August 10, 2005 9:10 PM PDT

Microsoft says PC 'recycle bin' yielded Google clue

Microsoft says it found a potentially important document in its case against its former executive Kai-Fu Lee and Google in the "recycle bin" of one of Lee?s computers.

According to papers filed with a Washington state court by the software giant, a document that describes terms of an apparent agreement between Google and Lee was "recovered from the 'Recycle Bin' of one of Dr. Lee's computers."

The document indicates Google foresaw possible litigation in hiring Lee to head its China operations. It could bolster the software titan's claim that Lee's new position violates a contract signed with Microsoft, and that Google has encouraged Lee to break that contract.

The tidbit about Lee and his recycle bin is the latest twist in a bitter and complex legal dispute between two of the tech world's biggest players.

Google declined to comment. (Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.)

Last month, Microsoft sued Lee and Google, charging Lee was breaking a one-year noncompete clause in his contract by accepting his new position. In court papers, Google has claimed that Lee is "not a search expert" and described him as peripheral to Microsoft's business in China.

Even so, a judge has ruled that until at least September, Lee cannot perform work at Google that competes with what he did at Microsoft.

The document Microsoft said it found in Lee's recycle bin states that should the software maker prevent Lee from working at both Microsoft and Google because of a noncompete clause, Google will place him on a paid leave of absence or give him a consulting job for up to a year.

Details about how Microsoft got the document were revealed in a court filing last month.

Lee is known as a pioneer in speech-recognition technology, and he headed the Natural Interactive Services Division at Microsoft. He also set up a Microsoft research center in China.


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It's moments like these...
With this revalation I'm betting Lee wishes he'd made use of Shift+Delete option to bypass the recycle bin.
Posted by j3st3r (70 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I would rethink hiring a technical executive...
Who doesn't know how to clean sensitive documents out of his recycle bin. I wonder if he's ever worked a paper shredder?
Posted by Harfeld Bilgewing (60 comments )
Link Flag
The Index Of Evil Memegraphs

And so the Index of Evil is born....

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by Broward Horne (88 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No one complained when Microsoft RAPED Borland?
In the early 90's, when microsoft lagged in software development tools against the once mighty Borland software. No one cried Wolf.

I remeber when Borland use to have all the talent in the valley until one day the big goliath came knocking at the doors of their employees. With incentives such as relocation to Redmond with new homes, lots of money thrown their way and mucho stock options, who would turn that down?

So why when the tables have turned, does Microsoft cry Wolf when it is they who coined the idea of raping companies intellectual talent from them?

Is this just another ploy for M$ domination? The more and more microsoft keeps pulling these tactics, I respond with my pocket. I choose not use a single Microsoft Technology. It's kind of hard to do that but not impossible.

Alternatives do exists: MAC OS X, LINUX, and UNIX.

Use firefox instead of IE. Use openoffic instead MS office apps. Use Real Player, Quicktime, Winamp, Kplayer instead of Media Player. Use PDF instead of Word documents for paperless solutions. Use Sendmail instead of Exchange, use Evolution or Kmail instead of Outlook. Use Eclipse instead Visual Basic. Use MySQL instead of SQL server. Use Samba, CUPS, and OpenLDAP instead of Active Directory.

You get the picture, ALTERNATIVES do exists. It's just a matter of CHOICE. And I have the choice not use Microsoft products in all companies I've been employed at unless its forced on me by IT departments.

When will these ridculous contracts be thrown out the window? It's right of every person to choose where he or she would like to work. No some uneforcable contract. So long as the person is not stealing information from the former employer, I really see no problem with this. I think microsoft is just an EVIL company. VERY EVIL.


It's the right of each employee to always advance in the career path they choose, not some stupid contract to limit their ability.

Let the man choose what he wants, not the court systems. Oh yea next time use BCWIPE by Jetico which does a 7 pass wipe based on Department Of Defense specifications so things like are in fact destroyed and cannot be recovered.

Nael Mohammad
Posted by Nael (112 comments )
Reply Link Flag
He signed it
If he thought it was stupid he should not have signed it. He obviously puts no value on his word. He made a choice to work at Microsoft, and he changed his mind. Executives should not be allowed to do this. They are paid enought not to.

