A Microsoft executive has responded to concerns from developers and customers over Windows 10 and what it does with user data.
The new operating system was launched two months ago, and there have been fears circulating about its approach to privacy — some more credible than others. One web developer, Jonathan Porta, wrote that it collected so much data that “I might as well relocate my computer to Microsoft headquarters and have the entire company look over my shoulder.”
Microsoft had previously sought to downplay these concerns. A spokesperson told Business Insider in July that the company’s software collects some data “to effectively provide Windows as a service,” and that “Microsoft does not sell this data or use it for advertising purposes. We give a select number of Microsoft employees and third party engineers access to select portions of the information to repair or improve Microsoft products and services.”
The company has now decided to tackle the issues raised more comprehensively. In a blog post published on Monday, Microsoft’s executive vice president of the Windows and devices group Terry Myerson says that “I assure you that no other company is more committed, more transparent and listening harder to customers on this important topic [privacy] than we are.”
Before going into more detail on the kind of information that Windows 10 collects, Myerson highlights “two straightforward privacy principles” which he says the operating system was designed around. These are:
- Windows 10 collects information so the product will work better for you.
- You are in control, with the ability to determine what information is collected.
The blog post makes what appears to be a veiled dig at competitor Google, saying that “unlike some other platforms, no matter what privacy options you choose, neither Windows 10 nor any other Microsoft software scans the content of your email or other communications, or your files, in order to deliver targeted advertising to you.” Google’s free Gmail email service serves users adverts based on the content on their emails.
Complaints over privacy had included the amount of data that Microsoft collects after a crash, as well as parental controls. Previously, parents received “activity updates” about their childrens’ activity and internet browsing, but an upcoming change means that “default settings [will be] designed to be more appropriate for teenagers, compared to younger children.”
The response to the post is mixed. In a detailed analysis for ZDNet, Ed Bott writes that “we also need to calmly discuss these issues and avoid succumbing to paranoia,” and that “for Microsoft, today’s communications are a good first step in that discussion.”
But Tom Warren at The Verge points out that “Myerson doesn’t directly address some of the concerns around Cortana- and OneDrive-related features still sending data after they’re disabled.” Ars Technica’s Peter Bright writes that “Microsoft says that users are in control, but our own testing suggests that the situation is murkier. Even when set to use the most private settings, there is unexpected communication between Windows 10 and Microsoft.” He concludes that “the Windows 10 privacy situation is substantially unaltered.”
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