Windows 10 Is Spying On You: Here’s How To Stop It

Windows 10‘s privacy settings very much need to be frowned at. Essentially: unless you pay close attention to the fluffy options offered when you first install Microsoft’s new operating system, it’s going to quietly track your behaviour and use it to fire targeted ads at you, as well as keeping tabs on your location history, data from messages, calendars, contacts and God knows what else. It is a bit scary, despite coming off the back of Microsoft’s own pledge to offer ‘real transparency’. You may or may not be OK with this yourself, but in any event at least some of this stuff can be turned off after the fact. I’ll explain how to do that below.

Yesterday we talked about whether or not you should upgrade to Microsoft’s new operating system and before that we looked at the potentially dodgy WiFi Sense feature. Privacy is an even bigger issue.

Conventional wisdom has it that Microsoft’s fight for technological relevance is against Apple. For a time that was true, but as of late they’ve effectively ceded the floor to the Cupertino mob when it comes to hardware (although I hope the Surface Pro line continues – I’m a big fan) and have once again narrowed their computing focus to software. The battle there is against Google, whose search, browser and productivity tools increasingly form a loose, web-based operating system. People aren’t so hot on paying for things these days, which means the money comes from harvesting data and flogging it to advertisers and other organisations who want to know exactly what we’re all up to online. Microsoft want a piece of that, so if you ever wondered why they’ve made the Windows 10 upgrade free to Win 7 & 8 users, here’s one possible answer. Windows 10 has all sorts of user tracking baked right in.

Importantly, you can opt out of what seems to be all this stuff (time will tell) either during installation or afterwards, though Microsoft swaddle it in a combination of dissembling “hey, this stuff’ll really help you get the information you want’ fluff and 45 pages of service agreement documents. I’ll refer you here and here for a detailed breakdown of the really worrying stuff, but the long and short of it is the operating system assigns you a unique advertising ID, which is is tied to the email address you’ve associated with Windows and fed data from a great many facets of your computer usage. Including the contents of messages and calendars, apps and networks, some purchases and whatever you upload to Microsoft’s unreliable OneDrive cloud storage. Using the Cortana search assistant makes the harvest even more aggressive, and of course the OS claims it’s all in the name of a better, more accurate online experience for you.

Look: so much of the business of the internet is currently built around advertising. People are well-accustomed to getting their information for free, and in the absence of a more mutually satisfying system that’s where we are for now (hello, uh, please either whitelist RPS in your adblocker and/or take a look at our Supporter scheme if you feel like this website should stick around for a while). The likes of Google (especially the increasingly ubiquitous Chrome browser, increasingly a hub for their services and data tracking) Facebook and Twitter are already snaffling up untold amounts of information about us, while your smartphone is essentially a pocket-sized vault of saleable information about you, and for better or worse the majority of users appear to be taking that in their stride. But it becomes something else when the very infrastructure of your computer is keeping tabs on most everything you do and then selling it on to unknown third-parties, as well as potentially storing it on someone else’s servers forever.

Our lives are on our computers, and our lives are nobody else’s business. I don’t want to wind up seeing adverts for tents while playing Solitaire because I spend a bit too much time looking at my photos of a camping holiday from 2004 and mourning the youth and freedom I had then. I definitely don’t want Windows knowing about my kid and then giving me consumerist recommendations on how to raise her. And I most definitely am not cool with this:

“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to.”

In terms of raw practicality, you’re unlikely to actually notice any of this happening, especially as to some degree the results of it will appear as ads within Windows Store apps – and that thing ain’t exactly a smash hit yet. Internet Explorer and Microsoft’s new Edge browser will also be bigger beneficiaries.

The new version of Solitaire also features ads (see above) unless you pay to unlock them, which is a particularly heartbreaking sign of the times, and that’s one example of somewhere this is likely to weave its dark spell. Essentially, you might wind up clicking on more ads than you otherwise would, because they’re tailored to your interests. Some people may not mind that, others will find it to be profoundly sinister.

Conceptually it’s another story entirely: a large corporation is gathering and storing vast amounts of data on your computing habits, and not simply what you do in a browser.

The other issue here is that Microsoft simply aren’t making it clear enough that they’re doing this, how it might affect you and how to opt out – despite chest-thumping, we’re-all-chums-here talk about how “real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand.”

There is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes “real transparency.”

How to opt out

OK, here’s how to take control of this stuff if you’re worried about it. No, opting out is not especially simple, although if you take an absolutist approach it doesn’t take at all long to set everything to ‘no.’ If you’re yet to install Windows 10 and are concerned about all this stuff, you can head most of it off at the pass by declining Express settings and choosing options yourself, refusing any request to let the OS or apps access your location and turning the Cortana search assistant off. If you missed the boat there, you’ll need to do any and all of the following. Even if you were super-cautious during setup, be sure to follow step 3 below if you’re concerned.

1. Go to Settings – Privacy and go through the 13 different screens there and turn anything which concerns you to off. The biggest, most universal settings are under ‘General’, while the other screens let you choose which apps can and can’t access your calendar, messages, camera, mic, etcetera. There may well be stuff you want to leave on – for instance, I do actually want Windows’ Calendar app to access my calendar data (obv), I just don’t want it to sell that data on because I don’t want to be bombarded with flower ads when it’s my mum’s birthday.

2. Depending on whether you’ve been finding it useful or not, you may want to go to Cortana’s settings and turn off everything there. It’s just working as a basic file search for me now, as I didn’t want its ‘suggestions’, I didn’t want it to lock me into Bing and I didn’t want a tiny part of my processor to be forever dedicated to listening out for voice commands I will never use.

3. This is the crucial one, and so fundamental to Windows 10’s tracking that Microsoft have stuck the setting on an external website, which they say is so that it’s on one easy dashboard, but I find it hard not to wonder if it’s in the hope that we don’t easily stumble across it while browsing Windows 10’s own Privacy menus. Said website is colourful and cheerful and can play a video at you talking about how wonderful targeted advertising is. Ignore the bumf and instead go directly here and set both options to Off. It’s the innocuous-sounding “Personalised ads wherever I use my Microsoft account” which is the likely root of all this, because having that on means Windows 10 itself becomes a hub for targeted ads. You’ll probably have set up Windows 10 with a Microsoft account, because it heavily encourages you to do so with talk of synchronised files and settings and a OneDrive cloud account during installation, but this means the OS is signed into that account all the time. As a result, Windows 10 itself has it spyglasses on, not just apps or pages that you’re signed into with your MS account.

I notice that every time I go back to that page, the “Personalised ads in this browser” setting has silently turned itself back on again. This is concerning, but I’m not yet sure if it’s a bug or if it’s exploiting sessions as an excuse to reset regularly. Judicious ad and cookie control with your plugins and browser options of choice can change this, however. Again, do remember that many websites are dependent on advertising revenue to survive, but opting out of targeted advertising – and having that opt out be respected – is another matter entirely.

4. You may also wish to remove your Microsoft account from Windows 10 and use a local account instead. This will double-down on restricting what’s harvested, though you’ll lose out on features such as settings synchronisation across all your PCs and will suffer more nagging from stuff like the Windows Store and OneDrive. Probably not a big deal for many people, I suspect. Go to Settings – Accounts – Your Account within Windows 10 (or just type ‘Accounts’ into haha Cortana) to get to the relevant options.

If you have multiple PCs already running Windows 10 you’ll need to do all of this on each of them, although your Microsoft account opt-out should be universal.

