Microsoft is no longer letting people get its latest software in exchange for their privacy

Do you want free Windows Vista Ultimate?  Do you want free Windows Office Ultimate and a bevy of other exciting Microsoft products?  That was the question that Microsoft asked users in a short-lived promotion that was put to an end yesterday, in hopes of finding some human guinea pigs for its research. 

The big catch -- you had to sign away your rights to privacy and let Microsoft monitor every second of your computer use for three months.  At the start you would have to fill out a survey for Microsoft, and every two weeks after that you would have to complete an additional survey. 

The promotion was eloquently titled the Windows Feedback Program, and required the user to be a U.S. resident, over 18, and in possession of a computer with either Windows XP or Windows Vista.

Microsoft cut the program yesterday afternoon (12/11/2007), but is still warmly accepting new subjects sans the free software.  Some users might be a bit riled to discover this, as Microsoft explained that anyone who signed up after the cutoff yesterday, would still be monitored, even though they would not be receiving any of the free gifts.  Apparently ignorance really is not an excuse, according to Microsoft.

With social networking sites like Facebook snooping on users, exposed Canadian passport applications, millions of lost bank numbers in Britain, and companies like Comcast selling wiretaps for $1,000 a pop, Microsoft's short-lived promotion enters these annals as an interesting test of users valuation of their privacy. 

According to a recent study, surprisingly, most users were perfectly eager to give up private information for a rather abstract feeling of trustworthiness from a website.  So how much would those tough cookies who wouldn't give their info for free cost? 

The question of valuation of ones dignity harks back to an infamous exchange between an inebriated Winston Churchill and a female aristocrat at a formal dinner party.  Perhaps the world will never know the true answer, as for now Microsoft's freebie giveaway is over.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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