; other developments like Microsoft’s attack on rivals using the “privacy” card
WE already know, based on previous evidence, that Microsoft used broken/weak/no encryption in order to facilitate surveillance. There are also known concerns, as we noted earlier this year, that Xbox One may be spying on people’s homes (cameras inside rooms and other sensory data transmitted over the network). Almost nothing is as monstrous a surveillance device/appliance as Xbox; Microsoft even has patents indicating intent.
Making the rounds these days are news articles about Xbox Live coming under NSA surveillance [1,2,3,4], with agent provocateur tactics, recruitment of gamers, and so on. Microsoft has not provided any comment to deny this or to denounce the NSA, so complicity is likely here.
In other curious news about Xbox, it turns out to be self-bricking. As one report put it: “Online trolls tricked Xbox One owners into “bricking” their new consoles with instructions promising to unlock new features but actually sending devices into an endless loop of reboots that renders them useless”
“Online trolls” now include GCHQ and NSA employees, so here we have another reason to be suspicious of their motives. Xbox should, from now on, be viewed as NSA-friendly and therefore perpetually avoided, not just because it’s proprietary and managed by an abusive monopolist. In news that was covered here before, as well as mentioned in Slashdot, the FSF tackles the “proprietary with trust” myth. As IDG put it: “The Free Software Foundation on Thursday attacked Microsoft for “meaningless” public statements on privacy and security, claiming that Windows is “fundamentally insecure.””
The fallacy of ‘open’ ⇆ Free/libre matters here and the FSF uses a productive approach even though it neglects to mention Microsoft’s ‘special relationship’ with the NSA. The above article got mirrored in several other IDG sites (some in non-English-speaking countries), so the FSF did have a big impact.
All these revelations matter, especially now that Microsoft tries to demonise Google using the “privacy” angle. As one author put it, “Microsoft Really Doesn’t Want You To Buy A Chromebook” and it even started a whole deceiving campaign about it. As Pogson put it the other day, Microsoft “is spending more on advertising Chromebooks than Google is… All those users of personal computers who don’t use M$’s office suite, spreadsheets, and PhotoShop (most of us) must be rushing to stores demanding Chromebooks. That’s why many stores are having a hard time keeping them in stock.”
The anti-Chromebook campaign may, in due course, also include some fake “reviews” of Chromebooks (here are good candidates) because a lot of budget is at stake and Microsoft has zero ethics, not even a shred of regard for the truth (just look at the hypocritical hypothesis of this whole campaign).
“Bamboozled by Scroogled” is the headline of this new article from the Philippines. Its author, a longtime advocate of GNU/Linux, writes in the Manila press: “Microsoft’s decision to go after the Chromebook is a little puzzling, because the product is clearly not aimed at the same users who would buy a full-fledged Windows laptop.
“Chromebooks are pitched at people who are constantly online and who use social media and Web-based applications and little else. These are folks who precisely do not want or need Windows or Office on their laptops.
“Contrary to the portrayal in Microsoft’s pawn shop commercial, most people who buy Chromebooks aren’t clueless or stupid, either. Most of them know what they are buying.
“On Amazon.com, the number-one and number-two best-selling notebooks are Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer. The reviews, posted by verified, actual buyers (not an actress in a pawnshop), are generally positive—and nobody complains that they can’t run Windows on their machines.
“Microsoft’s pawn shop commercial makes a leap from a reasonable claim (that you can’t do much on a Chromebook when you’re not online) to an unsupported assertion (the hardware makes it easier for Google to spy on us).
“The commercial also overlooks another option for Chromebook users—install a full Linux system like Ubuntu so you can use offline applications as well.”
Microsoft is so focused on bashing Chromebooks simply because Vista 8 is a train wreck that nobody wants to use, especially businesses. The latest spin is pitched by Microsoft’s Mouth, Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet, who tries to spread the myth of business-friendly Vista *.
Expect Microsoft to increasingly rely on government favouritism (like back doors, warrantless spying, etc.), on patent extortion, and on negative campaigns that paint the rivals worse than Microsoft when in fact nobody gets even close to Microsoft’s violations of privacy, violations of the law (bribery etc.), and technical ineptitude.
When Microsoft says it is trying to ‘reform’ the government on privacy issues it should be remembered that Microsoft is probably the worst violator of privacy (alongside AT&T and perhaps Cisco), so this should be perceived as nothing more than a publicity stunt and miserable attempt to restore trust amid collusion with spies. █
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