None of these options mean you’ll see fewer ads, but they do mean that not quite so much information about you will be gathered and sold, and also that the ads you do see won’t be ‘relevant’ to what algorithms have decided your interests are. It is worth noting that some folk find the latter to be preferable to entirely irrelevant ads, and in some cases even useful – but certainly not everyone. Hopefully you can use the information here to make an informed choice about what happens. Again, in many respects it’s not wildly different from what already happens on your smart phone or your browser, but it’s important that you should know about it, and that Windows now has something of an ulterior motive.

More options, or clearer options, may become available in time, depending on how much of the world frowns at Microsoft about this. I’ll let you know if I hear of anything else that needs doing in order to have Windows 10 respect your privacy.

From this site

228 Comments

  1. jrodman says:

    *frown*

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Turn it upside down.

    • jrodman says:

      Relatedly: the whole “you can only get account synchronization if you use our opt-out central service” is kind of precisely what makes me sad about modern trends in software and tech in general. I understand that this approach is easier to make easy for end users. But with some effort, your various PCs could just coordinate the account state directly without a central point of mediation.

      Or indeed, Microsoft could allow you to pay for an Azure instance which contains the data and promise not to go digging through it. Done right this could be painlessly transitioned to a corporate server in that sort of environment.

    • darkhog says:

      Meanwhile, Linux has nothing you can frown at. No spying tech hidden inside, no ads and is up to 700% faster than wIndsoWds.

      • Hammer says:

        *Version and distro dependant

        Ubuntu still has Amazon search integration.

      • crazyd says:

        I can frown at the terrible game support. It’s what kept me from fully switching, and the hassle of having to change OSs every time I wanted to play something got me to eventually just remove my dual boot and go fully back to Windows.

        • cakeisalie says:

          I had the same experience, so I also gave up on the dual boot. The clincher was my sound card not being supported at all in linux and the lackluster driver support from both AMD and Nvidia. Shame, because I really like linux (Kubuntu man myself).

          • RabbitIslandHermit says:

            Uh, Nvidia’s proprietary linux drivers are supposedly as good or better than their windows drivers. Granted, sometimes they’re a pain to install.

          • pepperfez says:

            Are they really as good or better? I’m not snarking — the last time I looked was quite a while ago and the consensus was that they were much better than AMD’s Linux drivers but noticeably worse than either company’s Windows drivers.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Practical answer: on the latest long-term-support Ubuntu, after every kernel upgrade, I have to run dpkg-reconfigure to rebuild the drivers, because they’ll fail to build under DKMS during the upgrade. (There is a very long-standing bug about this.)

            It doesn’t really matter whose fault that is; nVidia’s, Linux’s, Ubuntu’s packaging. It’s a rubbish workaround for a frequent thing (it’s been the third kernel upgrade this week today) that you don’t have to put up with under Windows. The experience is worse.

            (Yes, I could install a later, non-LTS release. Yes, I could use a PPA. Yes, I could probably bodge together something to do this automatically. Yes, I could do more crap that you don’t have to deal with under Windows, all of which take me further from the majority supported configuration, which I am in precisely to try to keep a lid on how much time I spend messing with my Linux install rather than using it to do my job.)

          • RabbitIslandHermit says:

            link to phoronix.com

            That’s a linux-centric site so grain of salt and all that, but I think it’s fair to say that they’re close enough in performance that barring a bad port you probably won’t notice a difference.

            But yeah, graphics drivers can be a pain to install and linux in general is too fiddly to recommend to people who want their OS to “just work,” unfortunately.

          • plehtinen says:

            I have never had any problems with nVidia and Ubuntu. Even after kernel update everything works. It seems that many of here haven’t discovered the “proprietary drivers” menu in Ubuntu Software Center. I don’t even remember when I have used terminal to install drivers.

        • badmothergamer says:

          I’ll third this. I’ve probably installed linux a dozen times in the last 15 years, but it’s never last more than a few days, either due to hardware compatibility (a much bigger issue in the old days) or the annoyance of rebooting to Windows to play a game.

          I haven’t tried linux in a year or two though. Have they gotten past the console window yet? I got tired of searching for fixes to problems and then having to copy and paste a dozen commands into a console window.

          • Arkan01d says:

            Linux is based off the command terminal; so no, it will doubtfully ever be removed. I’ve been dual booting Ubuntu and Win7 for the past 3 years. Game support has increased tremendously in that time. Driver support has improved tenfold. My rig is an Intel i5, 16 Gb ram, Nvidia 970, and I’m networking with WiFi & Bluetooth. That was not entirely probable just a few years ago. When I began dual booting, I used Ubuntu maybe once a month. Now I use Windows maybe once every 6 months. I don’t get to play ALL the games, but I am certainly not lacking. Right now about 200 of my 550 Steam games are playable natively on Linux.

            The command line does feel a bit old-school and is confusing at first. However, the more you use it, the more familiar it become and you gain confidence in it. If you are considering Linux, I would certain suggest something in the Debian line of distributions i.e. Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint. They are easy to switch to and gain a foothold in understanding Linux. But the real question is why do you want to run Linux?

            If you could care less about why a system works and how to fix it, then Linux is not for you. For example: You’re the type who preforms a fresh install of Windows every few years instead of manually cleaning up your system; then Linux is not for you. If you get an error or something goes breaks in your Windows desktop and you pay an IT person to fix it without even attempting to recognize or correct the problem; then Linux is not for you. If you could care less about doing anything except playing the latest PC games and you are unable to wait the extra months while AAA devs port to Linux; then Linux is not for you. If you’ve ever installed Linux, ran into a problem, got frustrated, and ranted on a forum or to a friend threatening to go back to Windows; then Linux is not for you.

            However, if you take the time to understand an error message and fix the problem yourself; then you would like Linux. If you’ve ever gotten frustrated at the fact you can not change the placement or layout of a taskbar, or boot screen, or anything else like that; then you would like Linux. If you love to customize your system to the max; then you would like Linux. If you are able to wait for or not be concerned about having ALL the games; then you may like Linux. But that’s just my opinion ^.^

          • subedii says:

            Speaking of game support, Steam appears to be running a weekend SteamOS (so Linux) sale right now, and I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with the release of a certain other OS this week.

          • joa says:

            That sort of mythologizing of Linux like some command line thing for mad tinkerers does not do it any good. Maybe Linux should get unified configuration system – make it accessible with UI, and with command line. Would be better than many ad-hoc config file. However community probably would oppose such a thing.

          • gunny1993 says:

            @Arkan01d: I don’t think the kind of people who do a fresh instal of windows are the same kind of people who get an IT guy to fix their PC, I reinstall windows every half a year or so simply because its infinity more efficient than trawling through regedits and files for hours looking for stuff that might be causing problems.

          • Arkan01d says:

            @ gunny1993: I didn’t say you had to do all the things. Just if you do any of those things you more than likely will not like the experience. Linux is not for everyone, but for some reason Windows user’s have a tendency of trying to defend their use of Windows to Linux user’s. Just like you seemed compelled to do and the OP.

            Stating that you aren’t going to switch until x, y, & z are fixed is not the way a Linux user’s mind thinks. They look at x, y, & z and find solutions. They want to make things their own and they want them to work the way they want them to work, not the way it has to be because some company did it that way. So when you tell a Linux user you aren’t going to switch… they don’t care. They switched, they think it would be awesome if more people switched. But they don’t mind if you don’t want to; so stop defending and whining to Linux user’s as to why you can’t and just be a Windows user.

          • Arkan01d says:

            That sounds a bit more harsh that I meant it. I meant no disrespect. If you have chosen to use Windows it does not bother Linux users. That is your choice. I think Windows users should be proud. You have nothing to prove to anyone.

          • plehtinen says:

            How is a Windows registry hack magic any easier than copy-pasting something sane in the terminal? Or 100 screenshots of Windows’ complex menus?

