In Defense of Windows 10’s Data Collection

In Defense of Windows 10’s Data Collection

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Windows 10 is now running on more than 14 million devices worldwide since the software began rolling out on July 29, saving users’ Bing search information, private email content and the apps they access, along with “your typed and handwritten words”.

Do a casual search for “Windows 10 collecting my data” and you’ll find all kinds of crazy pieces claiming that the sky is falling with Windows 10. Afterall, who in their right mind would give away their operating system for free unless they get something in return?

The first thing that really makes these kinds of claims just sound unjustified is that there are laws in the U.S. against such practices. Specifically the Federal Trade Commission Act which — among other things — “prohibits unfair or deceptive practices and has been applied to offline and online privacy and data security policies” (see more in this great Practical Law article).

But the Telegraph article itself lists exactly what Microsoft is collecting and tells you exactly how to turn it off if you like. Here’s what they collect:

  • Search queries submitted to Bing
  • A voice command to Cortana
  • Private communications including email content
  • Information from a document uploaded to OneDrive
  • Requests to Microsoft for support
  • Error reports
  • Information gathered from cookies
  • Data collected from third parties

I actually think this list is not specific enough. I don’t believe, for example, that they are collecting information “gathered from cookies” generated from the Chrome browser, but rather the new Edge browser. Further, I highly doubt they are collecting “private communications including email content” when those emails are your Gmail account. Instead, I believe they are scanning your email content from Outlook.

All together that means that they are scanning data from services that they provide in order to improve their products.

As a product guy, I know how important information like that is to making the products better. I often say that when it comes to advertising Americans want to have their cake and eat it too. We get upset if Amazon — for example — suggests books or movies that we have absolutely no interest in, but we also complain when they want to collect the data necessary to make better recommendations.

In the case of Windows 10, there are several notes I make personally:

  • They are collecting a lot more information than in previous versions
  • I don’t like that most of it is “opt-in”, they should first get permission before enabling that communication
  • But at the end of the day, the data isn’t to invade your personal life (because really, no one cares), but to improve their products.

So let’s all take a big deep breath and be thankful that there are laws that protect our privacy, trust that giant corporations really don’t care about the intimate details of your life, and be thankful that your computers can run much more reliably and safely because of these efforts.

Source: The Telegraph

Author: mathetos

I'm a historian, web developer, musician, culture-lover who wants to help you get stuff done. I love public dialog (aka blogging) -- particularly when related to religion and/or politics. I love helping non-profits and academic institutions or professionals create online mediums for learning. Bottom line: I wear a lot of hats, choose one and I'll help you out.

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