Windows 10 and Privacy: What You Need to Know


August 5, 2015

Windows 10 and Privacy, Now: What You Need to Know


The most anticipated Windows 10 has started to roll out since July 29. After Windows 8 missed the market, IT pros and enthusiasts were looking for a number of improvements the latter has failed to provide.


Upgrading to Windows 10 requires at least Windows 7 and internet connection to download the 3 Gb installation files. The OS version will depend on the predecessor you use. Several reviews states transition between the versions is just a breeze and most applications are compatible. The move has been made online and is silent unlike the previous versions. New in-house useful applications are also installed, including Cortana and the all-new browser, Edge. There are also significant performance improvements.


Windows 10 will be the last operating system from Microsoft and that future upgrades will be done automatically online (same as Apple's Mac).


But there are some serious concerns about Windows 10 – security and privacy. Microsoft has been heavily bombarded with criticisms on vague privacy statements as everybody else gets into the cloud. And as the saying goes, “The more you get online, the more you get less secured”. That is true with Microsoft.



"Everything" is Backed-Up on the Cloud


If you logged in with your Windows account, your contacts, browser history and favorites and saved apps are automatically backed-up including your BitLocker password. This may sound very convenient. This feature is enabled by default and can lead to more serious privacy issues that we will discuss below.



They will assign you a unique advertisement ID


They will give you a unique advertisement ID so that companies can follow you and monitor your location, preferences and site visits. In return, they will flash personalized advertisements while you browse, or on most of your Windows apps, or in house-built games such as Solitaire. It comes with unskippable ad videos too -- that could be very annoying. Pop-up ads at the corners on your online screen based on your movement on the internet.



Cortana Collects Your Data


Cortana is a personal assistant introduced in Windows. As it implies, it gathers personal user data to provide its services. Same as the activity from advertisement IDs, it collects and sends data including ones in your email and text messages, your contacts and how you interact with them (when and where).



Wifi-Sense Shares your Passwords With Your Contacts


Windows has a useful but security-flawed feature, Wifi-Sense. It basically syncs your wifi passwords to the clouds with your contacts (such as Outlook or Facebook), and also your friends' to share it with you. For example, if you walk into your friends' office which has a network they shared using Wifi-Sense, you will get instantly connected.


It transmits the encrypted version though, not the exact password you type, but a hacker might still compromise the security of your computer or network.


El Reg of pointed out that:


That sounds wise (Wifi-Sense) -- but we’re not convinced how it will be practically enforced: if a computer is connected to a protected Wi-Fi network, it must know the key. And if the computer knows the key, a determined user or hacker will be able to find it within the system and use it to log into the network with full access.”


You Cannot Turn Off Windows Update


Keeping on track with updates for Windows is a good idea to keep your PC posted, patching security holes, and improving user experience. But Microsoft has a reputation creating its own “rights” to gather customers' data. And by installing and agreeing their policy such as some stated below, Windows can keep up with your privacy.



No Clear Definition on Privacy


We can call this 'cream of the crap'. Most of the services we cite above can be turned off (opt-out) using privacy settings, but Microsoft's privacy policy isn't telling anyone about these issues by default on installation that most average users don't like. More importantly, the policy has clauses that Microsoft can clearly collect your data including private files and folders.


As Alec Meer of Rock Paper Shotgun told out,


“Microsoft simply aren’t making it clear enough that they’re doing this, how it might affect you and how to opt out – despite chest-thumping, we’re-all-chums-here talk about how ‘real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand. There is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes ‘real transparency’.”


Microsoft will disclose your data whenever they want:


“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 protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services.”



These are some loopholes IT experts have found with tha latest version of Windows, thus. we recommend Linux distributions such as Ubuntu or Elementary OS.


Have you tried Windows 10? You can share your experience on our Facebook Page.