      • melchiorum says:

        Riiiight…. I’ve been asked to install Ubuntu recently on a laptop. Booted from USB – everything works perfect. Installed the system, rebooted – black screen. After an hour of digging through forums I found out about the switchable graphics not being fully supported. To be fully supported you need proprietary drivers. The proprietary drivers refuse to install, because you need some other crap they depend on. The dependencies refuse to install because they are in some package that isn’t supported by this distro by default. After installing the package manager, dependencies still refuse to install because you need to remove the old drivers first. Old drivers refuse to get removed because some crap is preventing them from getting removed.

        Eventually, it took almost a day of digging through forums, wikis and the terminal to fix a single damn thing which will most probably get broken again with the next update of Ubuntu. And that’s just a single case, you never know how Linux will act on a specific hardware. “Nothing to frown on”. Nothing at all.

        • plehtinen says:

          That exactly same applies to Windows. It’s not like Windows support forums are empty. I have read enough horror stories of Windows 10 updates and installs.

      • Wyrm says:

        It’s just a shame that linux is such a massive pain in the ass for the average user who wants to do more than a bit of browsing and “office” type stuff.
        And before all the linux fans jump to it’s defence – don’t bother. It’s a pain in the ass, end of story.

        • plehtinen says:

          That is just a bullshit lie. Ubuntu is super easy to install and usually works just perfectly. It’s not like your mom is able to install and configure Windows on an empty PC either.

      • 7vincent7black7 says:

        I was dual-booting Windows 7 with Zorin OS 9 Ultimate when my hard drive told me it was failing and I needed a new one. I didn’t have the serial number for hte Windows 7 that came pre-installed on my computer anymore, so I bought Windows 8.1. I figured I’d upgrade to Windows 10 afterwards, and I was somewhat excited by all the rumors and promises about it.

        Well, I’m not going to be upgrading to it now. When I get bored of Windows 8.1, I’ll save the Serial Key somewhere where I won’t lose it and go back to Zorin OS 9 Ultimate. That is if I don’t find a way to dual-boot it with 8.1.

    • aepervius says:

      Would that even be legal under the data protection act in europe ? Sounds to me this collect-all including private data would be pretty much frowned up under the data protection clause in EU.

      • Tssha says:

        And once it’s wound its way through the courts, Microsoft will have had YEARS of time to benefit from these features. :/

        If we’re lucky, they’ll have to pay a fine and make a change to future releases of software. But even then, the fine will likely not even be a blip on their balance sheets. :(

    • vampyren says:

      Good article, I just could not stand using Microsoft account. Also some of my Programs created their own little folders in a local user folder and caused a mess so I just went for lousy amount and turned off everything I could.
      I also hate that I can’t turn off automatic updates. Now all my drivers well be force updates and I don’t like that. This is going to be a mess sooner or later cause with so many variations of hardware I’m sure some update will mess up my computers.
      One good thing is that Windows 10 is much cleaner and I like the new start menu. I hope enough people write to Microsoft and complain about the bad stuff so they can reconsider and make this a great OS.

      • r4758 says:

        Apparently you can turn of Automatic Updates by turning of the Automatic Update Service.

  2. draglikepull says:

    All this stuff is exactly why I won’t be upgrading to Windows 10. I don’t care if I can turn it off, an operating system built around collecting massive amounts of data on a user’s private computer usage is a huge problem, and people should be revolting against it.

    • AskForBarry says:

      Is Google any better?

      • jrodman says:

        Yes and no. At times, Google has made reasonable efforts to use your information to create personalized advertising without attempting to build a significant personal profile. At times, Google has made serious efforts to give users more control over and be more transparent about what data they collect.

        At other times, they make bad choices which foist account choices on unwilling users, or collect far too much information about people without giving them a choice.

        The major difference seems to be that it’s *fairly* easy to know when you’re providing Google information (though not sure of the state of the art on gplus widgets etc, though I block them). It’s a bit more unsettling when your operating system install starts moving in on this.

        • jalf says:

          The major difference seems to be that it’s *fairly* easy to know when you’re providing Google information

          Eh, dream on.

          Well, technically, you’re correct, it’s easy to know because you’re *always* providing Google information.

          Unless you block all ads and all JavaScript and all cookies in your browser, you can be pretty sure that you’re providing Google information any time you use your web browser.

          If you have GMail, you’re certainly providing them information. Same if you have an Android phone.

          The difference between Google and MS is that for Google, your personal information is their entire business. Without it, they have nothing. Microsoft has a separate software business, where your personal information is sometimes useful and desirable and profitable, but it is not the core of their business.

          (This isn’t to say in any way that it is somehow more ok when Microsoft collects your personal data. Just shooting down the silly idea that “Google makes it easy to get an overview of what data they collect”, or that it’s any easier to control and opt out of)

          • Artist says:

            I would love to know that Google, the white dominator Kraken, has nothing left. Only chance that anything could replace those scoundrels. At least a chance for better options.. *dreams*

          • Widthwood says:

            Well, technically, you’re correct, it’s easy to know because you’re *always* providing Google information.
            Well… No.
            Unless you block all ads and all JavaScript and all cookies in your browser, you can be pretty sure that you’re providing Google information any time you use your web browser.
            No. Ad block extensions block everything, if you want them to, including tracking cookies, without any sideffects. Disabling JavaScript is a ridiculous overkill and is not needed at all, unless your goal is to evade CIA instead of Google.
            If you have GMail, you’re certainly providing them information. Same if you have an Android phone.
            Well of course if you send messages through Google, you provide them with those messages. But even if you DON’T – your emails could be retransmitted through countless servers before reaching destination, some of which could be Googles, even if neither sender nor recipient use Gmail. That’s how e-mail works, it is completely open to everyone.
            But Android phone? That’s a resounding NO. Delete Google Services (that’s the package name), don’t use Google account – and it will be completely vendor-neutral. You may use Amazon, or Yandex, or whatever alternative market you wish, there are countless alternatives for every Google app.
            The difference between Google and MS is that for Google, your personal information is their entire business. Without it, they have nothing. Microsoft has a separate software business, where your personal information is sometimes useful and desirable and profitable, but it is not the core of their business.
            Microsoft wants to be the new Google, Satya made it pretty clear, making internet services their core business. They have a lot of catching up to do, Facebook and Google are far ahead in terms of amount of data already collected, so being more aggressive in data collection is their only choice.

      • Chorltonwheelie says:

        No and Apple is worse.

        We can of course await the “Buy an iMac and install Linux” crowd soon.

        Seriously, if you’re a pc gamer who can build a monster rig and knows your way around labyrinth cfg files and driver settings then you’ll easily find what you want on or off without fashioning yourself a tinfoil hat.

        If not, dry your eyes and buy a console.

        • Cinek says:

          Cause consoles are known from keeping high privacy standards. Hahahahahahaha

          • Noirpunk says:

            While I get what you’re saying, consoles are fairly limited in what they can collect about you, compared to a PC. For most people, their game-playing and movie-watching habits, and maybe some communication with gaming friends is about it. While some consoles have web browsers, most people aren’t browsing the web, reading/sending email, or shopping (except for digital games) on a console.

        • Artist says:

          NO! Your stupid ATARI is way worse than my AMIGA …! What? Different topic? Oh…

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Google? They don’t really make a Windows competitor, unless you count ChromeOS.

        Apple is actually quite a lot better. Most Linux distros are way way better, with the unfortunate exception of Ubuntu, which requires you to turn off its web-searching garbage.

        • jrodman says:

          It’s kind of unclear how much better Apple are.

