Turns out, Windows X is spying on just about everything you do. The funny thing is, they seem to have left avenues open for users to opt out of it, and they're
Well, here is Microsoft’s 12,000-word service agreement. Some of it is probably in English. We’re pretty sure it says you can’t steal Windows or use Windows to send spam, and also that Microsoft retains the right to take possession of your first-born child if it so chooses. And that’s only one of several documents you’ll have to read through.(Since a Dilbert cartoon about it ages ago, instead of joking about "Microsoft retains the right to take possession of your first-born child", we always refer to agreeing to be Bill Gates' towel boy). The tech site Rock Paper Shotgun (great name!) has a good feature article on the ways to try to get some of your privacy back and a good perspective on what's going on. When Microsoft says "Free Windows X", they're using the word in the new internet sense: if something you're using is free, you're what's being sold.
Conventional wisdom has it that Microsoft’s fight for technological relevance is against Apple. For a time that was true, but as of late they’ve effectively ceded the floor to the Cupertino mob when it comes to hardware (although I hope the Surface Pro line continues – I’m a big fan) and have once again narrowed their computing focus to software. The battle there is against Google, whose search, browser and productivity tools increasingly form a loose, web-based operating system. People aren’t so hot on paying for things these days, which means the money comes from harvesting data and flogging it to advertisers and other organisations who want to know exactly what we’re all up to online. Microsoft want a piece of that, so if you ever wondered why they’ve made the Windows 10 upgrade free to Win 7 & 8 users, here’s one possible answer. Windows 10 has all sorts of user tracking baked right in.As unsettling as that might be if you're expecting even a little privacy, there are also reports (another) that some of the Windows X tracking tools are being pushed into the automatic updates that Windows 7 and 8 users are getting, too. They've changed the "Terms of Service Agreement" for their Windows Store and given themselves the right to sniff you're computer's butt to detect and uninstall any pirated first-party XBox and Windows games you have installed. They even claim the right to disable “unauthorized hardware peripheral devices”. While I don't play games more modern than Freecell and wouldn't be affected by that change at all, I'm a bit put off by the "unauthorized hardware" statement. How would my OS know if my hardware is authorized and what does unauthorized hardware even mean? If I have it, I either bought it or traded for it: either way, it's mine. What exactly are they talking about and what exactly are they going to do??
Importantly, you can opt out of what seems to be all this stuff (time will tell) either during installation or afterwards, though Microsoft swaddle it in a combination of dissembling “hey, this stuff’ll really help you get the information you want’ fluff and 45 pages of service agreement documents. I’ll refer you here and here for a detailed breakdown of the really worrying stuff, but the long and short of it is the operating system assigns you a unique advertising ID, which is is tied to the email address you’ve associated with Windows and fed data from a great many facets of your computer usage. Including the contents of messages and calendars, apps and networks, some purchases and whatever you upload to Microsoft’s unreliable OneDrive cloud storage. Using the Cortana search assistant makes the harvest even more aggressive, and of course the OS claims it’s all in the name of a better, more accurate online experience for you. [emphasis added - SiG]
I kind of like the way Rock Paper Shotgun captures the big picture here:
The other issue here is that 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.”Dilbert for January 14, 1997)
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.”