Windows 10 – Is your privacy, your soul, worth the “free” price? And When does an upgrade become a downgrade?

Drone spying through window your living room. Privacy policy concept.

Summary: “All your data belongs to us.”

Will we be the gods? Will we be the family pets? Or will we be ants that get stepped on? I don’t know.’ – Steve Wozniak, Apple Founder

There are many reasons why Microsoft is offering Windows 10 for free…

People like free things and the whole Windows 10 roll-out implies revenue comes from harvesting data and providing it to advertisers, and other agencies, who’s non-productive “peeping-tom” jobs train them to want to know exactly what we are all up to; analyzing every nook and cranny of our otherwise private lives; such as our conversations with our spouses. The core of the Windows 10 issue regarding privacy seems to be right there. People want things “for free” and companies are more than happy to oblige, since people don’t mind paying with their privacy. Windows 10 has all sorts of user spying and profiling baked right in. Also, it might be logically stated that you, or a class action suit regarding everyone’s privacy, can’t be eventually thrown at Microsoft because this operating was given out “optionally” and “for free”.

All of Windows 10’s features that could be considered invasions of privacy are enabled by default. Sign into Windows with your Microsoft account and the operating system immediately synchronizes settings and data to the Microsoft’s servers. That includes your browsing history, saved favorites, and the websites you currently have open – in real-time – as well as saved application states, website and Wi-Fi network names, passwords and any mobile hotspot passwords. Signing in with your Microsoft email, Live or Outlook, account means Windows has access to your emails, contacts, and calendar data. The new Edge browser serves its users personalized ads. Even the Solitaire game is also tied into the mix and now comes with targetted ads. We are stunned that the settings, in fact, all default to “incredibly intrusive”. From experience, we know that almost for certain most average people will just accept the defaults despite any realization of any degree of risk and have no idea how much personal, business, and otherwise private information they are unwittingly and automatically giving away.

1. “Opting Out” of all these default settings requires navigating 13 different screens and a separate website; as many bloggers have already pointed out. You might be compelled to Go to Settings – Privacy and painstakingly go through all the 13 different screens and turn anything off which concerns you. ( If that really does anything anyhow except on the surface. ) The biggest, most universal settings are under ‘General’, while the other screens apparently allow you to choose which apps can and can’t access your calendar, messages, camera, mic, etc…

2. Depending on whether you’ve been finding it useful or not, you may want to go to Cortana’s settings and turn off everything there. If you use it, it will lock you into using Bing, and basically listen to and record everything you are saying.

Windows 10’s “Cortana” is basically a spy assistant.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 documents state: “ To enable Cortana to provide personalized experiences and relevant suggestions, Microsoft 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. “

Cortana also learns about you by analyzing how you use your device and other Microsoft services: such as your alarm settings, your music collection, what you view and purchase, your browse and Bing search history, “and more”. Lots of things can be interpreted in those two words “and more.” Also note that because Cortana analyzes your speech, Microsoft collects “your voice input, as well as your name and nickname, your recent calendar events and the names of people in your appointments, and information about your contacts including names and nicknames.” Cortana can’t function in such an auto-magical way that it does without being able to gobble up all that information. But it is worth being aware the degree of its access to you and your friends contact data.

If you haven’t already felt this, at this point in this article, Windows 10 privacy settings very much need to be ridiculed. Until these ‘features’ are turned off it is going to quietly track your behavior and use it to launch targeted ads at you, as well as keeping tabs on your location history, data from messages, contacts, calendars, and ‘who knows what else’. It is a bit scary, despite Microsoft’s own pledge to offer ‘real transparency’. What is meant by “transparent” there is really whatever you are doing -> has been made transparent to them.

Coming to our defense, at least in words, is EPIC and EFF:

EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a citizen’s privacy group, wants the US Federal Trade Commission to set strict standards and limitations on the use of storage and of personal information collected through Internet-connected cameras and microphones, including ones on your PC, especially PCs running Windows 10.

“We think it is misleading to only present the potential conveniences of this technology without also presenting the huge number of possible drawbacks, ” said Julia Horwitz, director of the center’s privacy project. “ Companies selling Internet-connected devices and apps should collect as little personal data as possible and quickly delete it once the information has served its purpose.” said Kristen Anderson, an attorney with the commission’s division of identity and privacy protection.

Back to Microsoft: it has “updated” its Privacy Policy & Service Agreement. The new services agreement goes into effect on 1 August 2015, only a couple of days after the launch of the Windows 10 operating system on 29 July. ( reference: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/privacystatement/default.aspx ) Microsoft’s updated terms also state that they collect basic information “from you and your devices, including for example “app use data for apps that run on Windows” and “data about the networks you connect to.”

The new “privacy dashboard” is presented to give the users a possibility to control their data related to various products in a centralized manner. Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, Horacio Gutierrez, wrote in a blog post that Microsoft believes “that real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand”.

We copied and pasted the Microsoft Privacy Statement & Services Agreement into “Word” and found that these “straightforward” and ‘easily understood’ policies are 22 and 23 pages long each.

