It’s been nearly three weeks since the official Windows 10 release and people are still raving- and complaining- about it. However, it is generally considered a marked improvement on its predecessor. From the facial recognition software called ‘Hello’ that can log you into your device- even in a dark room- to their WiFi sense feature that allows you to share your WiFi with friends without giving up your password; Microsoft certainly broke the mold in more ways than one.
Windows 10 Privacy Woes
The privacy debacle that I discussed soon after Windows 10 release (There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch) is still an issue. If you went ahead with express set up then you might be in for a surprise. If you care about your privacy that is.
The default privacy settings are abysmal from the user’s perspective. First, Microsoft identifies individual usesrs with a unique ID number. This enables them to track a user across multiple devices, services, and apps (similar to Google). A setting labeled “Send Microsoft info about how I write to help us improve typing and writing in the future” sends potentially very personal information to them.
If you use Cortana the same type of information, but for speech, will be sent. Microsoft’s new browser, Edge, tracks and uses your history to implant target ads into any of the apps or services that you use on your device. Beyond the privacy concerns Windows 10 also uses your bandwidth by default in order to deliver Windows 10 itself, as well as updates, in a P2P type of way.
All of which isn’t a huge deal. Many of these practices are already commonplace (Google, Apple, and social media in general). It only bothers me that they are default settings and changing them is a journey that will take you through 13 different screens and an external website.
But you don’t need to worry about that, because you weren’t foolish enough to go ahead with the express setup and default settings, right?
The Data Hungry Machine That Won’t Quit
Even if you are salty in the privacy game and smelled what Microsoft was cooking with the free Windows 10 release you may not be out of the woods. Recent reports have extended the privacy concerns a step further.
Articles from both The Guardian and ArsTechnica.com outline how even though you might be savvy enough to disable unwanted privacy intrusions, Windows 10 doesn’t necessarily care. Here’s an excerpt from the Ars article (emphasis mine):
… even with Cortana and searching the Web from the Start menu disabled, opening Start and typing will send a request to www.bing.com to request a file called threshold.appcache which appears to contain some Cortana information, even though Cortana is disabled. The request for this file appears to contain a random machine ID that persists across reboots.
Another example is that periodically the machine will send data to a server owned by Microsoft and used by OneDrive (and other services) named ssw.live.com. Even with OneDrive, and other relevant settings, disabled.
Microsoft dismissed the concerns raised by Ars by saying, “As part of delivering Windows 10 as a service, updates may be delivered to provide ongoing new features to Bing search, such as new visual layouts, styles and search code. No query or search usage data is sent to Microsoft, in accordance with the customer’s chosen privacy settings.”
Beyond Privacy Concerns
Other alterations to Windows 10 aren’t necessarily privacy related- but may take some time for certain groups of users to reconcile with.
The first is the way in which updates are delivered. Instead of releasing patches and updates on a weekly basis Windows 10 will instead be updating constantly. This will allow Microsoft to keep up with exploits and bugs much more efficiently: which seems more like a necessity than a feature in today’s world.
However, the constant updates poses some problems for those that have slow connections, live in remote areas, and those that have a limited data plan for their mobile device. This is accentuated by the peer-to-peer default setting for update deliveries.
Gamers also have some worries about a section of the Microsoft Users Agreement:
We may automatically check your version of the software and download software updates or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorized hardware peripheral devices.
The vague wording leaves the door open for Windows 10 to search your computer for pirated games and counterfeit software and add to the list with each automatic update.
Erosion of Privacy
If you’ve been keeping up with blog here at LiquidVPN then you have probably surmised that it is not only the current state of affairs regarding privacy that has me concerned; but also the general erosion of it. The public, it seems, is all to eager to give up a little (or massive) piece of themselves in exchange for a free service. Windows 10 is no different.
feature image courtesy of NVO cc 3.0
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