          In recent versions of OS X (10.8 on), they have maybe 11-12 system components which phone home whose behavior cannot be disabled. How much of that data can leak personal information? I don’t really know. I’ve determined what several of them contain (e.g. fake help “update” pingbacks which are fairly innocuous beyond software authors whether their software is installed), but there’s a limit to my ability to reverse engineer the possible actions of these semi-documented communications.

          In the end I simply installed personal firewall software that allowed me to prevent most of these from communicating to the outside world without any adverse effects on system behavior. I still don’t know what level of info was being provided.

          • Premium User Badge

            aleander says:

            The difference is that they don’t really sell the data all that much — they claim it’s because they’re so nice, I say it’s because they didn’t figure out how to sell it in a way that would give them a meaningful (in their context) profit. But the point is, they don’t sell it that much. Yet. That’s better than selling it. A bit.

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            Google doesn’t sell your data, either. They use it to sell ads more effectively and make their services better. Selling the information would mean losing their biggest advantage.

            I highly doubt Microsoft sells your data, either.

      • RuySan says:

        Google services are free. If MS wants to spy on us for ad purposes, they should at least make windows totally free.

        • jalf says:

          Uh… How much have you paid for your Windows 10?

        • fish99 says:

          Well, it’s not free if you don’t own Win7/8, and it’s also just an OEM key they give you, so change mobo and they may make you buy a retail key.

          • Tssha says:

            That’s an interesting wrinkle on Theseus’s Ship (google it, it’s a great philosophy concept to know). If you replace every part but the motherboard, is it the same computer? If you ONLY replace the motherboard, is it the same computer?

            I guess, according to Microsoft, it’s not the same computer. These guys have NO appreciation of the finer points of philosophy! *huff*

          • nil says:

            Yeah, something about the application of the Sorites Paradox to profit margins…

          • Nereus77 says:

            Theseus gets all the glory ;)

      • draglikepull says:

        I would never install a Google OS on a PC if one existed. And I don’t find “But those other guys are doing it too!” to be a particularly strong argument against troubling behaviour.

      • Premium User Badge

        aleander says:

        Google is worse. Apple is worse at selling your data, which makes it temporarily better for me. Until they figure out the selling, that is. For now they pretend they didn’t want those monies anyway (arguably they’ll be fine without it). Linux is broken. Also, we’re running out of resources, the planet is heating up, and nothing can stop the heat death of the universe.

    • geisler says:

      Very naive if you think opting out of Windows 10 is going to save you from big data.

      • draglikepull says:

        “You can’t stop everything so why stop anything?” is a nonsense argument, and you have no idea what steps I take in general to protect my privacy and/or security.

      • jrodman says:

        I’m a little annoyed at the use of the term “big data” to mean “big data databases about people”.

        I mean, maybe I’m just tilting windmills here, but big data in computing circles refers to a cluster of approaches, techniques, problems and solutions around pushing the scale of information management that is possible to the next few orders of magnitude. One application of this stuff is building tracking databases, but there’s a lot of other applications too.

        I just feel like it’s not a term that really invokes the problem either. What about “tracking the public” or “automatic profiling”?

        • pepperfez says:

          I think the intended parallel is, e.g., “Big Business” or “Big Pharma,” as a disparaging reference to an overreaching industry.

          • EhexT says:

            We’ve already got an appropriate “big” term. It’s Big Brother.

    • Premium User Badge

      JiminyJickers says:

      Just sign in with a local account instead of Microsoft account and most of these are disabled/useless by default.

      In saying that, I would have stayed with Windows 7 if they didn’t make DirectX 12 Windows 10 only. But I’ll hold off upgrading until games start using it.

      • soundofsatellites says:

        I use a local account since forever in win 8 since the constant log in to an old hotmail account is needlessly annoying. Plan to do so with the upgrade to win 10.

        I haven’t kept track of Chrome OS, and certainly Chromebooks are not as widely spread as win PCs, but isnt what MS is doing is the same thing that Google does with its OS?

        I am so looking for the valve linux push into the industry. I would gladly switch to linux for my primary OS anytime soon

      • ninchao says:

        So, you trust Microsoft will not still harvest your information on a selected “local” account, the same people who are arbitrarily “holding hostage” Directx 12 to get spineless bastards to switch over?

        Sounds like a winning gameplan to me.

    • darkhog says:

      Yup, install Linux. It will do you good.

      • Dale Winton says:

        Linux is shit mate. Just let them have your data. What’s the worst that can happen ? You’ll get adverts for stuff you like

        • SaintAn says:

          What’s the worse that can happen? Do you really want an answer to that, little sheep?

        • Eagle0600 says:

          “Targeted advertising” doesn’t mean “ads for stuff I like.” It means targeting you when you’re most vulnerable, and don’t think you’re never vulnerable, because everyone acts illogically and makes mistakes at times.

        • ninchao says:

          Well, just for starters you’re having your time stolen from you. And sorry for stepping on toes but if your actually claiming to enjoy and / or tolerate having your time stolen from you without being compensated then I would call you a complete fucking moron. And likewise if you’re defending having your time stolen from you, you again are a complete fucking moron.

          An operating system that brings nothing new to the table but steals your time. Yea, you’re fucking brilliant downgrading to that. In the meantime I’ll just stick to not having my time wasted by using the last and greatest edition of Windows ever produced, Windows 7.

    • JacktheStripper says:

      We all know where this leads….

      • Premium User Badge

        RaveTurned says:

        It’s funny, because we never asked for this.

        • Crimsoneer says:

          We absolutely did! We’ve all willingly traded our personal data for cheaper prices and better products. We could all be using Linux/Duck Duck Go, but we’re not.

          • jrodman says:

            Indeed. This is precisely the trend that ensures that our services and products become hostile to us as people.

      • Artist says:

        Strange… I thought Shodan would be the bigger problem???

    • Boozebeard says:

      I assume you also boycott smart phone operating systems or is everyone for some reason holding windows to a different standard while they do exactly the same kind of personal stuff on smart phones all day which are collecting all this data and more and have been for years?

    • Cantisque says:

      Meh, I don’t mind personally. It’s not like there’s someone sat down watching my every move, it’s all just statistics fed into a computer and used to profit advertisers. I grew up in the days before DVR’s and on-demand TV, I’m totally used to being advertised to.

  3. AskForBarry says:

    I kind of like it when Microsoft and Google gathers as much data as possible on me.
    Big Broter is watching. Makes me feel safe.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      “Hello? Hey, Government… It’s me… Butters. Uh, I just wanna say, well, well, thanks for watching over me and, and doin’ everything you do. …And, and please watch over mommy, and daddy, uh, and and my friends Stan and Kyle, Craig and Token, and and even ol’ Eric Cartman. Uh, I know he can be a meanie sometimes, but please watch over him too. Goodnight, Government. Oh yeah. Uh, and thank you, President Obama, for, for making me feel so safe and looked after. And if it wouldn’t be… too much trouble… I’d really like to get a puppy for Christmas this year. ‘Night, Government.”

  4. Melody says:

    Thanks a lot for this, Alec.
    Both for the guide, and for bring the general problem to attention to people who usually dismiss any mention of this kind of thing as tinfoil-hat thinking.

    • Xzi says:

      The slow trickle of information relating to bad features being revealed to us is exactly what I expected of Windows 10, and exactly why I’m holding off with the upgrade. This and the Wifi Sense shenanigans are bad enough, now I’m just waiting for a hack on Microsoft to steal thousands of Win10 users’ data. Or a big security hole allowing complete control of users’ systems to appear. Maybe after the big disaster occurs, whatever it may be, then I’ll consider upgrading.

      • TWChristine says:

        I don’t know why..maybe it was the debacle with Win 8 when it launched that made me feel like Win 10 was going to be a fresh start for them; they’d finally get it right, while it might not be perfect, at least it wouldn’t be barking mad. And then these reports just keep on pouring in.

