Already some pretty serious privacy concerns have been identified in the Windows 10 operating system. I’ve looked at the actual release of Windows 10 (not the preview) for this blog post, and found the whole operating system is infestated with invasive ‘features’. My original intention to post a definitive guide to configuring Windows 10 for privacy would have been a lost cause.
Basically Microsoft took Windows 8 and backdoored the shit out of it in every way possible. Actually, it’s worse: what we have is an operating system that informs on its users. By default, without doing a custom installation, Windows will send contacts, calendar entries, locations, keystrokes, voice, advertising ID, browser downloading activity, browsing activity and information about the local network to Microsoft. It’s almost like Microsoft caught onto what people tolerate, and took it to a whole new level.
We don’t yet know whether all this might be done covertly, should certain features be disabled, but the capability itself is there – you’ll find it referred to as ‘Microsoft Family‘. It’s not really a great leap to go from that to surreptitious monitoring of adults.
Even if Microsoft did all this without the intention of spying on users, Windows 10 most certainly will be used as a surveillance asset by the three/four-letter agencies, whether Microsoft likes it or not. Peoples’ rights will be violated. As for other third-parties Microsoft might deal with, just look at the near catastrophic data breaches that happened over the last 18 months.
Advertising ID (Or a Euphemism for Something Else)
Interesting to note the ‘privacy statement’ makes a reference to an Advertising ID that’s assigned to each user account for profiling user behaviour in the desktop and across applications. Apparently it’s for targeted advertising.
Maybe this is a dumb question, but seriously, what the hell is this doing in an operating system? People who install Windows 10 want an operating system, not a targeted advertising platform. This is the one feature that would have had people kicking off just a few years ago.
Cortana and Web Search
Remember the fuss about Ubuntu’s interface sending desktop search queries to Amazon? Roughly the same thing happens with the Windows 10 desktop search. If you search for applications or features, the desktop also makes a web search. Thankfully this part is easy enough to switch off.
For reasons best known to Microsoft developers, the old Vista-style Control Panel menu and a new SETTINGS panel have both been included in Windows 10. Just so you know there are two control panels.
In the main SETTINGS panel, there is an entire section grouping the privacy-related options. There are indeed a lot of things that need reviewing and deactivating here.
Personally I use a ‘default deny’ strategy for stuff like this – deactivating all options, then re-enabling options only as required.
Most people don’t know what an operating system does underneath the desktop interface. A GUI can be made to present false information, so a feature isn’t necessarily deactivated just because a GUI says so. Just something to consider.
Microphone and Camera Settings
I’m naturally paranoid about this, so much that I tape over the camera on my laptop. Most the Camera and Microphone options are both enabled and grayed out, which might have been intentional to give the impression those features are disabled. In this case, enable the main option, deactivate all the others off, then disable it again.
The above are just half the problems, which is a shame because initially it seemed like a very promising successor to Windows 8.1. Can we use Windows 10 and maintain a semblance of privacy? Probably not.
Windows 10 should have been a really attractive upgrade, but what Microsoft did with it is just way too disturbing and invasive. Thanks, but no thanks.