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EU Microsoft Ballot Nanny state Uncategorized

Damn – did Microsoft or the EU drop a clanger?

Today I got a rather worried email from my mother. The message was titled “virus?”.

Earlier today she had switched on the computer and been confronted by a screen that asked her to choose some software to install. Worried that this might be some sort of malware attack she took immediate action to disconnect from the internet and shutdown the computer. Once isolated she then quite correctly started up and ran AV tests. So she was off the computer and the internet for quite a few hours today.

However, mum used dad’s computer to email me her concerns. Unfortunately as I was at Microsoft Cardinal Place in London where decent phone and data signal is as rare as rocking horse droppings I knew nothing of it until I was on the train home.

It rapidly dawned on me that Microsoft Update had somehow selected mum to be one of the first recipients of KB976002 which is the implementation of the EU directive to provide choice of web browser to consumers. The infamous browser ballot.

I asked her to go to Microsoft Update and check the installed patches, the KB was there:

If you read the knowledgebase article you’ll see that browser ballot loads on the first reboot after installation. In mum’s case it was a shutdown and install updates last night that installed the patch, and then today’s power on activated the ballot form.

I am pretty angry that the implementation of this has been done in such a manner. I suspect that the agreement does not allow Microsoft to inform the consumer what (and why) this is happening and ‘finger’ the EU as the cause behind the interruption of normal service. I would have preferred to have seen something along the lines of:
“In accordance with the agreement reached with the European Union, Microsoft are obliged to offer you a choice of Web Browser. The following options are available for you to choose…” you see what I mean. This would have provided some context and allowed mum to make a more reasoned response to such strange behaviour.

So normal service is resumed, but after a run of good things, I’m a bit narked that we seem to have taken a backwards step with this. And of course – how long before malware uses this to target users?

Rant over…




Oh, and if you are wondering – then yes XP is the right solution for mum and dad. They’ve had their machines since before Vista, and I strongly urged them not to upgrade because I was not satisfied it would be a good experience for them. Windows 7 I certainly recommend, but a wipe and install upgrade is not the right approach either. When they get a new machine(s), then yes, I will whole heartedly support Windows 7 on it!

By P J Bryant

Ramblings of a freelance IT Consultant working for some nice SME's, large organisations, resellers and the usual friends and family! Bit of

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