Microsoft’s Aggressive Windows Marketing Attracting Unwanted Attention: Petition Asks EFF To Investigate Unethical Business Practices

As Microsoft’s aggressive marketing campaign to get users to upgrade to Windows 10 continues, thousands of people are calling for an investigation into the company’s alleged “malicious” business practices. On June 3, Todd Kleinpaste started a petition on the popular petitioning website, asking the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to investigate Microsoft for possible malicious or unethical business practices. The petition started off slow, but as word has gotten out, signatures on the petition are rapidly approaching 2,500.

The petition is not just asking the EFF to investigate the actions that Microsoft has taken in its latest push to upgrade users to Windows 10. Kleinpaste details numerous charges against the operating systems (OS) manufacturer that he feels should be investigated.

Allegations include:

  • Tricking or forcing users into upgrading to Windows 10
  • Adding unremovable tracking mechanisms into the Windows 10 software
  • Updating Windows 7 and 8 with the same tracking technology
  • Programming the tracking technology to work even when users turn it off in settings
  • Windows 10 independently uninstalling software without users’ consent, including antivirus programs
  • The intention to disable the installation of all software that is not installed through the Microsoft store

Kleinpaste states, “All of the above (forcing installation, uninstalling software, tracking the users, preventing and obfuscating ways to disable and/or remove it) are the practices of malicious software.”

Techopedia defines malicious software as “any software that brings harm to a computer system. Malware can be in the form of worms, viruses, trojans, spyware, adware and rootkits, etc., which steal protected data, delete documents or add software not approved by a user.”

Microsoft may not be intending to harm users’ computers with its aggressive marketing campaign, but if Kleinpaste’s charges are valid, the tech giant is toeing a thin ethical line.

Installing or uninstalling software without user consent and tracking users is certainly questionable behavior. Security experts warn users to look out for and protect their computers from software that behaves in just such a manner. ComputerWorld even noted the bizarre, virus-like behavior of Microsoft’s GWX program, which is used to handle and schedule the upgrading process.

“Even before Windows 10’s release in July 2015, Microsoft had been taking unprecedented steps to boost the new operating system’s uptake, ranging from offering a free upgrade to planting the Get Windows 10 (GWX) app on millions of Windows 7 and 8.1 systems. The GWX app initially let customers “reserve” a copy of the upgrade, but has mutated since then to pre-load the necessary files on PCs, replace itself if deleted, and most recently, to schedule the upgrade itself.”


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Microsoft’s aggressive marketing is remarkable particularly due to it being directly contrary to the companies own decades-long standards. An example would be, changing the behavior of the close (x) button on the upgrade window so that closing the window gives consent to the download.

According to ComputerWorld, making the close button function in this way is in direct contradiction to the company’s own design guidelines that they provide to software developers. These guidelines are outlined in the Microsoft developer guide on the “Dialog Boxes” page.

ComputerWorld quoted Microsoft’s guidelines as saying, “The Close button on the title bar should have the same effect as the Cancel or Close button within the dialog box. Never give it the same effect as OK.”

The guide also states, “Dialog boxes always have a Close button. Don’t disable the Close button. Having a Close button helps users stay in control by allowing them to close windows they don’t want.”

This rule was violated when the company recently removed the close button from the GWX upgrade scheduling dialog box.

It appears that Microsoft’s aggressive marketing scheme is exempt from their very own design guidelines, which were created for the purpose of leaving the user in control of their computer and the software running on it.

ComputerWorld reached out to the EFF, but a spokesperson was not available for comment. Whether the petition will be enough to warrant an investigation into any of Microsoft’s business practices remains to be seen. However, in the short time that it took to write this article, more than 300 signatures have been added to the petition bringing the total to 2,630 in four days. It is clear that people are being affected in a negative way by the aggressive Windows 10 push.

What remains unclear is Microsoft’s plan to handle the extensive amounts of bad press they have received in the last month. So far, they have only issued statements denying claims of forceful upgrades and have continued and even increased the aggressive tactics of their marketing campaign. Unless Microsoft takes some firm actions to address these issues, they could find themselves under the microscope of not just the EFF, but the Better Business Bureau or even the FBI.

[Image via Johannes Hemmerlein [Public domain] | Wikimedia Commons ]

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