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article imageWindows 10 data collection found to violate privacy laws

By James Walker     Oct 16, 2017 in Technology
A report from the Netherlands has found Windows 10 breaches data protection laws by collecting personal information without letting users explicitly choose settings. Microsoft has said it is assessing the case, claiming privacy compliance is "a priority."
The Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) detailed the problems it's identified with Windows 10's telemetry usage in a report today. The organisation said Microsoft isn't doing enough to inform users of what's being collected, why it's being taken and how individuals can regain control.
Tracking your activity
Over the past year, Microsoft has overhauled its Windows 10 privacy settings as part of an attempt to appear more transparent. The DPA said the new approach still doesn't go far enough though, leaving users without "control of their data." It warned Windows 10 tries to "follow every step" taken by its user when left to run on its default settings.
"[The tracking] concerns the use of an app of an online casino, of a Turkish newspaper, of a magazine targeted at gay people, an app that indicates Islamite prayer times, an app collection details about a woman's pregnancy and an app targeted at diabetes patients," the report explained.
"Microsoft can use these data to treat a person in a certain way or influence the behaviour of that person. And Microsoft factually does that, by showing people personal recommendations and advertisements."
Default settings
The DPA specifically criticised Microsoft's use of default settings to make it less likely users will disable telemetry. Even after the Creators Update changes, Windows 10 still defaults to turning telemetry "on."
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This means that users who don't understand the full implications of the setting, or those who click through without reading the details, will inadvertently opt-in to being tracked while using their PC.
In a response to the DPA's report, Microsoft said ensuring user privacy is "a priority" for the company. However, Microsoft refuted many of the DPA's findings, publishing a lengthy list of problems it claimed to have found with the report.
"On a journey"
For many of the disputed privacy concerns, Microsoft asserted its work with the Creators Update was sufficient to keep users secure and simply provided screenshots of its new privacy screens. The company still pledged to work with the Dutch data protection authorities to address the violations though. It said it's "listening" and on a "journey" to improve user confidence and trust.
"Our goal is to deliver the highest quality, delightful and trusted experience to Windows customers. Windows collects data so that we can be responsive to your needs and interests," said Microsoft.
"We are committed to working with you and other interested voices to evolve the Windows privacy experience to deliver on our Privacy Principles and give you confidence and trust in our products and services. This is a journey and these dialogs will shape our future."
More about Microsoft, windows 10, Privacy, Windows, telemetry
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