    • Jac says:

      Yep – this is just an all round just an excellent piece of writing and very much appreciated from me as well.

      • Jac says:

        Now when do we get our edit button back? Have you guys looked into a timed edit feature i.e. 2min window so people like me can correct their woefully reviewed comments and sleep soundly at night.

    • Cantisque says:

      Not so much “tin-foil hat” thinking. More like rejecting something out of principle, rather than because of the ramifications, or lack there of.

  5. griblik says:

    “I notice that every time I go back to that page, the “Personalised ads in this browser” setting has silently turned itself back on again. This is concerning, but I’m not yet sure if it’s a bug or if it’s exploiting sessions as an excuse to reset regularly.”

    I noticed that, but assumed it was down to my Chrome being loaded up with all manner of things like adblock, ghostery, privacy badger etc which were stopping the site setting a cookie.

  6. RedViv says:

    But how will we keep on stopping terrorists everywhere so successfully if we stop surveillance like this? How will we know what people like? I mean, you can’t just *ask* people, or do voluntary research. Very much impossible.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Shouldn’t you say “If you don’t agree with helping businesses tailor their services to you like this you must be a filthy communist!” in this case?

      • RedViv says:

        Possibly. There are far too many ways to imitate a rubbish twat not understanding basic human concerns to have them all included in one single comment. Everyone, feel free to add yours!

    • gunny1993 says:

      If you want to collect useful data, asking people is about the worst thing you can do for many reasons, for a start humans lie, on top of that we’re not good at all at forming accurate information based on data, we prefer just to form a large opinion based on a insignificant data set.

  7. NinetySevenA says:

    This is pretty much what I thought was going to happen when Microsoft announced Win 10 was going to be free.

    I then assumed that they wouldn’t be doing it because of all their business clients would be pretty upset about them tracking their data. I guess I was wrong.

    I’m going to hold off on upgrading.

    • EhexT says:

      Ah but that is why the most egregious of the data collection toggle is an enterprise version only feature. Microsoft looks after it’s (high paying) big business customers.

      • Cantisque says:

        Actually two reasons for this.
        1) There’s very little marketing data based on persona habits to be gained from corporate workstations.
        2) If the data dragnet hooked up particularly sensitive data somehow, Microsoft could be in trouble for committing industrial espionage.

        So it’s in their best interest to leave the enterprise versions alone.

  8. akarnokd says:

    There is a saying what comes into my mind: “if something is free, you are the product.”

    • Premium User Badge

      aleander says:

      That saying is overly specific. Fixed it: “you are a product”.

    • Don Reba says:

      You still pay for Windows when you buy a new PC, just as you always have, though.

    • All is Well says:

      But Linux is free, in more than one sense even. Does that mean that my product-ness doubles when I use Linux?

  9. Eiv says:

    Turned all that bumf off, thanks. Actually enjoying win10 so far. Had a few niggles (xbox one controller driver) but everything else is working perfectly. Loving have a start/taskbar on every monitor without using 3rd party guff. Games are running slightly smoother and photoshop is running way better.

  10. Phantom_Renegade says:

    Up until yesterday I had addblock off. But then your ads kept crashing my browser. I’ll try again in a couple of days, see if there’s any improvements.

  11. schlusenbach says:

    Thanks for the article!

    It boils down to this: If you want to use Windows10 you have to agree to give up your privacy. You can disable a lot of the problematic services and apps, but that doesn’t change that you agreed to their Privacy Statement and that means they could read and disclose your private files whenever they want. And if they decide to add more of these services to your OS you can’t do anything about it, since there is no sane way to disable automatic updates (you can disable it, but then you don’t get any security updates either).

    Using Win10 basically means that your PC and your data are no longer yours and I don’t understand why isn’t discussed more in the media.

    • Walsh says:

      Because what you are saying isn’t true at all. Stop spreading FUD.

      • schlusenbach says:

        So, what is not true about it? Have you read the Privacy Statement? What did I get wrong?

        • Don Reba says:

          How about you support your claims with quotes from the privacy statement?

          link to windows.microsoft.com

          • schlusenbach says:

            The actual Privacy Statement is here. In the section “Personal Data We Collect” you’ll find a lot of things I don’t want to share with Microsoft like Demographic Data, Interests and favorites, Usage Data, Contacts and relationships, Location Data, etc.
            In the section “Reasons We Share Personal Data” is a text that starts with “Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content…” and then a list of reasons when Microsoft will access private files or the content of e-mails.

            You might argue, that this is all perfectly normal legal stuff, because Microsoft are obviously good guys and would never share your private data.

            But for me it’s totally intransparent when or why Microsoft will access my data. They won’t tell me about it beforehand, I won’t know why they access my data. All I know is, they reserved themselves the rights to access my stuff.

            So, when I agree to these terms, I give up my right to privacy on my own PC. I can never be sure that MS doesn’t access my files.

            And my argument that you have no control about automatic updates can be read everywhere. Thank god that doesn’t make any problems.

          • Horg says:

            Well, as I could be bothered to read it, here are some of the worst offending quotes:

            ”You will not have the option to turn off the transmission of data for certain features in the Programme software and services.”

            So you don’t have total control over data collection, and Microsoft wont tell you specifically what data you have to transmit.

            ”We may also disclose information about you as part of a corporate transaction, such as a merger or sale of assets.”

            This is basically just a fruity way of saying ”we will sell your data” to whomever we want.

            So yeah, if you use Windows 10 you have to give up your privacy to both corporate and government data farming programs. This is not FUD.

          • schlusenbach says:

            I actually answered to this two hours ago, but that comment is still “awaiting moderation”, probably because I used several links. Knowing RPS I guess it will take about three days till the comment is set free. :)
            Well, I tried.

          • All is Well says:

            But that link leads to the preview privacy statement which doesn’t apply to the final version. Or at least I don’t think so – the final EULA references and provides a link to the standard Privacy Statement. In any case, I’d not assume you are actually agreeing to all this by using the retail version of W10.

      • Fred says:

        I’ve come late into the fray – being aware of Windows 10 only after its release) but I have read the ‘privacy statement’ which is written sufficiently widely to mean that it most certainly can be very easily interpreted to mean that anything that I write (as in this here, now) is effectively accessible to Microsoft and arguably its and not mine. It shouldn’t stand up in the highest courts when challenged as a valid interpretation of the wording – or at least I would hope not – but that anyone even drafts such a wording knowingly and that mostly at least reasonably intelligent people (you, the reader) aren’t concerned by this is, as others have said, as much a concern and overall much more of one – that’s me talking to you conscientious people here.

        Initially I was of the mind to simply download it and disable the crap, ignoring that which I couldn’t avoid but the more I see the more I think it’s better to wait and see what public opinion and legal challege result in: if nothing more than some form of clarification. Got 11 months to decide whether to upgrade or not anyway, so no rush.

    • mattevansc3 says:

      Because the data hasn’t been yours for a long time. Also there’s a lot of unbalanced standards around the issue.

      Alec’s Win10 review had saying he was sticking with Google services such as Chrome and Google Drive. Both products from a company who’s major income is based on data harvesting and ad selling. Yet here we’ve got an article from Alec demonising Microsoft for doing the same.

      If Alec was genuinely concerned about privacy he wouldn’t be using Google products but he is.

  12. neoncat says:

    Uhm… hey, do you own a smartphone? It collects even more data about you than Windows 10 ever could. And you probably can’t turn most of it off.

    Welcome to the future.

    (Please, less FUD and hype about things that became standard years ago? Many of these options exist in W8.1 as well, so you should go turn them off there as well.)

