Microsoft wants us to essentially move our lives onto its computers — financial transactions, calendars, address books, documents, you name it. This is the ultimate in centralization. Leaving aside the unreliability of the big computer systems the company now runs — think of the outages and problems with Hotmail, MSN and even Microsoft.com — the idea of confiding in Microsoft with my most personal information is, well, nutty.
Oh, the company is saying all the right things about privacy and security. It insists it will treat our most personal information as inviolate — that Microsoft will never mine, sell, trade or otherwise misuse that data — but I doubt that these promises are worth the PowerPoint slide they were printed on.
Here’s a challenge to Microsoft. Guarantee the sanctity of this data in a way that persuades me. How about agreeing, in writing, to a fine of a year’s revenue if the company breaks this promise?
Even if Microsoft doesn’t misuse the data, the temptation of this central storehouse will be overwhelming to other busybodies. When the government or other third parties with a subpoena or court order want access, they’ll get it.
All of the HailStorm moves are aimed in a clear direction, to move all of us toward an Internet where we pay for services we use. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The end of “free” — a misused term — is coming, and we do need to make it work.