Microsoft heralded the arrival of Windows 10 with much fanfare. People around the world have been eager try out the new platform, and there were some 14 million installations in the first 24 hours alone.
However, several privacy and security concerns have come to light since the release, ranging from WiFi password sharing to the sort of data Microsoft gathers on users and how it may be shared.
V3 has provided a breakdown of these concerns, and what you can do about them, to help you enjoy Windows 10 without any worries.
What are the concerns?
Where to start? Essentially the terms and conditions of Windows 10 give Microsoft the chance to gather huge amounts of information on users, often without them being aware of what they’ve agreed to hand over.
So, for example, Microsoft’s privacy notice for the ‘speech, inking and typing’ technology in Windows 10 says that it will collect “your typed and handwritten words” to improve its character recognition.
It adds: “Some of this data is stored on your device and some is sent to Microsoft to help improve these services.”
Similarly if you use Cortana, Microsoft’s ‘personal assistant’, there’s a whole host of information that Microsoft “collects and uses” as you use the tool.
“[This includes] your device location information and location history, contacts (People), voice input, searching history, calendar details, content and communication history from messages and apps, and other information on your device,” Microsoft states.
Another area that has already attracted criticism is the WiFi Sense feature. This lets you share encrypted WiFi passwords with social media contacts, effectively allowing them to use your network without having to know your password.
This feature requires users to share the networks they want to be made available, but the sharing of passwords itself is done automatically when Windows 10 is installed in Express mode.
Wait, it gets worse
Perhaps the section that has generated the most concern is related to how and when Microsoft could share data on your Windows use - and not just Windows 10 but all Windows versions.
"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," the company says.
Microsoft does this for four reasons: to comply with law enforcement requests, "protect customers", maintain the security of its own services and "protect the rights or property of Microsoft".
What can I do about this?
Microsoft is clear about the way you can stop some of this data collection in the settings tab on your device. Just head to the Settings section and then Privacy, and you can select specifically which services you are happy to share data from (pictured).
Another option is to disable Cortana entirely although, given that this is one of the major new features of Windows 10, it seems a shame to have to do this. However, for those who’d rather keep their computer habits to themselves, turning it off is likely to be the preferred course of action.
What has irked so many people is that the ‘Express’ installation settings for Windows 10 put all data collection on as default.
This will be the method most people choose to install Windows 10, so many will be unaware just how much data they have agreed to hand over to Microsoft.
What’s Microsoft saying about all this?
As well as the privacy statement Microsoft has tried to downplay the concerns, claiming that the collection of data is done only for the good of the user.
“To effectively provide Windows as a service, Microsoft gathers some performance, diagnostic and usage information that helps keep Windows and apps running properly,” the firm said in a statement. “Microsoft uses this information to identify problems and develop fixes.”
This is certainly true, as gathering masses of information about its services will undoubtedly lead to their improvement, and allow the fixing of problems. It is something that most popular services employ.
However, this is unlikely to convince privacy-conscious users that it's worth providing quite so much information to Microsoft.
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