    • Aerothorn says:

      No, I do not own a smartphone. Thanks for asking! :)

    • Zenicetus says:

      I don’t own a smartphone either. But I’m an old, so I have an excuse for my flip-phone. It does let me laugh at friends and family who are constantly having to recharge their smartphones, because “modern life” still doesn’t include decent battery technology. The charge on this little phone lasts a looong time, and voice calls are all I want it to do.

      I’ve got an iPad for the other stuff, so I guess that’s where I’m “trackable.”

    • Don Reba says:

      I own a Windows Mobile smartphone. The data it collects is sent to a central fax machine in an abandoned storage closet in Redmond.

    • subedii says:

      Not until recently. I own one now. Installed Cyanogenmod. Has some nice and pretty granular control on it.

      Fun note: It also runs a LOT faster without the extra crapware that’s usually forced on by default.

      • Jediben says:

        My smart phone has no where near the level if data on it which my desktop does. I don’t work in my mobile, I don’t shoo on my mobile and I don’t access my email in mobile. Stealing my data to sell is disgusting.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Your Ts&Cs with your telco probably allow them to harvest every last byte that flows through their network for marketing purposes, however.

        • subedii says:

          Buh? You mean my call records? Because you know that’s no different from a normal phone right?

          If you mean internet browsing, I don’t bother. When I do it’s off of Wi-Fi (data be expensive yo).

          Which, yes, to forestall the next inevitable “ah HA!” gotcha to be attempted, my ISP also knows what I’m browsing.

          So I don’t know, how far down this rabbit hole are you going to take this before you accept the general reasoning that “just because some data is shared with someone doesn’t automatically mean everything should be shared with everyone at all times?”

          • Asurmen says:

            That isn’t what he’s saying? He’s pointing out the very obvious hypocrisy. Why is everyone complaining about this when a very large amount of your life is already collected as data?

          • subedii says:

            – Because despite what you say it’s not all already being collected as data, and other people have already posted as to why. My Smartphone carries on it and is used for FAR less personal data than my PC. The T&C’s in question pretty unequivocally allow for far greater access than even Facebook or Google have ever had if you have accounts with them.

            – Because it’s not being distributed to all and sundry either. The T&C’s in question allow for effectively anyone to access it (again, others have covered this) with no clear safeguards. This is, bear in mind, Microsoft stating that it’s their biggest effort towards “transparency” to date.

            – Because even on the presumption of trust in Microsoft, recent hacking history of even the past few months has show what a monumentally bad idea it is for 3rd parties to have access to such vast amounts of your personal information. Which means that even if other organisations have this same amount of data on you (they don’t), and even if they can be trusted to not abuse it (in MS’s case, history is also pretty heavily against them), it then also becomes a question of how much you trust whatever other agents it gets passed onto, sold onto, or hacked into.

            At which point it is not hard to see that limiting the number of entities that have access to this information is a good thing by default, even excluding trust or lack thereof.

            Heck, I have a bank card with a PIN number that can be cracked in seconds by any computer on the planet. This does not mean that I go around handing it to everyone, and there are clear reasons for that.

          • Asurmen says:

            I didn’t say all, I said a large amount. As for the rest, Facebook et al have massive amounts of access to your personal data, depending on how much you share and how much you interact with Facebook. Your anecdotal use of your smart phone is irrelevant to the discussion.

            You’ll find that quite a lot of your data is spread to all and sundry. It’s how the modern world works. May as well not use a modern device, because plenty of 3rd parties have your personal data.

            My point still stands. Why are other devices, corporations and services given a nice clean break, while people are complaining about MS when you can turn all the data tracking off?

          • subedii says:

            – Poster: “do you own a smartphone? It collects even more data about you than Windows 10 ever could.”

            – Others: “That’s not true, here’s why.”

            – Other Poster: “Your anecdotal use of your smart phone is irrelevant to the discussion.”

            Why?

            And also in a nutshell: The issue with trying to have a discussion on a topic when someone else comes in to try a different argument.

            Facebook et al have massive amounts of access to your personal data, depending on how much you share and how much you interact with Facebook.

            Feel free to find my Facebook page and tell me what you know of me. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

            Although now that I think of it, if I’m reading your caveat right, isn’t that kind of the point?

            You’ll find that quite a lot of your data is spread to all and sundry. It’s how the modern world works. May as well not use a modern device, because plenty of 3rd parties have your personal data.

            Interesting. So amongst companies like Google, Facebook and my phone company (which it seems people keep telling me, are the ones that “already know” whenever a privacy discussion crops up), where to they store listings of my HDD files? My passwords (I’m going to presume that we both accept that a company which you already have an account with probably ought to have that particular password listed somewhere)? My photos? The contents of everything I type? I mean this is all information that the W10 T&C’s propose is eligible for collection, so going by that statement, those companies already have all this stuff right?

            My point still stands. Why are other devices, corporations and services given a nice clean break, while people are complaining about MS when you can turn all the data tracking off?

            Where you’re going wrong is in the presumption that my dismissal of MS’s behaviour is somehow approval of others. It’s that kind of binary “for or against” thinking that’s kind of the problem here. A heck of a lot of people do and always have had issue with this kind of thing.

            The other place you’re mistaken is in the statement that you can fully turn all of this off. Which again, you can’t, and is one more thing directly stated in the T&C’s. As far as I’m aware, Telemetry can’t be turned ‘off’ unless you’re an Enterprise user (correct me if I’m mistaken).

            All that aside, it still doesn’t mitigate what I said: Even from a presumed stance of trust, it’s still better to keep the pool limited, especially given how easily this kind of information has been hacked recently. Doubly so since… well.. let me put it this way. I’m going to be entirely unsurprised if in 6 months time (give or take) there’s already malware out there that takes this logging and simply re-directs it to some other actor. It’s not like the recent “Hacking Team” breach didn’t reveal that there’s always zero-days that can exploit such mechanisms.

  13. James says:

    I don’t suppose there is any way I can get Windows 10 to send a pixel art middle finger off to their servers rather than who, when and where I’m meeting next week?

    • Don Reba says:

      There is! You can send screenshots through Windows Feedback.

  14. frightlever says:

    If I have to have ads I’d rather have targeted ads. I went through the options at installation on my tablet (not upgrading the games machines yet) and de-selected everything, thought about it and re-selected them. I think Google Now has had a lot to do with changing my mind about this. It’s just such a good feature, and it doesn’t work if I’m not being tracked.

    I don’t care if big corporations “spy” on me. The ads on RPS are tracked and collated to a unique “identity” based on a million little clues your browsing habits leave behind – but apparently this is okay according to Alec. What Microsoft does goes a step further, because it can be tied to an email address or a physical address even, but you’re either against “this sort of thing” or you’re not. Wheedling about some acceptable grey area is disingenuous.

    Changing the options doesn’t mean you’ll get fewer ads, it just means they won’t be relevant. Now, if you really don’t want MS serving you ads, adblock at a router level. Run pfSense or IPCop on an old dual NIC PC and really stick it to them. Use it as your WiFi gateway and you’ll block most of those irritating mobile ads as well, when you’re at home at least.

    Of course, that will have consequences, but if you don’t want your browsing habits tracked, Microsoft are the least of your worries. The skeevy companies serving ads up on random websites are far more dangerous – I mean just look at some of the ads that have been shown on RPS in the past and which have had to be removed because of complaints.

    Years from now they’ll look back on concerns about targeted ads the same way we regard tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorists now. Ultimately most people will let the default options go without thinking about it and all they’ll notice is improved suggestions from Cortana and ads that seem to work like magic.

    Man, that WiFi Sense thing though, that’s just wrong.

