Functions of information gathering in Windows 10 – is there any reason for concern?
According to Microsoft, for the first 24 hours after the official debut of Windows 10 the system was installed more than 14 million devices. No doubt this is largely due to the new marketing strategy, which effectively managed to attract the attention of users and specialized press. Unfortunately, many «experts» (I would rather call them seekers of cheap sensations) did not fail to take advantage of the popularity of Windows 10. As a result, if you have been following tech news lately, you might get the impression that Microsoft has not released a new version of the most popular desktop OS in the world, and a new and extremely dangerous kind of superspy.
I have tried to explain this question, but obviously, many users still fear that Windows 10 will monitor their every action under a magnifying glass. Really it is not so, and therefore let’s look at this question again.
Is there cause for concern?
One word: «No!». Yes, by default, Windows 10 collects and sends some information to Microsoft servers. However, much of this data is intended only to improve the consumer service. Moreover, the company tried to form the most clear and transparent policy on this issue back when it was released the first technical preview of Windows 10. In other words, Microsoft never hid their intentions to include the information-gathering mechanisms to the new operating system is something that can not be with confidence said about several other companies that have long used this practice.
In addition, as I emphasized in the previous text on this subject, Windows 10 provides the ability to configure the level of privacy, that is, if you wish, you can disable a significant part of monitoring functions, or at least significantly limit them if they bother you. However, in parallel, I pointed out that to a certain extent this will limit functionality of the operating system. Here’s why.
You can’t have contextual Windows without providing context
Let’s start with probably the most annoying (according to many users) data acquisition used for the purposes of the so-called «targeted advertising.»
During the installation of Windows 10 assigns the computer a unique identification code. Its purpose is to specify your system and you as a unique user for marketing purposes, ie to show you ads that will most accurately reflect your interests, needs and desires. It should be also noted that this practice is used not only in Windows 10 – across. A significant portion of the sites on the Internet use targeting for many years. Have you ever noticed that, for example, after searches of a particular book, when you later go to another website, on its pages you show ads of other novels from the same author? The principle is the same, and particularly aggressively used by companies such as Facebook, Google and Yandex.
In other words – to put an end to this practice need to stop using the Internet. At the same time, objectively speaking, the target is actually there is nothing wrong. Deactivating the function of the unique identifier (advertising ID), you will save yourself from ads, it just is more chaotic, totally random, useless and uninteresting.
Finally, let me stress that Windows 10 does not actually contain ads. The operating system includes only the functions for the different applications running under its control, to direct specific ads to specific users – just do the alternative type Android and iOS.
Oh, this cortana!
Most often that «it follows» people accuse the virtual assistant built into Windows 10. The fact that Cortana is designed to be able to self-learn. That is, it uses information collected over time to become more flexible, intelligent and helpful, trying to anticipate the specific needs of the user. For example, if you use it to search for a ticket to Barcelona, it will provide you have travel card with local attractions will allow you to see the weather on the coast of Catalonia and information on local customs and mores.
For this, however, Cortana needs access to your calendar events, information about your geographic location, information about your eating habits and so on. In other words, if you want context-oriented services, you will not be able to get them without giving a certain amount of context. For example, if you want cortana intelligently respond to queries such as «Show all mails from Ivan, which I have not yet read» before you will have to let her explore your Inbox and deal with correspondence.
Cortana does nothing more than alternatives like Google Now or Siri, which, incidentally, exist for much longer. Moreover, in contrast cortana offers more options for fine-tuning, including the ability to turn off part or all of the functions of the collection of certain information about the user.
Watching your every word
According to the mentioned in the beginning of the «experts», the next most disturbing practice used in Windows 10 is a record of every key pressed, every mouse click, any voice command or entered by hand text. The new operating system is even called a digital «Big Brother» that controls our every move on the computer.
The truth, however, is different. Microsoft denies that Windows 10 collects such data. Functions that do this, you will find in the menu «Privacy» in the section «Speech, handwriting and text input». They are all connected with Cortana, and their task is to help her better «to recognize your voice and handwriting to provide you with better suggestions and recommendations.»
Presented in a vague context, the idea of voice recording, handwritten or typed on the keyboard text sounds bad. In fact, the data collected help the Corporation in improving models of voice recognition, and handwritten notes, which, undoubtedly, will be useful to millions of users. In addition, the company wanted to make the collected data was the most anonymous and could not be traced back to the person from whom they were collected.
Here is an excerpt from the official statement of Microsoft on this issue:
Part of the collected data is stored locally on the device, and some information is sent to the company’s servers. All data sent to Microsoft, are a serious treatment, in which within a few cycles erases all the fields that can be used to reverse identify them as: email addresses, passwords, and other alphanumeric data.
If you think this is logical and anything else the company has to say, and could not – perhaps Microsoft would like to integrate in your software the controversial tracking algorithms that violate strict laws on security of personal information that apply in many countries. Otherwise it would mean at least a series of high-profile lawsuits against the company, which Microsoft certainly I tried hard to avoid.
In General, Yes, Windows 10 is watching, but no cause for concern just yet. On the one hand, Microsoft has taken precautions to prevent the loss of confidential user information – a scenario that would have caused a storm of legal and financial problems for the company. On the other hand, the operating system offers clearly indicated the possibility of limitation or exclusion of built-in functions for monitoring and gathering information. Thus, if the surveillance Windows 10 still gives you peace of mind, despite the explanation in the text, just go to Privacy and disable them.