Home > Critical Thinking, Links, Skepticism, Technology > Interesting Links: Aug 2, 2015

Interesting Links: Aug 2, 2015

Here are links to a few interesting news articles I came across today. They are about the extremely intrusive and almost inevitably exploitable features built into Window 10.

Link 1: The real price of Windows 10 is your privacy

Windows 10 is more closely tied to a Microsoft account than any previous version of the OS. This allows Microsoft to assign an ID number to users that can then be used to track them across different devices, services, and apps. This in turn can be used to deliver closely targeted ads to people. Microsoft has been pushing the mobile first, cloud first philosophy for some time now, and it becomes clear with Windows 10 that the love of the cloud is as much to do with the ability it gives Microsoft to gather useful data as it is about convenience for users.

Without wanting to venture into FUD territory, if you want an idea of just how Windows 10 can be used to gather data about you, take a trip to Privacy in Settings. The number of settings listed here is really quite lengthy — and just about all of them are enabled by default. The data is almost certain to be anonymized, but the setting labelled “Send Microsoft info about how I write to help us improve typing and writing in the future” will be of particular concern to anyone using their computer to conduct sensitive work. Then there is location data, the ability of apps to use your camera and microphone, and Cortana’s access to your contacts, calendar, and anything else you might care to mention. If this concerns you, go to the Speech, inking, & typing section of Privacy and hit the Stop getting to know me button.

Link 2: Windows 10- Microsoft under attack over privacy

Many of the complaints relate to the new personalised adverts embedded in Windows 10. When the OS is installed, Microsoft assigns the user a unique advertising ID, which it ties to the email address registered with the company. That email address is also associated with a raft of other services, such as the company’s productivity and communication programs, as well as app downloads and cloud-storage uploads. Using that information, Microsoft is able to personalise ads to the user, during both web surfing and, for newer apps downloaded from the Windows Store, app usage. Microsoft itself is leading the way on that front, even turning the in-built version of Solitaire (the card game that has been a staple of Windows installations since 1990’s Windows 3.0) into a freemium game, complete with unskippable video adverts.

Elsewhere, Windows 10 also harvests user information in order to teach the built-in personal digital assistant Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri. To enable Cortana, the company says, it “collects and uses various types of data, such as your device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device”. Users are given the option to opt out of most of the data collection, but critics say that isn’t enough. Alec Meer, of gaming website Rock Paper Shotgun, says: “Microsoft simply aren’t making it clear enough that they’re doing this, how it might affect you and how to opt out – despite chest-thumping, we’re-all-chums-here talk about how ‘real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand’.

Link 3: Windows 10 is spying on almost everything you do – here’s how to opt out

Actually, here’s one excerpt from Microsoft’s privacy statement that everyone can understand: Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to: 1.comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies; 2.protect our customers, for example to prevent spam or attempts to defraud users of the services, or to help prevent the loss of life or serious injury of anyone; 3.operate and maintain the security of our services, including to prevent or stop an attack on our computer systems or networks; or 4.protect the rights or property of Microsoft, including enforcing the terms governing the use of the services – however, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property of Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves, but we may refer the matter to law enforcement.

Link 4: Windows 10’s default privacy settings and controls leave much to be desired

My problem with these elements of Windows 10 boils down to this: It feels, once again, as if Microsoft has taken the seed of a good idea, like providing users with security updates automatically, and shoved the throttle to maximum. This new information opacity is present at so many levels, it feels more like a deliberate design decision than an accidental omission. Want to know what specific KB updates do? You’ll have to look them up manually. Want some information on how Windows Defender works in Windows 10? You won’t find much on Microsoft’s official pages for the operating system. Taken as a whole, it’s harder to configure many of these settings in the way you might want them, information is harder to come by, and Microsoft is sucking down more user data than ever. Despite the tone of this article, there are plenty of things I like about Windows 10 and I’m going to talk about them in future stories. Metro/Universal apps now play much nicer with Desktop applications. The Windows Store has been overhauled and has a better layout. DirectX 12 is a huge step forward for gaming, and an undoubted high point of the launch. There are a lot of things to like about this operating system, and I want to talk about them in turn. But as far as user privacy, intrusive settings, and the need to crawl under the hood to optimize settings that Microsoft used to give you options for? This, in my opinion, is where Windows 10 stumbles, and stumbles badly.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. P Ray
    August 3, 2015 at 7:37 am

    The interesting thing about Windows 10, is that it will “only support DirectX 12 in the future, with an update”.
    The question is, will that update cost money?

    the other thing is, one should always assume that the bare OS … is like a naked view into the user’s desktop – the only people who think “all we need is Windows” … happen to be people who eventually become my customers 🙂

  2. August 9, 2015 at 12:54 am

    Why is anyone still using Windoze? Sentient humans have moved on to real operating systems under which the user has all of the control. Microsoft IS the zombie world of the 1984 Mac ad, not that Apple is doing much better anymore.

    • P Ray
      August 13, 2015 at 5:20 pm

      The biggest reason is games, and Office (office for Android is cut down).
      Pretty sure Witcher 3, Crysis 3 are not available for Linux.

      “Sentience” isn’t very fun if you have no entertainment.

  3. gaoxiaen
    August 12, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    I hate paying to receive more ads and a cartoon paper clip.

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