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article imageTorrent sites ban Windows 10 users amid privacy fears

By James Walker     Aug 24, 2015 in Technology
Key torrent sites are banning Windows 10 users in fear that the operating system may be sending data back to Microsoft that could identify piracy and land websites in trouble. The sites have claimed that Microsoft is monitoring searches for pirated media.
The concerns stem from a line in the Windows 10 licensing agreement that says that Microsoft reserves the right to "disable counterfeit games" that it believes are installed on the operating system. Although there is no evidence that Microsoft is actively pursuing this policy, the wording has been enough to send torrent sites scurrying for cover in case it also applies to other forms of media.
It has been suggested that Microsoft will simply wipe torrents and pirated software from Windows 10 computers. Although that just isn't happening, staff at torrent tracker iTS have still banned all Windows 10 users from accessing their service due to the "terrible privacy policy of Windows 10."
TorrentFreak reports that iTS has alleged that Microsoft is secretly working in cooperation with anti-piracy firm MarkMonitor. It is apparently retrieving data from machines suspected of having pirated software installed and then sending it to MarkMonitor for analysis.
Microsoft does indeed have links to the company but it has worked with them for years as part of its efforts to prevent scammers convincing unsuspecting Windows users to pay up for maintenance work. There is absolutely no evidence that any private data is being taken by Microsoft to use to hinder the activities of software or media pirates.
Several torrent sites have ended up paranoid after widespread media coverage of privacy concerns in Windows 10 though. iTS says "amongst other things Windows 10 sends the content of your local disks directly to one of their [Microsoft/MarkMonitor] servers" while alternative tracking providers BB and FSC have similar opinions.
BB has told users: "it sends the results of local(!!) searches to a well known anti piracy company directly so as soon as you have one known p2p or scene release on your local disk … BAM!" FSC notified members "we as a site are thinking about banning the OS."
Windows 10 does send some search data to Microsoft. It has to in order to provide the online search functionality - just like Windows 8 and even 7 and Vista did. There is nothing to suggest that any of what the torrent sites say is happening is true and, in any case, people who stay on the correct side of the law shouldn't have anything to fear.
It's also worth remembering that the controversy stems from one line in the Windows 10 licensing agreement which specifically targets counterfeit games. Although Microsoft may be overstepping its reach here, law-abiding users should actually feel pleased that the company is clearly trying to defend its software and at least state that it isn't going to tolerate piracy. Regardless, it doesn’t seem likely that it will firmly apply the rule as it is more a job for general law enforcement.
Microsoft may not be actively trying to prevent Windows 10 users from pirating software, regardless of what the pirates think, but it is inadvertently succeeding by scaring them away. Windows 10 owners who use software and media that they legally own should have nothing to fear and realistically it doesn't seem likely that Microsoft will be wiping the hard drives of pirates overnight.
The privacy concerns caused by Windows 10's various network-connected components have been blown wildly out of proportion by incorrect social media messages and hyped-up media reporting. When joined with a lack of accurate official information on what data is sent where and why, it's understandable that those who have something to hide are working even harder than ever to hide it.
More about Microsoft, Windows, windows 10, Pirate, Piracy
 
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