Windows 10 Makes Privacy Concessions

Category: Windows-10

Windows 10 has been embroiled in controversy with privacy advocates since the moment it was released in August, 2015. Now, Microsoft is making changes to Win 10 that please privacy advocates overall. But will the changes increase your privacy or make Win 10 even more complicated? Read on…

Improved Privacy in Windows 10?

Terry Mason, who runs Microsoft’s Windows and Devices group, says in in a blog post announcing the changes, “Many of you have asked for more control over your data, a greater understanding of how data is collected, and the benefits this brings for a more personalized experience.”

Ummm, I don’t believe even one Windows 10 user asked for all of that. I certainly don’t need the work of controlling and understanding how my data is collected; I just want the collection stopped.

As for “personalized experience,” every example that I’ve seen has been either creepy or irritating, like those ads that follow you around the Web long after you’ve lost interest in whatever the advertiser thinks you’re interested in. I want to customize Windows to my liking; I do not want Windows trying - and failing, usually - to adapt to me. That’s creepy AND irritating.

Windows 10 Privacy Dashboard

Mason goes on to claim that the changes are being made “based upon your feedback.” But if that was the case, Windows 10 would not send ANY data from my PC to Microsoft without asking my permission, every time. I would also have the option to tell Win 10, “Stop asking; just don’t send anything.” That would be simple; but Microsoft doesn’t want it simple. Instead, we’re getting two new complexities.

The first is a Microsoft privacy settings dashboard, a Web-based tool reminiscent of Google’s privacy and personal info Dashboard. The first thing to note is that you must have a Microsoft account to use this tool. “Don’t have a Microsoft account? Create one!” What if I don’t want a Microsoft account?

New Windows 10 Privacy Settings

Yes, Google works exactly the same way. You need a Google account to use its Dashboard. But Google, over the years, has made it very worthwhile to have a Google account. Microsoft just keeps demanding that I get a Microsoft account, and even tries to trick me into creating one during Win 10’s installation by hiding the option to “skip this step” of creating a Microsoft account. To be clear, you don’t need a Microsoft account to use Windows 10.

The second big change that Mason, et. al., are touting is “a new privacy set up experience (in Windows 10), simplifying Diagnostic data levels and further reducing the data collected at the Basic level.” That new experience will arrive sometime this Spring, and it will look a lot like this:

windows 10 privacy settings

This screen will accompany the Windows 10 Creators Update, a 4 GB package that will introduce many new features. It’s so huge that Microsoft will let users schedule its installation, rather than pushing it silently onto everyone’s device. Four gigs could put a lot of mobile users into the pay-per-megabyte part of their mobile data plans.

The privacy settings screen shown above will replace the “Express Settings” option in current Windows 10 installation routines. That tempting one-click option set all of these privacy and data collection settings to the most liberal (least private) modes available, and made it difficult to change them. Now all of these settings, and more, will be available in Win 10’s Privacy settings section.

Slide them all to the left to turn off as much data collection as possible.

“Telemetry” was a sinister bogey-man to many users. It’s now called Diagnostics, and when set at the Basic level it collects much less data than it did before the Creators Update. For example, Diagnostics no longer includes data on what apps you install and how you use them.

Overall, these privacy gains are welcome. But don’t believe that Microsoft is providing them because you, the consumer, asked for them. The company was facing legal action from the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the governments of France and Switzerland, and other governmental and non-governmental entities.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Windows 10 Makes Privacy Concessions"

(See all 29 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

john silberman
31 Jan 2017

Too little, too late. My WIN PC will remain WIN 7 until no longer supported. My two everyday go to PCs will remain Linux.

Posted by:

Jay R
31 Jan 2017

I have always believed that MS and altruism are mutually exclusive.

Posted by:

31 Jan 2017

For Greg, How much did you pay for windows 10? As Long as Microsoft can keep other people from peeping into my computer or my affairs, that is OK with me. I too write software/code for a living. I also been using Windows as I have been since 1988 when WINDOWS 3.1 came out. I try Linus once and uninstalled it instantly. I know hackers try mostly for Windows OS. But since of late they are going after all other OS since Windows has been giving them some problem.

So soon no OS will be spared from hackers.

Posted by:

Jim Gordon
31 Jan 2017

I read this article but I do not understand it.
What action should a computer novice like me take ?
I ordered your new "Back Up" book and am about half way through it. Good book.
Thanks jg

Posted by:

31 Jan 2017

Joe Farkas.....
Many thanks for the DoNotSpy10 tip.
I just installed it and it looks like an awesomely well built piece of software.
Kudos for the tip.

Posted by:

Top Squirrel
31 Jan 2017

I clicked on some of the links Bob gave and eventually wound up on a site in which a MS guy tried to explain and welcomed questions on any concerns on privacy.

Here's what I wrote:
Not so much a question but some suggestions and requests.

1) I don't want to get a Microsoft account to exercise privacy options. I don't want a Microsoft account under any circumstances. How can I avoid creating one while opting out of stuff I want out of? (And please make it transparent how people can do this. The choice should be the customer's and it should be a free choice.) And if one creates a Microsoft account for a particular purposes and, the purpose accomplished, closes it, does he have the option of erasing all the identifying data he submitted to open it? If not, why not?

2) I don't want to be told how my information is collected and used as much as I don't want my information to be collected in the first place. It is none of your business. Will you now please stop collecting it and calling home with it?

