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With Windows 10, Microsoft Blatantly Disregards User Choice and Privacy

by Amul Kalia, via Wolf Street:

Wolf here: Microsoft has driven me nuts while it was trying to install its “free” Windows 10 on my two computers running Windows 7. The only thing it hasn’t done – not yet at least – is hold a gun to my head. I already know that if I get something for free, I’m the product.

This here is a “deep dive” by people who know and who deal with this sort thing, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Read and gnash your teeth.

Microsoft had an ambitious goal with the launch of Windows 10: a billion devices running the software by the end of 2018. In its quest to reach that goal, the company aggressively pushed Windows 10 on its users and went so far as to offer free upgrades for a whole year. However, the company’s strategy for user adoption has trampled on essential aspects of modern computing: user choice and privacy. We think that’s wrong.

You don’t need to search long to come across stories of people who are horrified and amazed at just how far Microsoft has gone in order to increase Windows 10’s install base. Sure, there is some misinformation and hyperbole, but there are also some real concerns that current and future users of Windows 10 should be aware of. As the company is currently rolling out its “Anniversary Update” to Windows 10, we think it’s an appropriate time to focus on and examine the company’s strategy behind deploying Windows 10.

Disregarding User Choice

The tactics Microsoft employed to get users of earlier versions of Windows to upgrade to Windows 10 went from annoying to downright malicious. Some highlights: Microsoft installed an app in users’ system trays advertising the free upgrade to Windows 10. The app couldn’t be easily hidden or removed, but some enterprising users figured out a way. Then, the company kept changing the app and bundling it into various security patches, creating a cat-and-mouse game to uninstall it.

Eventually, Microsoft started pushing Windows 10 via its Windows Update system. It started off by pre-selecting the download for users and downloading it on their machines. Not satisfied, the company eventually made Windows 10 a recommended update so users receiving critical security updates were now also downloading an entirely new operating system onto their machines without their knowledge. Microsoft even rolled in the Windows 10 ad as part of an Internet Explorer security patch. Suffice to say, this is not the standard when it comes to security updates, and isn’t how most users expect them to work. When installing security updates, users expect to patch their existing operating system, and not see an advertisement or find out that they have downloaded an entirely new operating system in the process.

In May 2016, in an action designed in a way we think was highly deceptive, Microsoft actually changed the expected behavior of a dialog window, a user interface element that’s been around and acted the same way since the birth of the modern desktop. Specifically, when prompted with a Windows 10 update, if the user chose to decline it by hitting the ‘X’ in the upper right hand corner, Microsoft interpreted that as consent to download Windows 10.

Time after time, with each update, Microsoft chose to employ questionable tactics to cause users to download a piece of software that many didn’t want. What users actually wanted didn’t seem to matter. In an extreme case, members of a wildlife conservation group in the African jungle felt that the automatic download of Windows 10 on a limited bandwidth connection could have endangered their lives if a forced upgrade had begun during a mission.

Disregarding User Privacy

The trouble with Windows 10 doesn’t end with forcing users to download the operating system. By default, Windows 10 sends an unprecedented amount of usage data back to Microsoft, and the company claims most of it is to “personalize” the software by feeding it to the OS assistant called Cortana. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of data sent back: location data, text input, voice input, touch input, webpages you visit, and telemetry data regarding your general usage of your computer, including which programs you run and for how long.

While we understand that many users find features like Cortana useful, and that such features would be difficult (though not necessarily impossible) to implement in a way that doesn’t send data back to the cloud, the fact remains that many users would much prefer to opt out of these features in exchange for maintaining their privacy.

And while users can opt-out of some of these settings, it is not a guarantee that your computer will stop talking to Microsoft’s servers. A significant issue is the telemetry data the company receives. While Microsoft insists that it aggregates and anonymizes this data, it hasn’t explained just how it does so. Microsoft also won’t say how long this data is retained, instead providing only general timeframes. Worse yet, unless you’re an enterprise user, no matter what, you have to share at least some of this telemetry data with Microsoft and there’s no way to opt-out of it.