Summing up these (22+23) 45 pages, one can say that Microsoft basically bestows upon itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write, with and on your devices in order to present more targeted advertising to you – or to sell your data and habits to third parties. The company appears to be presuming the right to share your information and profile either with your consent “or as necessary”.

By default, when signing into Windows with a Microsoft account, Windows syncs some of your settings and data with Microsoft servers, for example “web browser history, favorites, and websites you have open” as well as “saved app, website, mobile hotspot, and Wi-Fi network names and passwords”. But more problematic from a data protection perspective is that Windows generates a unique advertising ID for each user on a device. This advertising ID can be used by third parties, such as app developers and advertising networks for profiling purposes.

Your free speech rights can also be violated on an ad hoc basis as the company warns: “We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to”, for example, “protect their customers” or “enforce the terms governing the use of the services” “ In addition, we share personal data among Microsoft-controlled affiliates and subsidiaries. We also share personal data with vendors or agents working on our behalf for the purposes described in this statement. For example, companies we’ve hired to provide customer service support or assist in protecting and securing our systems and services may need access to personal data in order to provide those functions. In such cases, these companies must abide by our data privacy and security requirements and are not allowed to use personal data they receive from us for any other purpose. We may also disclose personal data as part of a corporate transaction such as a merger or sale of assets. ”

“ Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to:

1. Comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies;

2. Protect our customers, for example to prevent spam or attempts to defraud users of the services, or to help prevent the loss of life or serious injury of anyone;

3. Operate and maintain the security of our services, including to prevent or stop an attack on our computer systems or networks; or

4. Protect the rights or property of Microsoft, including enforcing the terms governing the use of the services – however, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property of Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves, but we may refer the matter to law enforcement. “

“ For Bing search queries, we de-identify stored queries by removing the entirety of the IP address after 6 months, and cookie IDs and other cross-session identifiers after 18 months. In Outlook.com, when your Deleted Items folder is emptied, those emptied items remain in our system for up to 30 days before final deletion.

Usage and connectivity data. Microsoft regularly collects basic information about your Windows device including usage data, app compatibility data, and network and connectivity information. This data is transmitted to Microsoft and stored with one or more unique identifiers that can help us recognize an individual user on an individual device and understand the device’s service issues and use patterns. The data we collect includes:

• Configuration data, including the manufacturer of your device, model, number of processors, display size and resolution, date, region and language settings, and other data about the capabilities of the device.
• The software (including drivers and firmware supplied by device manufacturers), installed on the device.
• Performance and reliability data, such as how quickly programs respond to input, how many problems you experience with an app or device, or how quickly information is sent or received over a network connection.
• App use data for apps that run on Windows (including Microsoft and third party apps), such as how frequently and for how long you use apps, which app features you use most often, how often you use Windows Help and Support, which services you use to sign into apps, and how many folders you typically create on your desktop.
• Network and connection data, such as the device’s IP address, number of network connections in use, and data about the networks you connect to, such as mobile networks, Bluetooth, and identifiers (BSSID and SSID), connection requirements and speed of Wi-Fi networks you connect to.
• Other hardware devices connected to the device. “

So much for clearly understandable and straightforward terms of service, when they could have just said: “All your data belongs to us.”

Microsoft Privacy Statement
https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/privacystatement/default.aspx
Microsoft Services Agreement
https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/servicesagreement/default.aspx

If there ever is to be another “Google” – it will be an AI-software company, probably born out of FaceBook that will aggregate all the data on everyone absorbed in from Google and Microsoft, and predict what everything is mostly likely doing at any time, where they are at, what their devices just hear them say most recently, etc. with all that information readily available to ‘trusted partners’ in the cloud. If you are using a smart-phone, your precise location is known to anybody – the point being: not only your friends, but your enemies too.

Can’t all of us work other for a different model of society? Realistically, that is up to you, whoever you are out there, together as a minority of people are not going to change the status-quo by themselves.

Conclusion:

In parallel with the Windows 10 launch we can see that recently a new subclass species of humans has been discovered and it has been given the name “Homo-trendsapien“.

The “Homo-trendsapien” blindly accepts the updates. Oblivious to the fact that everything that is said within earshot of their pc’s, tablet’s or cell phone’s microphone may be accurately turned into text in real-time and forever stored in the cloud. Why should they have any privacy at all? Have an argument with your wife or husband at home or anywhere? It’s all on the permanent record.

In the new Orwellian {in reference to George Orwell’s book 1984} world anything that you say can and will be held against you, as your device will be able to recognize and identify and externally log specifically when it hears you speaking. Oooh… the marvels and two-faces of high-tech! Welcome to it’s ever expanding universe of information. Oh Cortana you have no idea how much she learns from you too! Together with that, a form of asynchronous key-logger is known to be a key part of Windows 10. It’s free, because you, your profile, has now been turned in the commodity/product; not the shrink-wrapped OS anymore. You are to become “shrink”-wrapped; that is – psychologically profiled. Why should you care? There is no need to think for yourself. Don’t question your reality. Just be trendy – most everyone is doing it. Assimilate into the new subclass species of the “Homo-trendsapien”! It’s the new normal.

4GoodHosting respects your Canadian privacy rights.

p.s. Please inform others of what Windows 10 really means to them.

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