An article on ZDNet talks about WGA explains that the recently released WGA Notifications feature does check for an updated configuration information at launch. Lauren Weinstein blogged on this and raised the issue of whether because of this WGA was like spyware. Both the article and a linked blog posting by Lauren Weinstein, were slashdotted earlier this evening which as usual includes a wide range of comments attached to the post.
Lauren’s post from today is actually the second of two and was posted after he was able to talk to a couple of members of the team. We were able to clarify for him that the communication performed at start up does not send any information up to Microsoft about a users system but instead offers a way to disable the feature if necessary. Lauren also points out that a system that has been validated once may in the future turn out not to be properly licensed in the future. One reason this might occur would be if for example the product key used with that system had in fact been misused or was stolen at the time of installation or a hack of product activation or some other part of Windows enabled the unlicensed use is discovered. I think this explanation answers the numerous comments in the Slashdot thread questioning why a system would need to be validated multiple times. Another important reason for the feature to exist is the ability to turn off the feature if some problem or other issue is discovered. As was pointed out to Lauren, the feature amounts to an ‘emergency switch’ to be used in the event that serious problems arise.