Microsoft has tried to explain this lack of choice by saying that Windows Update won’t function properly on copies of the operating system with telemetry reporting turned to its lowest level. In other words, Microsoft is claiming that giving ordinary users more privacy by letting them turn telemetry reporting down to its lowest level would risk their security since they would no longer get security updates. (Notably, this is not something many articles about Windows 10 have touched on.)

Confusingly, Microsoft calls the lowest level of telemetry reporting (which is not available on Home or Professional editions of Windows 10) the “security” level – even though it prevents security patches from being delivered via Windows Update.

But this is a false choice that is entirely of Microsoft’s own creation. There’s no good reason why the types of data Microsoft collects at each telemetry level couldn’t be adjusted so that even at the lowest level of telemetry collection, users could still benefit from Windows Update and secure their machines from vulnerabilities, without having to send back things like app usage data or unique IDs like an IMEI number.

Read More @ WolfStreet.com

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3 comments to With Windows 10, Microsoft Blatantly Disregards User Choice and Privacy

  • Craig Escaped Detroit

    The WINDOWS Sheeple need to wake up a bit more.

    Even though I don’t know krapp about programming, etc, I was SOooo tired of SO many problems with “WindoZe”, several years ago, I started to around with the idea of using LINUX. I searched the internet, and started reading about a lot of things about it.

    (PS. Android IS just ONE of many “Flavors” of LINUX).

    Some of what I read, scared the krapp out of me, other stuff I read, sounded easier and less buggy than Windows.

    So I began my “quest” for a “version” of Linux that I could ENJOY, (or at least be comfortable with and avoid all the known problems that are part of WindOOzie.)

    I spent a lot of time, reading about SO many different versions over at http://www.distrowatch.com

    There is MORE than 100 types of Linux. From very compact (less than 500MB) versions, to all the standard (over 2GB) versions. Some are tailor made for OLDER computers, 32 bit CPU’s, and all the way to the newest, big machines with 64bit CPU’s and 8GB of RAM, etc.

    There are “LIVE” versions (it is downloaded/burned onto a CD or DVD disc, and you insert it into your optical drive, and BOOT your computer, and the computer “loads” the program ONLY into the RAM memory = NOT to the hard drive, and after a few minutes, you’ve got a working LINUX on your screen, but you’ve LOST NOTHING from your HARDDRIVE because Linux was NOT INSTALLED, but only LOADED into the RAM as a “virtual operating system”, you can PLAY with it, and see if this particular “version” is OK for you.
    And when you REMOVE that disc, and cold Boot your computer, it loads the WINDOWS that is “installed” on your Harddrive. Nothing was changed.)

    There are versions that use an “interface” screen, etc, that looks a lot like WindowsXP, and other versions that have their own look & feel. Some are similar to APPLE, and others are completely strange.

    After I had DOWNLOADED and BURNED to disc, several versions (I’ve tried at least a DOZEN of them), when I found one I liked, then I took the STEP of actually INSTALLING it on my hard drive.

    There are 2 ways to do that. ONE way, is that you can select (from the installation menu), something called a “DUAL BOOT” system, which means that it LEAVES your WINDOWS fully intact, but installs LINUX into the EMPTY SPACE of your harddrive.

    Then, when you BOOT UP your computer, you get to choose WHICH system will run, either Windows OR Linux.

    The OTHER way to do this, is to make the “Installation choice” to DESTROY and CLEAN out all your harddrive (kill Windows), and intall ONLY LINUX.

    Firefox works the same as it always does. If you’ve got LINUX installed, and have 20 people come over and they use your computer for the internet, and you’ve already started up Firefox or Chrome, I can promise you, that almost NONE of those people will ever know it was running on a LINUX computer.

    Since I installed Linux, in the last 3 years, I’ve had perhaps, 3 or 4 computer crashes where I had to reboot my machine. I can leave it running for MONTHS and never get a freeze-up etc.

