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article imageOp-Ed: Microsoft slammed for Windows 10’s ‘malicious’ privacy invasions

By Paul Wallis     Aug 24, 2016 in Technology
Sydney - Everybody said it when they found out about Windows 10’s “phone home” abilities: they don’t like it, it’s intrusive, and it gets a lot of information. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, those worries are now proven.
It’s a long list of intrusions, according to the EFF, including:
"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."
In case you’re wondering, this type of information is marketing gold. It can instantly transform all that info into large amounts of money. It’s Big Data, but Big Data in a usable form, backed up by no less than a global brand of the caliber of Microsoft.
Meaning that all of this much-hyped stuff is basically a moneymaking exercise. You will have seen a lot of ads which seemed to mysteriously follow your every move around the Internet. These ads are derived from similar information, usually sourced by cookies and so forth. This is simply the deluxe version, requiring the intellect of an empty Coke can to implement.
Other Windows systems, notably Windows 7 and 8, have similar, if not identical, information gathering abilities. In another notable clanger, Windows 10 also has the ability to delete privacy settings. Coincidence, or just another shabby grab for cash?
For the record, there are such things as legitimate market research programs which also monitor this type of data. I’ve actually done this type of research, and been paid for doing it.
The difference is that real market researchers are upfront about it and tell you what information they're monitoring. It’s unclear whether or not Microsoft has been simply lazy in defining the information it gathers, or deliberately misleading. Neither scenario was exactly appealing.
The EFF acknowledges that you can block some information from going out on Windows 10, but there is no opt-out from the overall notion of collecting as much information as the system feels like collecting.
It’s a damning indictment of a company which historically was one of the original leaders in pioneering the “democratisation of the Internet”. In the hands of a totalitarian government, Windows 10 would be a dictator’s dream. It could actually get a lot of people killed.
Meanwhile – you’re paying for this, and nobody knows the security risks.
There is another issue which has never been adequately addressed, too. The fact is that all this information is gathered using your bandwidth. You’re actually paying for your information to be sent to Microsoft, unless there is some unknown reason why you wouldn’t be paying for it on your own network.
One of the problems with “telemetry” of this type is that it can also be used for malicious purposes. Anybody who knows how to manage this telemetry could theoretically crack any Windows 10 machine, and operated. If you’ve ever done a remote screen operation, you’ll know how very effective remote operation can be.
In fairness, the actual security risks are not clearly defined, either. It’s just that after so many years of miserable, half-baked, half-ass efforts to manage Internet security, nobody believes that security is even possible, let alone guaranteed. This security risk is obvious, but it’s unclear whether or not it’s ever been exploited.
PR? What PR?
Like so many other major US corporations, Microsoft is apparently completely unconcerned with any effects on its public image. The barrages of criticism against Vista, and various other products have rarely if ever elicited much more than a belated “we’re doing something better now” response.
Maybe it’s the usual “too big to care” syndrome which has made Wall Street the psychiatric institution of choice in the finance industry. It’s only a matter of time until the world’s OS manufacturers are confronted with some real competition.
Microsoft has been coasting along on the antiquated DOS system for many years now. With solid-state high-volume memory coming in, and many more operating systems options thus becoming available, this situation cannot last forever.
It would be quite sad, and unjust, if Microsoft’s last historical moment was something as banal as not knowing how to manage their own telemetry properly. It would be even sadder for Microsoft stockholders if the final moment of Microsoft was a massive global class action for invasion of privacy.
Suggestion – Get it right for once, Microsoft. This is no longer 1995. Getting away with murder is a lot harder than it used to be. Take the hint.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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