Digital Transformation

Windows 10 under fire over privacy settings

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By Tony Connelly | Sports Marketing Reporter

August 3, 2015 | 3 min read

Users are concerned by the degree of data collection and how it is used

Windows 10 has come under attack over privacy after it emerged that default settings in the operating system were compromising users’ privacy.

Days after the successful launch of the software, which saw 14 million installs in the first 24 hours, hundreds of users on sites such as Hacker News and Reddit criticised the new operating system for compromising their privacy.

It has emerged that the default settings in Microsoft 10 sends users’ personal information to Microsoft, uses bandwidth to upload data to other computers running the operating system, shares Wi-Fi passwords with online friends and removes the ability to opt out of security updates.

Many of the complaints are based on the new personalised adverts embedded in Windows 10. Once the OS has been installed, users are assigned a unique advertising ID which is tied to the email address registered with the company which is connected to productivity and communication programs, as well as app downloads and cloud-storage uploads. Microsoft then uses the email account to personalise ads to the user.

Another of the main points of contention among some users is the data collection harvested in order to feed Microsoft’s built-in personal digital assistant, Cortana, information about the user, device location, data from calendar, apps used, data from emails and text messages, calls, contacts and how often they are interacted with on the device is all collected by Microsoft.

While users have the option to opt out of most of the data collection critics maintain that this is not clear enough. Alec Meer, of gaming website Rock Paper Shotgun said on his website that “there is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different settings screens and an external website constitutes ‘real transparency’.”

A significant amount of Microsoft’s revenue depends on the success of Windows 10 which, along with Office productivity suite and software for web servers, is one of the three main sources of revenue and income for the company.

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