    Some recommendations? You can run a 32bit system even on a 64bit computer, but not the other way around.

    OK. Many people try, and find more than one that is likeable. Linux Mint, Suze, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Mandriva, Zorin, and many others.

    I’ve tried those, as well as Kanotix, Gentoo, Sabayon, Pardus, Knoppix, PC-LinuxOS, and a bunch of others.
    There USED to be a version of Linux that was called “LINDOWS” but they got sued and had to change the name (I think it was changed to “Lindus”?) It was one that looked and felt much like either Windows98, or XP.

    Some would not even boot on my machine, a couple froze up (my machine is a 2005 Laptop with a 32 bit CPU and only 2GB of memory.)

    There also are versions of Linux, that are made to SAVE a WINDOWS computer from a VIRUS attack, etc. You create the DVD (or CD disc with the “recovery Linux” on it, and you insert it into your optical drive and BOOT your computer.)

    You are presented with a special version of Linux that allows you to LOOK at all your windows files, etc, and this disc has built in VIRUS SCANNING software, etc, so it can CLEAN your WINDOWS (and you can manually delete or SAVE important files).

    Linux just about ALWAYS comes with a FULL BLOWN, full featured OFFICE SUITE (and it’s COMPATIBLE with and SIMILAR to “Microsoft Office”.) If your particular version didn’t already have it, you can EASILY install it from the “Software Center”. Both “Libre Office” and “Open Office” are WONDERFUL.

    Linux has THOUSANDS of (ALL FREE) programs to do just about EVERY task you wish to accomplish.
    Graphics. Animation. Photo mods, audio studio work, Skype, science lab, computer police forensics, network security, and on and on.

    At first, when I was totally NEW at Linux, it could be just as frustrating as learning a NEW VERSION of WINDOOZIE. I used to LIKE WIndows 95, then they CHANGED it and I had to learn Windows98. Then I had to learn WIndowsXP. And on and on. I always HATED how they moved everything around, gave new names to things, and hid other things I needed.

    Windows is always finding new ways to TORTURE us. Install “Silver light”, net meeting, service pak 2, 3, 45678. Windows update this or that, and then when your machine breaks down, you have to figure out WHICH update to “turn BACK”.

    And the time to “re-install” Windows and then INSTALL / Load all your programs again? Can take HOURS and HOURS.

    Linux NEVER put me thru ANY of that KRAPPOLLA. The irritations, are still there, but are NOT as bad as all the torture that “Windows” put me thru.

    In the past, I installed Windows SOOOooo many times, that I had MEMORIZED the “installing KEY” (and it was about 20 digits LONG). Letters, numbers, etc.

    Your “Linux desktop” is VERY customizable.

    Most people DON’T know this, but MORE than 50% of ALL the internet is run, routed, and handled by LINUX computer systems.
    Pixar, Dreamworks, etc, for their CGI (animations, special effects,etc) are created on large, powerful BANKS (farms) of LINUX computer systems.

    If it’s good enough for George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Disney, etc, then it’s good enough for ME.

  • rich

    Cartels R U.S.?
    EpiPen Price Hike Has Parents of Kids With Allergies Scrambling Ahead of School Year

    by Ben Popken
    Doctors and patients say the Mylan pharmaceutical company has jacked up the prices for an EpiPen — the portable device that can stop a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction — from around $100 in 2008 to $500 and up today.

    That’s a hike of over 400 percent.

    “Patients are calling and saying they can’t afford it,” said Dr. Douglas McMahon, an allergy specialist in Maplewood, Minnesota. “They’re between a rock and a hard place.”

    Following a recall by Mylan’s chief competitor last year, the company now enjoys a near monopoly.
    http://www.nbcnews.com/business/economy/epipen-price-hike-has-parents-kids-allergies-scrambling-ahead-school-n633071

  • Tired of NagWare

    USE LINUX, its FREE and works much better than MicroCrap.
    Screw Microsoft and their “NAG WARE/SPY WARE”
    I will never buy a Microsoft product again!

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