You sure don't take much to go off on a rant about Microsoft. Even going to the extreme and endorsing a company like Real. When I think of evil software, I think of Real Player 7.
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
Link Flag
Borland did indeed sue Microsoft
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by hberenson (6 comments )
Link Flag
M$ = evil?
I must somewhat agree with you, Mr. Mohammed. I do believe that Microshaft's business practices are unethical and very aggresive. They use noncompetitive practices, and they are just a large cancer of the IT industry. I also believe that they wish to dominate every aspect of how we use technology, and in that I can forsee corruption and stagnation of progress. The company has been called evil many times. I, like you, do choose other products when there are alternatives to Microshaft. I also find that Microshaft does do well with some of their products which they do not attempt to monopolize (i.e. mice, keyboards). However, the recent plays by M$ to enter the TV market and DRM markets have me worried about our futures. What if M$ controlled our media via this ill-conceived, unConstitutional Digital Rights Management BS? Would they really have such a hard time doing this? Would anyone be able to stop them? Would people even be able to disagree with them? We do here and now, but say that we had to use a "DRM" chip to keep us from messing with Microsoft. Would we be able to then, or would comments about them be limited to "Microsoft. Your Potential, Our Passion" or some other half-cocked untruthful ********?
Yet, in the face of these threats to our basic and fundamental freedoms, I have hope that these terrorists, far more dangerous than those who hijack planes or take hostages, will ultimately fail. It has already started. If someone told that fatass Steve Ballmer or Bill Gates that a small, open source browser would be the first to truly challenge Internet Explorer, the two would have laughed. Now they laugh, and they are caught with their pants down. "Let those who live by the sword die by the sword." Microshaft will fall on its own sword, and I believe it is already beginning with movements such as Free Software as in Freedom and OSS. Firefox, GNU/Linux, and OpenOffice, all being products of this are gradually gaining popularity against the behemoth's arsenal. I say, encourage all of your not-so-techie friends to download and install software such as Firefox or OpenOffice. The media is terribly one-sided and they only cover the commercial software unless the public demands and demands (and demands and demands) that a certain application be tested (with some exceptions, i.e. Walt Mossberg, WSJ). I have gotten many of my friends and colleagues to download and install Firefox, and they often thank me for steering them in that direction.
One last note. Microsoft once accused OSS/FSF of being "communist" in an attempt to insult the movements. I, however, see those two movements as examples of working communism. The people own the means of production. In most situations, communism falls flat on its face. In OSS/FSF, however, communism is working well, enough so that M$ is scared of it and is launching multiple anti-Linux ads. I am a fan of capitalism too, don't get me wrong. But shows everyone how bass-ackwards Microshaft really is.
Posted by CNerd2025 (98 comments )
Link Flag
Anyone believe the document is real?
I've seen intances in the past where one side of a legal battle magically conjures up a "smoking gun" document or email out of nowhere. Email, documents etc can easily be created to say whatever you want, and make to LOOK as if it was a real document.

Lawyers have to submit paper evidence of documents they think are relavent to a case. Emails are first printed on paper, then submited to the judge. Well, any word processor can easily create a document that LOOKS like an official email message or whatever. (Anyone remember the CBS fiasco that brought down Dan Rather?)

I just think it's awfully convienient Microsoft "found" a document where the defendent has written "oh my god I'm doing illegal things I hope my employer doesn't find out!!". Cute.
Posted by Richard G. (137 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
I dont think its real either.

Out of all his computers with clean recycle bins there just happened to be one with one file in it that was just what MS wanted to find? Not likely.

But whether its real or not is besides the point, it should be inadmissible as evidence simply because there is no way to verify the authenticity.

Microsoft itself destroyed the credibility of the document when it extracted the document from the recycle bin itself rather than having a reputable computer forensics officer do it.

Any judge who accepts this "document" as evidence is a fool.
Posted by Fray9 (547 comments )
Link Flag
Google Is Acting Like Babies
Google's newly instituted policy of not talking to CNET reports until 2006 is quite childish. Because Google would not give any comment on a news story CNET did there own investigating using Google to find public information. It is understandable they were upset but to say We will not talk with you until July 2006 is silly. CNET is an invaluable news agency that just reports the news. In addition they can help relay all kinds of useful information to Googles public.
Posted by hpwray (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What This Says About MS (In)security
What this story says to me is "Do not use a Windows computer if you need privacy and security because your private communications are not safe". Microsoft, you have done a good job of shooting yourself in the foot yet again and proving how unsecure your systems are. I think every copy of Vista should ship with a placard for the computer that says, "Steal My Data".
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Absolutely Nothing
This case says absolutely nothing about Microsoft security. What it does suggest, is that Microsoft keeps track of its valuable employees, contracts, and communications... as any responsible company should do. You are really reaching when you suggest that items in the recycle bin represent a security problem. And if you are suggesting that employees should be able to hide data that travels across the company network from their employer, you are just really out of touch.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
M$ Insecurity
Yes, I agree. Notice that with XP Home Edition (not what Lee was using, but same idea) does not come with file encryption. It has the little box that is diabled. You have to pay $300 to get it in XP Professional. Isn't that a sweet deal ::cough cough::? Screw MS. I'd get Linux or Mac with a "secure delete" feature.
Posted by CNerd2025 (98 comments )
Link Flag
dumb and dumber
hope smart can u b if u don't know how 2
empty your trash???

The truth is that SCO uses "insecure" and
"vulnerable" Linux more often than it uses its
own "SCO UNIX." See:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

Even more telling is the fact that SCO's and Al
Gore's lawyers, Boies, Schiller &#38; Flexner LLP,
really put their trust in Windows Server 2003.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

cheers, IJH, M.D., Ph.D.

