A recent Forbes article went up on their site detailing Microsoft’s current situation with Windows 10 telemetry data, which the company says is sent to them to help diagnose issues pertaining to Windows 10 and the core apps and programs that users make use of on the OS. The narrative surrounding this issue is that Microsoft believes this way is better than relying on the older Windows Error Reporting system that was present up to Windows 8.1, but many users are suggesting that it’s a breach of their privacy. A bigger problem is that even after turning off all of these things in the Services panel, those parts of the OS are still active and still sending out telemetry data despite you expressly forbidding them to do so. Hit the jump for more.
“In the cases where we’ve not provided options, we feel that those things have to do with the health of the system,” said Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft, in response to Forbes’ questions. “In the case of knowing that our system that we’ve created is crashing, or is having serious performance problems, we view that as so helpful to the ecosystem and so not an issue of personal privacy, that today we collect that data so that we make that experience better for everyone.”
At this point, there’s no way to completely turn off the calls that Windows 10 makes to the mothership over the internet. Even if you’re making use of the Professional version of Windows 10, those same restrictions are still in place. You’d have to be an enterprise customer to make use of the Enterprise version, which allows you to turn off telemetry data completely via Group Policy. Microsoft collects absolutely no data from its corporate customers, which makes sense – having PCs sending telemetry data to Microsoft from a network that is supposedly secure is a breach of security and privacy for the company using Windows 10.
As a personal or small business user, Microsoft doesn’t care about your concerns of privacy or security, despite the fact that you might have the same requirements as, say, IBM. The message, at its core, is that you can either stick with Windows 7 or 8.1 and have Windows Update disabled, or move to a different platform which doesn’t have these issues.
Towards the end of the Forbes piece is a note about the kinds of shenanigans Microsoft has been pulling with Windows 10 lately. I’ve known about these for a while, but was waiting to see if developments at Microsoft may have changed their thinking. So far, this is what Windows 10 Home and Pro are allowed to do by default:
- Control your bandwidth usage to seed updates to other Windows 10 computers on the internet
- Install any software apps and updates that Microsoft claims are critical to Windows 10’s stability or security
- Display advertising in the Start menu with or without your consent
- Hide details of application and OS updates from you without reason
- Bump you up to newer versions of Windows 10 without your permission
- Send details about your computer and how you use it to Microsoft
- Log and save your browser history, favourites, and searches from Edge
- Log anything and everything you’ve ever said or typed to Cortana
Some of these things can be turned off, I should note. Seeding updates over your internet connection to other computers is governed by the advanced setting in the Update and Security menu (Win+I, then Update and Security, then Advanced options, then Choose how updates are delivered, then turn it off). If you go back to the landing page for Settings, and then go into the Privacy section, there’s a bunch of stuff you can turn off if you wish. Some of it is useful, much of it isn’t. I do advise to keep your advertising options set to optimise, because at least you won’t see ridiculous, unrelated adverts for things you’d never be interested in anyway.
As far as consumer privacy goes, Windows 10 steps over several boundaries that edge dangerously close to practically scanning your hard drive for anything that might interest Microsoft or local authorities. The same telemetry data is backported to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, and you likewise can’t turn off those core services either, even though they may say they’re disabled in the Services control panel. Microsoft even plans to make Windows 10 a recommended update for Windows 7 and 8.1 early next year, in a bid to get users to upgrade before the free upgrade period is over, and already pre-loads the OS install files for later use if you have Windows Update enabled.
Its getting harder and harder to justify my recommendation that people upgrade to Windows 10 with all the strange decisions Microsoft has been making lately. If you’re uneasy about any of this and haven’t yet gotten your free upgrade, rather wait until the upgrade offer is over before making your decision.