There's a good deal

  Forum Editor 00:39 08 Aug 2003

of paranoia about Microsoft and personal data.

Imagine that you are the world's largest software company, and your turnover runs into billions of dollars each year. Pretty well every computer user on the planet has at least one of your applications running, and most of them have one of your operating system installed. Millions of people have trusted you enough to provide you with some of their personal details.

Would you risk losing all credibility in the market by selling your customers' personal data for a few more dollars? Of course not - you wouldn't be so stupid......and nor would Microsoft.

Now imagine that you want to bombard people with a sales promotion message. You know that there is a free email service that has literally millions of registered users, and you fancy sending them a message. What would be the best way of doing it? You don't know any of the real email addresses, but you can be pretty sure that:

almost [email protected] will be registered, so you pick up some software that will generate a million different names followed by

Lots of them will bounce, but many more will be live email accounts, and suddenly tens of thousands of people start receiving your're a fully-fledges spammer, and hated by everyone on the internet.

The same thing can be done to any domain name, including ISPs' domains, and your address can be 'harvested' when you visit some web sites.

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