Microsoft draws fire for EC appointment

Detlef Eckert will take three years out from policy-making in Europe to work on Microsoft's software security, in what some are calling a conflict of interest

Microsoft has sparked an angry reaction from its legions of detractors by employing an official from the European Commission (EC) at a time when the software giant is in the middle of an EU antitrust investigation.

The controversial appointment will see Detlef Eckert take three years out from policy making along Europe's corridors of power to join Microsoft to work on improving the company's computer software security.

Microsoft moved to rule out accusations of a conflict of interest for Eckert, telling the BBC that he will not be involved in any form of lobbying as Microsoft attempts to escape further punishment for monopolistic business practices.

However, opponents of the software giant have cried foul over the appointment of somebody so close to the monopoly investigation.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which represents a number of Microsoft's key rivals, including AOL, Oracle and Sun Microsystems, claims the situation undermines the whole anti-trust process, which it is championing.

Ed Black, president of the CCIA, said he had met with Eckert while presenting the case against Microsoft to the EC. For Eckert to now defect over to Microsoft means he takes with him inside knowledge on the 'case for the prosecution' according to Black.

However, the EC says it is satisfied Eckert has signed appropriate documentation committing him to observe rules which state he cannot reveal confidential Commission information to his new employer.

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