Windows 10: No Such Thing as a Free Lunch

Michael In the News

Before Windows 10 was even launched on July 29, there was quite an extensive waiting list to upgrade to the new operating system. A day later, Windows 10 has already been downloaded well over 14 million times. Windows 10 is available for free for licensed users of Windows 7 and 8. However, what you don’t pay monetarily my be made up for by paying with your privacy.

Like any new software or product, users must deal with common bugs and glitches inherent in a new system. However, in today’s world we must also be cautious about what’s in store for our privacy: Windows 10 is no different.

The Good About Windows 10

Hailed by users as offering an increasingly seamless user interface. Windows 10 features the return of the familiar Start Menu as well as several other attractive features.

Microsoft introduced new login software that goes a step past Apple’s thumb print log in. The name of the program is ‘Hello’ and it logs you in through facial recognition. As of now, this new feature is available on only a few devices with Intel’s 3D camera. It works by using infrared light that allows your device to recognize and log you in, even in complete darkness.

Cortana- a program that can receive audible commands- has made the switch from mobile too. Albeit at the price of sending your speech data to Microsoft (a feature inherent in Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Echo as well).

WiFi sense is another app that may prove useful. It provides a way for you to invite your contacts from Skype and Outlook to be able to access your WiFi when in range without you giving out your password. Your password is encrypted and stored on Microsoft’s servers; supposedly safe from hackers. This is pretty cool, however, you can’t choose which of your contacts has access to your WiFi: it’s all or nothing.

Windows 10- The Bad

By default, all of the settings are turned on to max intrusion. Signing in with your Microsoft email account allows Windows to read your emails and view your contacts and calender. The fresh Edge web browser- that’s also the default browser- brings personalized ads based on your surf history and app and services usage. The new Windows also has access to user locations and location history that can be provided to its (unnamed) “trusted partners”. Clearly the data that’s being gathered goes beyond just your web browsing.

We will access, disclose and preserve data, including your content (including the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have good faith belief in doing so is necessary.

-Excerpt from Microsoft’s 45 page terms of use agreement

One of the biggest changes with Windows 10 is that it uses your Microsoft account more than ever before. This allows Microsoft to assign each user an ID and track them across devices, services, and apps- which as you may have guessed- allows targeted advertisements: similar to the strategy used with cookies and third party trackers.

The privacy intrusion extends into your typing and linking as well. A setting labelled “Send Microsoft info about how I write to help us improve typing and writing in the future” leaves me, and many other privacy minded folk, dubious to say the least. Apps are also given access to your microphone and camera. In addition to Windows sending your typing and linking patterns, Cortana (named after the Halo character, interestingly enough) also plays a large part in collecting data about your speech.

Another largely unwelcome change (although not that bad, innovative, and again capable of being disabled) is the way in which Windows 10 is distributed. WUDO (Windows Update Delivery Optimization) is a P2P distribution system that makes users who have already installed Windows 10 offer up their bandwidth to other users outside their network.

And the Ugly

The default privacy intrusions on Windows 10 is only the bad part. The ugly is the lack of transparency that Microsoft provides. The intrusive privacy settings is one thing, but the vague- even misleading- summaries and desecriptions provided is another. The forgoing of transparency in the OS (operating system) is questionable.

In a world today where tech companies are becoming more transparent- mostly because of the now public actions of the NSA- Microsoft has taken a step backward with this one. To me, it borderlines trickery. The amount of data gathering alone is extensive. Add this to that the fact that you are identified by a Microsoft ID across all apps and services (this setting can be turned off) and that Microsoft can share your data, you soon realize (that by default settings) Windows 10 is a data amassing machine.

For now, changing the settings is no easy task. Attempting to change the privacy settings will make you navigate 13 different screens and an external website!

Even solitaire, for God’s sake, comes with ads. Likely, majority of the 14 million users who already downloaded the new operating system just accepted the default settings in order to reduce hassle and get up and running quickly.

Conclusion

So what should you do? Well, if you aren’t one of millions of users that have already downloaded Windows 10 then the best advice I can give you is to choose custom settings while installing and toggle all the privacy settings to your liking.

If, however, you did already download and install Windows 10 and use their ‘Express’ set-up that uses the default privacy settings then you need to navigate the settings menu and alter them manually.

Like I said before, with 13 different windows and an external website this is easier said than done. I suggest you clear your schedule and tell your secretary to hold your calls so that you can hit all the settings and limit the amount of data that you’re giving away.

Here are a couple guides I found to help you out:

Altering privacy settings at time of install

Altering privacy settings after install

 

If you take your privacy as seriously as we do, then you should follow @LiquidVPN

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