Windows 10: Microsoft Fails To Address All Privacy Concerns

Windows 10 has been "live" for two months now, and adoption appears to be going relatively well, especially when compared to its predecessor, 8.1. However, a number of critics have attacked the Windows 10 privacy policy, finding that some services appear to communicate, even when turned off, such as Cortana and OneDrive.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the amount of discussion around the new features of Windows 10, and how they relate to privacy, Microsoft took to the official Windows 10 blog this week to address users' concerns.

Official Windows Blog - Windows 10 Privacy
Official Windows Blog
"From the very beginning, we designed Windows 10 with two straightforward privacy principles in mind:
  1. Windows 10 collects information so the product will work better for you.
  2. You are in control with the ability to determine what information is collected."
The Verge has reported extensively on the Windows 10 privacy concerns since launch, and confirmed that their concerns over disabled apps continuing to communicate with Microsoft, "sending data after they're disabled," had not been addressed by Myerson's official statement on Windows 10 privacy. A couple of positive changes to Windows 10 are reported, however, including more advanced settings to allow for different needs for parents using the "family features" to manage teenagers' accounts and those of younger children.

Microsoft also noted that they have been able to fix some Windows 10 crashes "within 24 hours" of being reported by users because of the data collected in crash reports, whilst taking care to avoid collecting personally identifiable information as part of the process.

This ability to fix issues quickly, paired with the automatic rollout of updates to Windows 10, should be good for users, in theory, as it will result in more stable systems and the faster elimination of bugs and security issues in Windows 10.

Mashable also praises Microsoft for having a "transparent conversation" about its privacy standards, describing the discussion about Windows 10 privacy an "important one." They also discuss some of the important uses of personalization in Windows 10, such as the ability of the handwriting software to get used to common corrections and preferred phrases used by the end-user. Without the ability to improve handwriting and voice recognition, Windows 10 would offer an inferior experience when compared to Android, for example.

The differences in privacy practices between Windows 10 and Google, Apple, et al., were also noted by Mashable with the software giant largely in line with the policies of the industry as a whole -- using personalization to improve user experience, and avoiding personally identifiable information. One significant difference is noted. Windows 10 will not scan your email, communications, or files in order to show you targeted ads. This is in stark contrast to Gmail, for example, which is built and monetized with this premise ingrained in its DNA.

Enterprise users can also expect further enhancements to the Windows 10 privacy settings, with CNET confirming that a "future update" will allow users to turn off all "unsolicited communication". This will address the concerns of some security-conscious enterprise users who could have faced regulatory issues over some of the information shared by Windows 10 by default, or at the very least would have had to audit the implications and nature of all those communications to assess the risk.

Microsoft acknowledges that Windows 10 privacy is an ongoing discussion, and welcomes users to submit their Windows 10 privacy comments, thoughts, and concerns to them here. They also took the opportunity to continue to welcome users onto their Insider program, where Windows 10 Insiders can have a "detailed dialogue" with Microsoft as well as testing new versions of the operating system.

Windows Insider Program: Windows 10 Laptop
Windows Insider Program: Windows 10 Laptop

While it's disappointing that only some concerns were addressed in this Windows 10 privacy update, there are a lot of positives. Microsoft's willingness to engage the growing Windows 10 community with open discussion and an ethos that revolves around improving the product and building trust bodes well for the future.

[Image Sources: Microsoft Press Center, Windows Blog, Windows Insider Program]