Windows 10 and Your Privacy: What You Need to Know

Windows 10 and Your Privacy: What You Need To Know

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.

windows10privacy-inputpersonalization

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.

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.

windows10privacy-cortana

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.

windows10privacy-telemetry

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.

14 comments

  1. The collection of customer data by Microsoft smacks of severe disregard of privacy for those upgrading to Win 10. Is this an example of Microsoft wanting to take over the world with their insidious new OS with keylogger features? What information might be given to the NSA. People have often distrusted Microsoft in the past and Win 10 doesn’t seem to offer any improvement to customer’ experience with Microsoft. Hopefully the new OS will fail and finish Windows forever heralding the uptake of GNU open source software.

    • Since day one, it has been the goal of Microsoft to be installed and control as many devices as possible.

  2. Downloaded and installed Win 10 and love it. Not much different than Win 7 however, after about 1 week, the (fantastic) new “Search” feature quit working. (I really liked it) I am not the only one having this problem. A quick “google” search will reveal NUMEROUS others experiencing the same thing. I have tried every possible solution I have come across on blogs and posting. None have worked for me as yet. I would appreciate any suggestions on how to fix the problem. When I click on the “Search” box and type in anything, I get a message at the top that says (something to the effect of) “Search results are not ready yet, try again later” or “We have run into a problem with Search results, try again later”, etc…. This is when I am simply looking for “add and remove programs” on my computer, not searching for anything on the web.

  3. From the Microsoft Privacy Statement:

    Personal Data We Collect
    Microsoft collects data to operate effectively and provide you the best experiences with our services. You provide some of this data directly, such as when you create a Microsoft account, submit a search query to Bing, speak a voice command to Cortana, upload a document to OneDrive, or contact us for support. We get some of it by recording how you interact with our services by, for example, using technologies like cookies, and receiving error reports or usage data from software running on your device. We also obtain data from third parties (including other companies).

    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.

    That last bit is quite worrying.

    • This is nothing different than Apple or any other OS maker does. They call it a way to help users and it probably does, but it does give them way too much of our private information.

  4. I have to be honest – I LOVE targeted ads. I don’t mind that when I pull up a browser window and I see ads based on my browsing habits. I can’t stand watching TV and seeing ads for things I don’t care about; fashion, foods I don’t eat, beers I wouldn’t drink, etc.

    Let’s face it – we’re going to see ads. Unless you want to pay for everything (even sites like this), we have to tolerate ads. So the question is do you want ads based on generic demographic data or do you want ads custom tailored to you? I can’t stand seeing shows on TV where the target demographic group is 10 years younger than me, or the target demographic is women. But when I’m online, I see ads for motorcycles, software development products I actually would use, or seminars I would actually want to attend. This is because the site is seeing what places I’ve been to and knows what I want to see.

    Isn’t that better than seeing ads for Budweiser, a beer I would NEVER drink, or Coca-cola, which I also can’t stand?

    • I don’t mind seeing ads, now and then. I know that ads help pay for many, many websites. What I do NOT like are the pornographic or almost porn ads!!! First of all, I am a female and really do NOT care about what other women do, to get sex or sexting … This is why, I use an AdBlocker.

      However, I do disable my AdBlocker on sites that I trust and want to support, like this site. I know that the ads will probably be computer related and I have never minded those ads. :)

      • I totally agree. I download stuff from Torrent sites and the ads are either for porn or for porn-like content so I have to use Ad-blocker as well.

  5. It’s not a keylogger. This software collects only statistics which words are used by you. For example, Swype on Android does same thing. It doesn’t records exact sentences what is typed by you. You cannot understand what exactly was written from this statistics.

  6. I installed or upgraded to Windows 10 … The installation went faultlessly and that surprised me. Past installs or upgrades from Win 95B to Win 98 to Windows XP to Windows 7, have always had a few glitches, when installing or upgrading.

    I kept Windows 10, for less than a week. Overall, Windows 10 is not bad, but, will take a learning curve and when I upgraded to Win 10 … I lost ALL of my casual games, that I had installed on my hard drive!!! On that, I was NOT a happy camper, either. Then, I started reading about the privacy issues and Win 10 has already had an update, to correct some buggy code. I am very concerned about the privacy issues.

    Now, I can “control” some aspects of Win 10, since, I do have Win 7 Pro and was upgraded to Win 10 Pro … But, there are still privacy areas, that I can not “control”. Only Enterprise and Ultimate versions, can “control” almost all of the privacy issues, plus they can disable all of the “updates”, that uses a Torrent like service! That really bothers me … I do NOT want my computer to be randomly used, by MS, for updating purposes!!! Why, isn’t the old fashioned way of downloading the updates being used??? MS users have downloaded for decades and the Broadband width is excellent, these days, and almost used by most Internet users.

    I keep my Internet Router with an excellent security password, so that, NO ONE can access my Wi-Fi, unless I give them authorization. So, I uninstalled Win 10. I want to see a more solid Win 10 and some corrections on the Privacy issues, which, I highly doubt, that the Privacy issues will be corrected.

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