In my last article, I gave you a list of reasons why you should wait for Windows 10. Among those reasons, I mentioned privacy, and I gave a quick overview of all the information that Cortana collects on you, the user.
Some could argue that Cortana’s collection of information is reasonable. After all, it’s a personal assistant; of course it needs a lot of information. But even with these apparent rationalizations, Windows 10 has a lot of shady data collection going on that you should be aware of.
This is all from Microsoft’s own Privacy Statement, by the way.
1. Input Personalization Is Essentially a Keylogger
A “keylogger” is software that records keystrokes you make on your keyboard. It’s considered one of the most dangerous kinds of malware, especially for business users, as a keylogger can capture all kinds of important personal information from your passwords to your credit card numbers to literally everything you say.
Microsoft uses Input Personalization to provide functionalities like auto-correct and personalized user dictionaries. While some would say “fair enough” – and, after all, this can be disabled if you’re uncomfortable – this is the default setting on Windows 10 and something that many users will unknowingly have enabled without knowing the full implications of it.
Just some food for thought.
2. Device Encryption Stores Your Key Online
BitLocker is a Windows feature introduced in the old days of Windows Vista, allowing users to encrypt their computer’s hard drives. This feature came in Enterprise, Server and Ultimate Windows editions and were mostly left out of the common home user’s hands.
Using Windows 10’s integrated device encryption, Windows will generate a recovery key that is backed up online in your Microsoft account. This means that if that account is compromised, this data (and therefore your computer’s data) can be accessed, whether by malicious third parties, Microsoft themselves or federal authorities.
If you really want to keep your drive secure, don’t use BitLocker.
3. Cortana Knows Everything About You
Here’s a simplified list of everything Cortana collects.
- Device location
- Calendar data
- App usage, including time used and how often you use them
- Data from emails and texts
- Contact information- who you call and how often you interact with them
- Music library, what you look at and buy, your browsing history, etc.
Now, make no mistake: Cortana uses all of these features to carry out its purpose. Collecting Email and text data, for instance, is so that you can set calendar events with Cortana, or she can automatically remind you to set certain reminders.
However, there’s still the fact that all of this information is being collected by Microsoft. This would be the Microsoft that sends everything they have on you to the NSA, even if you aren’t in the United States. It’s more food for thought, especially as we proceed to the following.
4. Telemetry Is Terrifying (And Can’t Be Disabled)
What’s telemetry, you may be asking, I’ve never heard of it.
Telemetry is a new feature integrated into Windows 10. Nobody actually knows for sure what it collects, but here’s a speculated list of what it’s grabbing from your computer and sending to Microsoft at all times:
- Device information: model, processor info, display info, etc.
- All software and drivers installed on the device, plus all hardware connected to it
- Performance data: if apps have issues, how well they run, etc.
- App data: how long apps are used, how often they’re used, what you use the most, etc.
- Network data: this includes your IP address, the connections you’re using and information about the networks you’re using, whether Wi-Fi, wired or mobile
Telemetry is supposedly used to collect usage info and statistics. You’ve probably seen something like it whenever previous versions of Windows have crashed programs on you. An option to send it to Microsoft is given, keeping the choice in your hands.
This removes that choice from you. Windows 10 Home and Pro users can’t disable Telemetry at all, only reduce it. Only Windows 10 Enterprise users can disable Telemetry entirely, which makes sense, because what business in their right mind would have this running?
Those are the main privacy concerns for Windows 10. I didn’t include some concerns other people raised that had to do with Microsoft Edge, as the data collection from Microsoft’s new browser is pretty much the same amount Chrome users get.
Even if you aren’t alarmed by this, I hope you’re at least somewhat more educated by it. It’s always important to know what information you’re giving to those big companies in Silicon Valley, even if you don’t fear the Orwellian worst. They call this the Information Age for a reason.