Microsoft's WGA falsely accuses millions of piracy

Posted on Friday, Jan 26 2007 @ 12:11 CET by Thomas De Maesschalck
The Windows Genuine Advantage program falsely accuses millions of people, ARS Technica reports:
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.

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

Loading Comments

Use Disqus to post new comments, the old comments are listed below.

Re: Microsoft's WGA falsely accuses millions of piracy
by Anonymous on Saturday, Jan 27 2007 @ 06:33 CET
MS should be paying attention the RIAA...

You see, you slowly piss off your customers, restrict them more and more, cause grief and annoyance with false accusations, huge rigamarole and slowly you begin to offend your userbase. Slowly it becomes very Robin Hoodesque to find ways around the security measures. Slowly you offend your legitimate users and begin a long slow cascade until no one at all wants to pay you for your product.

An analogy is the spouse who is falsely accused of cheating. If it goes on long enough, if in the absence of any real crime said spouse's life and privacy are made to be compromised, it can, and often does bring about the very crime said acts were meant to prevent. It's human nature.

So MS, are you paying attention? And moreoever, are you prepared to back off to save yourself?

We'll see...