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windows 10 spying you


October 25, 2015

Windows 10 is Spying on you

By Mark Wachtler

October 25, 2015. Redmond, WA. (ONN) Microsoft has long been one of America’s most hated corporations. It’s also one of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful. But lately, consumers have had enough of its price gouging, monopolies and predatory practices. Internet Explorer is all but abandoned by the world. And Windows 8 was so hated, Windows 9 doesn’t even exist. So Microsoft has been giving Windows 10 away free. But are you actually paying for it another way – by letting the corporation spy on you?

Is Windows 10 spying on you? Most experts say yes. Image courtesy of SolariumTechPark.com.

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For every tech expert that claims Microsoft Windows 10 is NOT spying on you, there are ten that insist it is. Excerpts from the product’s user agreement and statements by corporate executives would suggest the majority is correct.

The spying that Windows 10 is accused of is nowhere near as bad as last year’s revelations about the Amazon Fire smart phones and TV boxes. They weren’t only sending audio recordings of all your conversations while on the phone, but off as well. They didn’t just keep copies of all the pictures you took for their own use, but the phones and TV boxes were actually recording the sounds around your hardware and taking pictures without your knowledge, including inside your home.

Read the Whiteout Press article, ‘Amazon Fire Devices are spying inside US Homes’ for more information.

Windows 10 is spying on you

The accusations made against Windows 10 regarding its spyware aren’t as bad as those leveled against Amazon. In fact, some claim Microsoft isn’t spying at all. But the majority of technology experts say they are. And Microsoft announced recently that 110 million devices have already downloaded and installed the new free operating system. Should they be worried?

One of the first warnings came three months ago from the technology publication BG Report. ‘There’s something you should know,’ the tech experts warn, ‘Windows 10 is also spying on nearly everything you do.’ The authors quote a section of Microsoft’s overall Privacy Policy to prove the corporation can spy on you and harvest your data if it wants to.

From the Microsoft privacy policy, ‘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.’

BG Report concludes its warning by reminding its readers that the popular new voice-driven assistant Cortana is run by Windows 10. ‘Users should consider dumping Cortana,’ they suggest, ‘Yes, the voice-driven assistant is easily one of the best new features in Windows 10, but it also plays fast and loose with your data. As a result, many users will find that the benefits do not outweigh the risks.’

Newsweek agrees

14 million people or devices downloaded and installed Windows 10 in the opening hours after it first became available in July. But after the well known publication Newsweek investigated the accusations of spying, they warned that most users aren’t aware of what they got themselves into.

Newsweek wrote, ‘Tucked away in the 45 pages’ worth of terms and conditions is a substantial power grab: The company is collecting data on much of what you do while using its new software. From the moment an account is created, Microsoft begins watching. The company saves customers’ basic information – name, contact details, passwords, demographic data and credit card specifics – but it also digs a bit deeper.’

The publication goes on to warn, ‘Other information Microsoft saves includes Bing search queries and conversations with the new digital personal assistant Cortana; contents of private communications such as email; websites and apps visited (including features accessed and length of time used); and contents of private folders.’

Supporters of Windows 10 respond

It didn’t take long for a small handful of tech writers to come to Microsoft’s defense by insisting Windows 10 is not spying on you. One of them was ZD Net, which countered its own warning about the spyware only days earlier. But rather than argue that Windows 10 isn’t spying, the authors only hand-picked the wildest of online warnings and their unfounded use of words like ‘everything’ when describing what the operating system records and saves about you.

‘The bizarre belief that Windows 10 is a spying tool keeps popping up among conspiracy theorists,’ ZD Net reports, ‘But there’s no risk that Microsoft is gathering the contents of your local hard disk and sending it to anyone. Zero.’ The authors go on to assure readers that Microsoft only uses and accesses your hard drive if they are forced to by the NSA or the courts.

‘So yes, if you send and receive email using Microsoft’s consumer services or store files in OneDrive, there’s a risk that a court could issue Microsoft a subpoena compelling them to hand over that information,’ the publication concedes. But others have clearly shown that Windows 10 collects and keeps nearly every keystroke, sound and image it can from you. Microsoft admittedly uses that information to bring users more relevant ads and to adjust the auto-complete function to each user’s speech patterns.

The new industry norm

Most importantly, not only is Microsoft spying on you, so are most of the world’s largest tech corporations. While comparing the Windows 10 spyware to other technology favorites, publications across the technology industry confirm that Amazon and Google are doing similar things. Cortana isn’t just logging everything you say, so is Siri.

The Newsweek article was just one that warned, ‘Though possibly surprising to some, the company’s data collection practices fit within the industry’s new normal. Google’s Privacy Terms, for instance, show that the tech giant is also analyzing the content of users’ emails to provide a better, more personalized product, it claims.’

Critics of Microsoft’s Windows 10 spyware advise that the company automatically opts-in users to the spying program. But they can also opt-out. Others offer quick installs and patches that block the spyware in Windows 10.

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