Is Microsoft Big Brother? And how much does it take from my computer when I get updates? Well, the answer is not much. Microsoft is fairly trusting. Understandably, it wants to know if you are running a valid copy. This is fair game in my opinion. But, it’s somewhat new, so people are still a bit miffed by the validation tool that shows up when they first visit

Microsoft isn’t, apparently, looking to see if you have the same Windows 2000 license installed at a dozen locations in your office. This is kind of Microsoft’s problem. [Some might argue that the company is making plenty of money so that there is no need to abide by their regulations, but this is a bit unfair. Companies are in it for the money and Microsoft is no exception. Evil is not Microsoft, unless, perhaps, you’re vehemently anti-capitalist. (Evil is more likely a pharmaceutical. Just think about it!)] The Globally Unique Identifier does associate the update process with a specific piece of machinery. However, Microsoft is apparently not gathering IP addresses that would help to locate a user who has installed multiple copies of their operating system. Moreover, because large institutions use the same installation over and over again, these GUIDs aren’t a good control since they don’t reveal whether the user has adequate licenses for the machines requesting updates.

The following is the currently available Privacy Policy for Windows Update:

Windows Update Privacy Statement (Last Updated 10/17/2003)
Windows Update is committed to protecting your privacy. To provide you with the appropriate list of updates, Windows Update must collect a certain amount of configuration information from your computer. None of this configuration information can be used to identify you. This information includes:

Operating-system version number
Internet Explorer version number
Version numbers of other software for which Windows Update provides updates
Plug and Play ID numbers of hardware devices
Region and Language setting
The configuration information collected is used only to determine the appropriate updates and to generate aggregate statistics. Windows Update does not collect your name, address, e-mail address, or any other form of personally identifiable information.

Windows Update also collects the Product ID and Product Key to confirm that you are running a validly licensed copy of Windows. A validly licensed copy of Windows ensures that you will receive on-going updates from Windows Update. The Product ID and Product Key are not retained beyond the end of the Windows Update session, unless the Product ID is not valid.

To provide you with the best possible service, Windows Update also tracks and records how many unique machines visit its site and whether the download and installation of specific updates succeeded or failed. In order to do this, the Windows operating system generates a Globally Unique Identifier (GUID) that is stored on your computer to uniquely identify it. The GUID does not contain any personally identifiable information and cannot be used to identify you. Windows Update records the GUID of the computer that attempted the download, the ID of the item that you attempted to download and install, and the configuration information listed above