    • draglikepull says:

      “Now, if you really don’t want MS serving you ads, adblock at a router level. Run pfSense or IPCop on an old dual NIC PC and really stick it to them. Use it as your WiFi gateway and you’ll block most of those irritating mobile ads as well, when you’re at home at least.”

      People shouldn’t need this level of technical expertise to have a basic level of privacy.

    • joa says:

      Well having all information recorded about your real identity and having targeted ads on internet is a little different. For one thing – you want to clear online targeted ads – just clear all your cookies, change the browser. Having this baked into operating system, and associated with real identity – this is different.

      Sure it is just to provide the new features, fair enough, and it can be turn off. But, it does make us accept this sort of thing. And then in the future, they can remove ability to turn such things off – and they can say “hey it is just small change, many already accept this, don’t be a tinfoil hat guy”. And then, global data base of everyone’s private communication, etc, held by the private company. And we will accept it.

  15. w0bbl3r says:

    I didn’t go for the “free” windows 10 update because I 100% knew, I mean I KNEW, there would be a catch. At least one catch, and that it would be a biggy.
    I know most people online these days seem to think privacy is no big deal, but I didn’t even use my real name or date of birth or enter any real details about myself when I had a facebook account (which wasn’t for long, and has been “deactivated” for over a year now).
    People complain all the time “Oh this sucks, big brother everywhere, cameras on every corner so the government can spy on me walking down the street because I am THAT interesting that I know David Cameron/Obama need to know when I go to the local supermarket”. But then they openly give out every one of their personal details.
    Would anyone just stop someone on the street and say “Hi, my name is {blablah}, my DOB is {blahblah}, my phone number is {blahblah}, my address is… ” and so on, even to their friends and their details, what school they went to, where they were born, and the details of all their family members? Of course not. But people are essentially doing just that on facebook all the time.
    They put their phone numbers, full address, age, family will be linked through friends and family lists, and this is all perfectly normal.
    But having CCTV to help the police do their job is evil and a huge invasion of privacy.
    I guess windows 10 is another OS from micropoo that I will never be installing, unless they completely remove all this invasive trash.
    I don’t use EA origin because of their EULA stating they will sell your details and info to third party companies, but the origin EULA seems to be perfectly reasonable compared to this.
    Anyone who agrees to this must be insane, in my opinion, even if you turn this stuff off, I can imagine there is still stuff you would miss, or that is hidden, that invades your privacy in some horrible way to help M$ make money from your personal details.

    • Premium User Badge

      PoulWrist says:

      I reckon you don’t use the Internet either, then? Or do you spend an inordinate amount of time setting up devices with no personal information on them, install adblockers and drop revenue on the sites you repeatedly visit, don’t use a cellphone at all and only deliver your mail in person?

      • Fred says:

        To a large degree: yes. It’s what we did before computers came along to improve things.

  16. Premium User Badge

    PoulWrist says:

    Personalized ads was one of the things I kept on, because I’d much rather see a relevant ad than a random one. Google’s system has won me over. Because, hey, I don’t use adblocker on sites I visit regularly. Like here on RPS it’s off, and I see all kinds of ads for stuff I actually want or may want, rather than stuff I don’t.

  17. SuicideKing says:

    Wow thanks a lot, I’ll let this kick up a shit-storm that blows up in their face, remove all of this, and then maybe think about upgrading. Windows 7 is fine, thanks.

    Side note on ads:
    There was this ad on the RPS mobile site, that tried to install an android app on my phone (which was called something weird and had porn in its name). I scrolled down a bit and saw the ad, that seemed to be something porn related. Did send an email to RPS folks but never got a reply – however the ad and pop-up installer thing no longer appear so I suppose they did something about it.

    And Solitaire.

  18. Freud says:

    Any German midget porn activity on my desktop is a false positive, Microsoft.

  19. Wisq says:

    And this is why, since the days of Windows 95, I have only ever used Windows as a gaming OS.

    All my “do stuff, manage life, get work done” boxes have been other OSes — mostly Linux to start, and more recently, Mac. I don’t trust Windows with my work or my data, I back everything up to Linux servers, and I’m ready to wipe and reinstall at a moment’s notice.

    The thought of actually having to “live” in Windows makes me shudder. To me, it’s basically a fancier, more technical gamng console. And I like it that way (though I’d rather I didn’t have to use it at all).

    • Wisq says:

      I should clarify: this sort of anti-customer attitude (as well as their technical and UI-design incompetence) is why etc etc.

      I’m not saying I saw this coming twenty years ago and have avoided them just because of this. :)

      • jrodman says:

        I moved permanently (was dual booting 94-98 or so) when bugs in their partition handling caused win98 to refuse to boot unless I ran chkdsk which turned out to wipe an entire partition clean.

        It doesn’t take malice to mishandle or lose your data. Incompetence is plenty sufficient.

  20. wisnoskij says:

    Why the targeted ad hate? While I would not want them tracking what I do, I do want the most relevant ads possible. I enjoy seeing ads for video games a hell of a lot more then feminine hygiene products.

    • Catweasel says:

      People understandably don’t get too wild about the idea of advertisers building a profile on you.

      • gunny1993 says:

        I really don’t find it that much of an issue, its not like there’s going to be an considerable human involvement at all, i’ll just be a point of data running through an algorithm, to me it feels totally impersonal. Not like some MI5 agent who has been following me around for 5 years noting my every movement.

  21. ansionnach says:

    Sure every version after Vista is Vista with a few extra bells, some optimisations and a new coat of paint. My Windows 7 will get security updates until 2020 and Vista machines have another couple of years. Will certainly wait and see what happens after the first year (will they introduce a subscription charge) before considering any move. Fully-patched Vista is perfectly fine; don’t see how its launch was anywhere near as bad as XP’s (dropped DOS compatibility, dropped some Windows compatibility, driver problems, security issues…). Vista even has the classic start menu out of the box (which is my favourite).

  22. Orillion says:

    Regarding adblock on RPS: Sometimes I do turn it off when I notice it’s on here. But I have a habit of clicking places I don’t really mean to (usually just white space and so on), and on RPS over 60% of my screen takes me off the site (today it’s the Steam page for Victor Vran, for example).

    I would love to support RPS in some fashion, but paying to be a supporter is completely out of the question (I live in a “we get to have pizza thee times a year sometimes maybe” sort of situation) and turning Adblock off literally makes it harder for me to use the site.

    • SnowWookie says:

      You can’t afford a few $ a month, but your hobby is PC gaming?

      Yeah, right….

      • Orillion says:

        My hobby is playing games well after they release, when they go on sale for $5. That is my entertainment budget most months.
        And if I were going to support someone with money, why would I pick RPS when there’s six or seven patreons I would consider beforehand from people who don’t even have advertisements on whatever entertainment they provide?
        Next time, instead of announcing you’re an ignorant twat, maybe you should just move along.

  23. Askis says:

    I’m thinking this will blow up in their face real soon, not due to complaints from private consumers, but from companies that really don’t want their data to be potentially accessible by Microsoft.

    Would Banks, for example, upgrade to Win10 when there’s even the slightest chance that, even opted out of everything, Microsoft could just access any files on their machines?
    If the company editions of Win10 aren’t vastly different to the consumer versions, this shit just won’t fly.

    • Baines says:

      Considering businesses can run 10-20 years behind when it comes to software, Microsoft might start facing backlash in that sector around 2025.

    • TormDK says:

      Windows 10 Enterprise has the option to turn off telemetrics.

  24. ScubaMonster says:

    I’m just going to keep using Windows 7 for my main OS but I’ll end up installing Windows 10 on a spare drive for when I eventually will need DX12 for gaming. For everything else though I’m sticking with Win 7 or eventually Linux and merely boot into Win 10 for gaming.

