Information Blackmail - Microsoft Style

The Curious Codex

          7 Votes   Published 2024-05-09, Updated 2024-06-16



Information Blackmail - Microsoft Style

The Author
GEN UK Blog

By Richard (Senior Partner)

Richard has been with the firm since 1992 and was one of the founding partners

Information Blackmail and Extortion

Screenshot 2024-05-08 at 19.57.52 Screenshot 2024-05-09 at 10.26.07

Some time ago Google started forcing users to provide their mobile phone, for no other reason that its Google's business to sell your data, and a mobile phone is valuable.

I think most people just expected this from Google, and in reality anyone who uses gmail without expecting their privacy to be violated in every possible way is deluded. Having said that, many people use gmail anyway, because either they don't care or don't know.

Google are not the worst, Facebook are, but Google are still the titans of information extraction and sale in the world. Microsoft on the other hand, are not considered trash like Google and people expect their outlook.com email (as well as the historic hotmail.com) to be at least a level above.

Today I'm told by a customer that Microsoft have 'locked' their account, and extorted their mobile phone number to restore it. Ah I said that's Google, not Microsoft, a quick search of the HelpDesk, and then onto the Internet revealed that I was wrong.

It seems that Microsoft have finally decided that information blackmail is the way forward, probably to support their bing.com ads and other services. If microsoft doesn't already have your mobile phone number, you will be greeted by the dialogue to the right at some point, and you'll be told that:

Your account has been locked

We've detected some activity that violates our Microsoft Services Agreement and have locked your account.

This is of course complete rubbish.

You'll then be forced into entering your mobile phone number into the form on the NEXT page, and receivign a code to verify they have definately extorted your mobile number, and you're back in. No further accusation of violating any terms or whatever other excuse is made-up, just strait forward theft of your personal information.

Options

There are services out there which allow you to have a virtual mobile number that can receive SMS messages, and that's all you need, but they aren't free. Should you have to pay just to avoid Your personal information being extorted? Seemingly yes.

An easier way, and one that I personally use, is to have a PAYG sim card, and stick that in an old phone that I no longer use, this way I can have one number that I ONLY USE for this sort of extortion, keeping my work and personal mobile phones away from these companies. This costs me about £10 a year in top-ups but that's a fair price to pay for some privacy.

The Value

If you're business is selling information, a mobile phone number is really valuable. Not only can this be used to match a user to the locations they visit, times they visit, how often they visit, their physical home location, the locations where users congrigate, and much more - its like having these companies track your every move and we know they do through their 'apps' and by purchasing location data from telco companies.

Another value to your mobile phone, is cross referencing this data with instant message applications, like facebook's whatsapp, and others. Facebook are notorious for tracking users locations, but having mobile phone numbers that can be linked back to a real person is really valuable. This is why I'd never, ever install the facebook App on my phone, its beyond stupid but Facebook rely on stupid for their income. If you want to use Facebook, use a browser with FB-Purity or Ublock Origin and never using Chrome.


          7 Votes   Published 2024-05-09, Updated 2024-06-16

--- This content is not legal or financial advice & Solely the opinions of the author ---


Version 1.009  Copyright © 2024 GEN, its companies and the partnership. All Rights Reserved, E&OE.  ^sales^  0115 933 9000  Privacy Notice