"If a woman shall testify, her testimony shall
be given half the weight of a man's."
Posted by (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Conduct of un-becoming a great company
It's really is too bad that a highly successful company like Google is resorting to knowingly violated the law to hire talents away from its competitors .
Another serious offense in the making is ignoring copy rights of authors in making unpaid contents public through the search engine.
I am wondering why Google is doing these stupid things to ruin a great upward company.
Posted by Robert Wiseman (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Too simplistic
"It's really is too bad that a highly successful company like Google is resorting to knowingly violated the law to hire talents away from its competitors ."

If you sign a contract, and later learn that one or more of its terms are illegal or unenforcable, are you violating the law when you break that provision of the contract? Not at all; any illegal provision in a contract is void and thus you don't have to adhere to it.

Noncompete agreements happen to be a legally fuzzy area. Sometimes they are enforced by the court, and sometimes they aren't. It depends greatly on the wording and breadth of the noncompete agreement. If Google has indeed done what they said and Lee will not be managing anything that competes with Microsoft, then I believe the court will not enforce the noncompete agreement in this case.

I don't believe there is any statute that covers noncompete agreements, but there is a great deal of court precedent covering these. Lee may have come to believe that the noncompete agreement was not enforceable for some reason, perhaps after talking to a lawyer.

We really haven't be given enough information to make any real judgment on the legality of the noncompete agreement, since we don't know its wording, or really anything more than it is a noncompete agreement. That makes it very difficult to judge several factors, such as whether the wording of the noncompete agreement may be interpreted in different ways.

Since not everyone can be expected to know the details of common law (which is composed of court precedent and thus laborious to research), it seems reasonable to me that Lee may have signed the agreement, believing it was legal and enforcable, and later realized that it might not be. If that is the case, who is in the wrong: Lee for violating his word, or Microsoft for trying to impose a employment condition they may not legally be able to?

Secondly, without knowing the wording of the clause and exact responsibilities of Lee's job at Google, how can we even know he violated it?

Seriously, people are too quick to think they know all the relevant and necessary details. Many on this forum are awfully quick to assume Lee is in the wrong based on some very limited information about this case.
Posted by (282 comments )
Link Flag
Come to think of it...
You can be really dirty sometimes in a legal battle. It is quite a news here to show that Microsoft can be rude, lowly and unethical checking on someone else's garbage. But I guess it's legal. So watch and learn...
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Anticapitalistic? I am perhaps one of the most capitalist people in this country. I believe that government should be reduced so much that it only provides law and order and allow businesses to be easily formed and prevent businesses from illegally gaining power. If 'capitalism' to you means companies are allowed go grow unbounded, i.e. Microshaft, then go ahead and believe that. Law is a tricky issue. I do agree with your fact that it would have to be proved in a court of law. But the validity would have to be proved as well. I have watched real cases in which AIM conversations were printed out and used in court, but they were not deemed valid because they are too easy to forge. "Reasonable doubt" is the phrase used by <em>juries</em> to make sure that none of this validity crap enters their judgements. The judge charges them with determining what is <em>valid</em> (e.g. phone recordings) or <em>less valid</em> (e.g. email, e-documents, IM conversations). Doesn't mean it isn't true. Google could have put the dunce cap on and sent the document to Mr. Lee.
My only point for this comment is to give sound logic. Fate is decided within reasonable doubt. Validity is a whole other issue. According to your arguments, a shaky but lone witness could be lying through his teeth or perhaps missing/adding details, but until you can prove him wrong <em>beyond reasonable doubt</em> his testemony is absolutely true.
Posted by CNerd2025 (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Some points of clarification. . .
While I am general agreement with your sentiments, I think a few points need to be corrected.

This is a lawsuit based on contract violation, and is thus covered by civil law, not criminal law. The idea of "proof beyond reasonable doubt" only applies to criminal law. The standard in civil law is "by the preponderance of the evidence", which essentially means that the side more likely to be right is the one that will win a particular point. That makes things a little harder for Google and Lee since the standard of proof isn't so much in their favor.

Additionally, in civil cases, juries are optional. If a jury is opted for, it will be only six members, not twelve, as in a criminal case. Thus, the judge may decide it.

These facts help make this case more interesting and also make it more difficult to discern who has the stronger case and which side has the most ethical position.

Either way, the US departed from pure capitalism a long time ago. We are now a mixed economy-- mostly capitalistic sprinkled with some elements of socialism. Most of us could be called anticapitalist because most of us probably believe that the law should provide some protections for the rights of workers--not a purely capitalistic idea. If you want to see a more pure form of capitalism, review the history of the 19th century; I think most of us are against the type of worker exploitation that occurred in that era. That could very well be called anticapitalistic, as could support of a minimum wage or overtime regulations; since I support these positions, I suppose I could even be labeled a socialist, even though I don't support most socialist ideas either. This is just another example of how labels like "anticapitalist" are so troublesome; they can be interpreted so many different ways.

They are wonderfully effective at making people angry, however.
Posted by (282 comments )
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