3) Why don't you have an option for 'total privacy'? I would welcome no less.

4) I declined the free upgrade from W7 to W10, though I shouldn't have had to find and delete the paragraph with a K number to do so on my own, which would have done it automatically had I left it intact, whether I wanted it to or not. I sent you an email asking for how to avoid an automatic upgrade. No answer. I had to find it in a newsletter. Will you in future ask your customers what they prefer before doing anything to their machines?

5) I found that paragraph with a K number on my systray after an Update. I later learned its purpose was to upgrade me to W10, without my permission. I then stopped downloading updates. Do you realize the cause and effect here?

6) I also have 8.1 on another computer, which I wish to downgrade to W7. Will you tell me the best way (or must I depend on outside sources)?

7) If ever W7 becomes impractical, I will go to Apple or Ubuntu. Do you realize this is in response to my need to protect my privacy against your ever-increasing encroachments? Do you realize one's privacy is worth a lot more than any conveniences you can provide?

If you would like to send them something similar, please draft your own wording from scratch. They asked for questions, so I forged my complaints "in the form of a question." One thing you can learn from some quiz shows.

Posted by:

Jr hengst
31 Jan 2017

I learned a long time ago how to get rig of add distraction. When I'm watching a tv show at the breaks I will search for things that I have no interest in or could not use even if I did. Doesn't stop the adds but if you have no interest in them they are not a distraction. I would love to see the data they sell to add people for me though.

Posted by:

31 Jan 2017

Bob, you begin today's story by saying: "Microsoft is making changes to Win 10 that please privacy advocates overall."
And you end by saying: "Overall, these privacy gains are welcome."
The technical details appear simple enough: just open a menu and turn off each option.
All of this sounds like good news to me.
How refreshing it would have been to read this story without the glass-half-empty tone!

Posted by:

Bruce McEachern
31 Jan 2017

How does one become a successful affiliate on the inter net?

Posted by:

31 Jan 2017

4 gigabytes? That's kind of ridiculous!

Posted by:

31 Jan 2017

I appreciate your information, your candor in the observations you make...and the fact that we think alike about most technology issues!

Posted by:

31 Jan 2017

Bob, great article. I would laugh about the statement from Microsoft that they are only listening to the feedback from US , computer users and our privacy concerns But, I'm too angry with their force feedings on their O/S.

Posted by:

31 Jan 2017

Bob - In this article you mention "those ads that follow you around the Web long after you’ve lost interest in whatever the advertiser thinks you’re interested in."

That action is triggered by "tracking pixels" that your web browser picks up when you visit an advertiser's web page. The pixels can be picked up by ANY web browser - regardless of the operating system you're using. Even Mac web browsers will pick them up.

Posted by:

01 Feb 2017

Switch to linux - problem solved.

Posted by:

Old Man
01 Feb 2017

As a follow-on to Mark (31 Jan 2017), I've been watching to see who is providing the ads following me around. All of them are from AdChoice. The ads are based on the person's IP address - which is not governed by MS (unless MS is the IP).
From my observations, the companies visited track the searches. Sometimes they share this information with other companies (Overstock being one). When your IP address connects, AdChoice selects ads associated with where the person visited. The selected ad then displays information regarding recent searches.
None of this is associated with any OS or browser. It is simply the function of the "improved shopping experience" currently used by so many companies.

Posted by:

Old Man
01 Feb 2017

Looking over the list in your screenshot, most of the items were already available, but not in so concise form.
Location, Speech recognition and Tailored experiences are already turned off.
To the best of my knowledge, Diagnostics (first introduced as User Experience) is limited. I get pop-ups asking if it OK for my computer to send reports to MS. I am able to view what is in the report and then say either yes or no. Since the screenshot didn't show the other option, I would not accept "Full".
The last one is new to me. Currently, the only ads (other than from AdChoice mentioned above) are in the MS downloaded applications. I would need to see the "Learn more", but would be inclined to select "Off".
The only information I am comfortable in sending to any software company concerns problems encountered. This information is rather benign and helps their troubleshooting. Also, nearly all the software I use gives me the option whether or not to send the information.
So, basically MS has taken several of the options people complained about having trouble finding and put them together in one place. From what I've read on other tech sites, that was a major complaint.

Posted by:

01 Feb 2017

You would think all we purveyors of privacy would get together to lobby congress for laws to protect our privacy. I think the companies benefiting from stealing our privacy have more of our money to spend filling the pockets of said politicians to keep that from happening. Just imagine no more Targeted Advertising. Maybe Microsoft will let the safe search option stay as you select instead of having to reset every time you close your browser. The privacy lobby is worth a shot though. I'm in. Just tell me when and where you guys are gonna meet to plan and get this privacy party started.

Posted by:

02 Feb 2017

Microsoft keeps annoying people that way.
The changes are their ideas not users.
I have disable all updates so there are no more changes but I am pretty sure that somehow there is a program undetected that connects to the mother-ship to send info.

Posted by:

Rudolph Gartner
03 Feb 2017

The privacy intrusions presented by Windows 10 were one big reason why I have not activated Cortana for interactive help and support.

Posted by:

04 Feb 2017

It would be nice to be able to use (interact with) Cortana (and/or Edge) but I had disabled them [somehow] during the early days of Win10Pro install and I prefer the peace-n-quiet as I have not seen any ads you people are talking about!
This one is OpenSource and does not limit its features to convince you to purchase a PAYware version.

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