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Microsoft Throws Away Respect For Privacy With Its Windows 10

by Felix Omondi
Microsoft Throws Away Respect For Privacy With Its Windows 10

It has been barely a week since the much-anticipated July 29th launch of Windows 10, and security experts are already crying foul play by Microsoft with its Windows 10. You might have been pleased when you heard that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows users using the genuine copy of the Windows 7 and Windows 8.

However, like most other freemium software, you should expect to be bombarded with advertisement here and there. The free Windows 10 is no exception, and Microsoft has taken it a notch higher. Some would argue Microsoft has taken the freemium software to the level of other mobile operating systems; supposedly at the level of Google’s Android.

There are hundreds of commenters on platforms such as Reddit and Hacker News criticizing Windows 10 default settings that send users’ personal information to Microsoft. By default the operating system also uploads data to other computers running Windows 10; it also shares Wi-Fi passwords with users’ contacts and does not include the option of opting out of Microsoft’s security updates.

Most users complain about the new personalized ads that are embedded in Windows 10. When a user installs the OS, Microsoft assigns the user a special advertising ID linked to the email address the user used to register the OS. That email address also becomes associated with the Company’s others services like communication programs, cloud-storage uploads, app downloads and other productivity tools.

Using the data harvested by Windows 10 from a particular user, Microsoft can personalize ads to target that specific user. Users then get bombarded with personalized ads whenever they are surfing the web, downloading apps from Windows Store among other app usage. Even Microsoft’s long-standing game the Solitaire has now become a freemium game used to sell unskippable video ads.

However, not all information collected by Microsoft through Windows 10 is used for creating personalized ads. Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana relies on this collected information to be able to give users a better experience when they rely on the digital assistant for assistance.

Microsoft says Cortana “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.”

Although Microsoft has given users the ability to opt out of most of the data collection, critics argue that is hardly enough. As cited in The Guardian, one Alec Meer of gaming website Rock Paper Shortgun 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.

There is no world in which 45 pages of policy document and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes ‘real transparency’.”

The European Digital Rights Organization (EDRi) has described the 45 paged Terms and Conditions as: “Microsoft basically grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write with and on your devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties.”

With Windows 10, Microsoft is moving towards what has been the accepted norm. All thanks to mobile operating systems and their associated digital assistant like Google Now and Siri. They require access to user’s personal information to provide personalized responses. Additionally both Apple and Google gives developers the ability to deliver to users personalized ads based on the information collected by their installed apps.

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