Microsoft Victorious in Windows Genuine Advantage Suit

Dennis Faas's picture

A U.S. District Court Judge for Washington's Western District has dismissed a claim against software giant Microsoft over the use of its Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program four years ago.

One of many reasons that Windows Vista failed was because of widespread fear of something called WGA, or the Windows Genuine Advantage program. The drive behind WGA was simple: analyze a computer for pirated copy of Windows and report back to Microsoft headquarters. Unfortunately, the Windows Genuine Advantage stirred up plenty of fear and anger in the lead-up to Vista's launch.

Plaintiffs Claim WGA is Spyware

According to the suit against Microsoft, original plaintiff Brian Johnson characterized WGA as spyware because the Redmond-based software firm failed to tell users exactly what it was they were downloading. This was, at heart, the main beef with WGA -- that people not quite "in the know" thought they were downloading something that would help their systems, only to find it was, allegedly at least, a Trojan horse.

Once installed, the plaintiff's team said, WGA set out to determine if a user's copy of Windows was legitimate or pirated, and then sent periodic information about the system back to Microsoft.

"Contrary to the express statements Microsoft made in the inadequate disclosures that were provided, the software collected and communicated private identifying information from consumer's computers and sent that information back to Microsoft on a daily basis," the complaint said. (Source:

Suit Dismissed "With Prejudice"

Back in January, those accusing Microsoft of distributing spyware in the form of the WGA were unable to have the suit classified as class action. That hurt the case moving forward.

However, the suit's death knell came this week, when a U.S. District Court dismissed the case with prejudice. Each party involved must pay its own legal fees and Microsoft is essentially "off the hook," leading the company to reply in a statement that it was pleased the case had been "resolved successfully."

Why Did the Suit Fail?

Simply put, the judge didn't buy the plaintiffs' claim that WGA was sending sensitive information back to Microsoft. According to reports, the company had only users' IP addresses sent, which the judge did not consider personal information. (Source:

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