  25. Laurentius says:

    This breach of privacy is mind boggling but I actually wear tin-foil hat so…

  26. JD Ogre says:

    Notice that to turn off the targeted ads via the external site, you **HAVE** to accept a permanent tracking cookie. Just by that you can tell that they are completely and utterly bullshitting about caring even the slightest bit about users’ privacy. (if they did, the system would be “Do they have our cookie? Serve then the personalized ad.”)

  27. silentdan says:

    I doubt we’ll have to wait more than a week for a privacy-respecting “version” of 10 to become “available.”

  28. znomorph says:

    I get the privacy concerns, but why the alarmist article? You said so yourself, if you read the instructions carefully (which you should already be doing) you can avoid all this. Everything after the first couple sentences is just flamebait.

    And it’s not like this is something new, as many other commenters have pointed out. Worth bringing up, sure, but worth getting the pitchforks out? I think not.

    • Orillion says:

      Thing is, Windows 10 shouldn’t even be able to do any of this at all. An operating system should do three things:
      Provide a kernel which I can use ultimately to run programs on. It is preferred if the kernel offers backwards compatibility for programs written on previous versions of the OS.
      Provide a user interface with which the user can interface with the machine. More customizabilty is better, but ultimately a solid design is the important thing here
      Provide a handful of completely necessary tools for navigating the operating system. You need Explorer, it helps to have a web browser (so you can more easily download a better one rather than need to have it on a flash drive), and it’s best if the OS will handle drivers for mice, keyboards, and basic Internet things.

      Anything else, ANYTHING else, is window dressing at best, or in this case overtly consumer-hostile.
      At least, in this case, it looks like perhaps you can just not make a Microsoft account and avoid most of this, but harsh consumer backlash is really the only way to ensure that we keep so much as that option.

      • RabbitIslandHermit says:

        I don’t necessarily disagree with this (started dualbooting Arch Linux because I was so fed up with all the extraneous crap on Windows and OS X), but we’re clearly past the point where OS minimalism is feasible for mainstream OSes.

      • znomorph says:

        A car should only really do a few things: have a seat, a steering wheel, and an engine to drive the car. Heated seats, navigation systems, leather interiors etc. are all needless. But consumers have asked for those features because they make the driving experience better. For the majority of windows users(not you), these information gathering “features” make the windows experience better with targeted ads and a smarter cortana.

        I also don’t disagree with you, but you weren’t really addressing my point. I was questioning the tone of the article, not the information presented. If you don’t want to use the features, you can turn them off if you simply paid attention during installation (the article said as much). The “OMG Microsoft wants my identity” alarmist nature of the article was what I called out as unnecessary.

        “Everybody does it” is no excuse for bad behavior, but I don’t see anyone here getting up in arms about Google aggregating your behavior to better serve you ads. Even the people using linux can’t get away from that. Microsoft is simply following suit. Spreading information rather than fear is usually the better policy.

        • foodshipnine says:

          how do targeted ads make any experience better, though?

          • falcon2001 says:

            Because (as we both know), the option is not between targeted ads and no ads, it’s between targeted ads and untargeted ads. The advertisements that MS is talking about are in apps and websites, (based on everything we’ve seen so far) so what we’re talking about is letting app developers/etc who choose to use advertising to have better ads, which means you see stuff at least somewhat relevant to you that you’re more likely to click on or view, and not stuff that’s just braindead unrelated. Would it be awesome if we lived in a world without advertisement? Sure, but that hasn’t been the case since at least the renaissance and there’s no sign of it changing any time soon.

          • foodshipnine says:

            could have just said “they don’t”

          • Asurmen says:

            foodshipnine, well that wouldn’t be an accurate reply then. Targeted ads do improve things for some people.

          • pepperfez says:

            Indeed, some people are marketers.

          • Asurmen says:

            Or some people don’t mind ads and would rather see stuff they’re interested in than random crap.

          • jrodman says:

            They “improve” the “experience”. By which we mean they make your life worse. But you should be grateful because we could have made it a *LOT* worse.

        • Orillion says:

          Microsoft is still following suit and accepting money for the software. That’s where my problem lies. That, and the complete lack of an alternative. If you want a PC for office tasks and gaming there’s no other option at this juncture, beyond sticking with Windows 7 (which hopefully a statistically significant number of people will do on principle).
          If anyone at all has to pay for Windows 10, like people who don’t own a copy of 7 or 8, such as Linux or Mac users interested in switching over, and people who had to pirate Windows 7 after the activation software fubared on them and support never actually answered their e-mail (had that happen to two friends now) or people just building a new PC, then there is no excuse anywhere, ever, for gathering and selling users’ information.
          I don’t care that Google does it because nobody in the world has to pay to use their search engine or post a video up on Youtube. They get those things for free, at the cost of privacy regarding anything they enter into a Google website.

        • Fred says:

          Regarding cars et al I would think most things are product-push and marketing at the venal instincts of weak-minded consumers rather than someone suddenly deciding they wanted a feature that they probably wouldn’t have thought of anyway.

          Same applies to most things.

  29. kud13 says:

    Hmm. Well, that’s another point for sticking with Win 7.

    To be fair, I’m not crazy concerned with ads. I don’t use any specialized adblocks, but i’ve learned to tune them out when I read stuff.

    But I don’t want M$oft making extra money off me. I keep my “for work” laptop offline 90% of the time, and my gaming rig is online so that I can surf the net, as I game SP only.

    The all-digital, “cloud” future does not excite me. I rather like the shreds of privacy I have left.

  30. ZakG says:

    Thank you Alec for getting back into this.

    I do not use Facebook, i switched from the ‘free’ email serivces like gmail/yahoo/hotmail a few years back to a european one that very specifically is for those not keen to have the likes of the NSA snooping on their emails.

    I don’t use smart phones, i-phones or apps that ping my daily location to some corporate headquarters to be stored god knows how long or used for god knows what.

    I don’t use ‘google’ or any tracking based search engine (DuckDuckGo for the win). I don’t sign up to ‘2 stage’ authentication for any site because frankly the data i would put on those sites does not require that level of security (and intrusion into my personal contct details).

    We are at real cross-roads here in terms of technolgy and corporations desire to have access to all our private and personal data. These last 5 years have sort of snowballed on us, and our right to privacy. As someone working in computer security i’ve seen it all coming and advised my clients to make provisions suitable for their needs, and also any friends and family that ask about this stuff. We have pretty much sleep-walked right into an online Big Brother society, one often based not in our sovergin shores so legally very difficult to address via any legal method.

    This is not a case so much of ‘what have you got to hide’ but more ‘Why do you need to spy on my and all my contacts so completely?’ How the Stazi and KGB would have loved to have the level of personal scrutiny that these large corpoerate entities (and their affiliated government agencies) now have from all our ‘everyday’ internet usage.

    We should all probably have a really good think about this, they way we use our tech, the way we allow it to determine our working relationship with it, and the fact we often pay money for these ‘services’.

    The ‘Facebook Generation’, how much you give away about everything that is important to you, you probably should not?

  31. Tuor says:

    I stopped Win 10 from sharing my personal data… by not installing it.

  32. therighttoarmbears says:

    Hey, so, I don’t like my info being sold as much as the next guy, and I hate oleaginous nonsense marketing lies about transparency also, but this is pretty tame stuff compared to, say, Facebook. And yes, I too would love to turn all these things off, and will, should I decide to upgrade to Win10 (haven’t yet). However, I bet Apple and Google and FB have just as much info about me (and most of us) as Microsoft will through these things. And this is Microsoft we’re talking about here: they’re always terrible at actually doing anything innovative or interesting within a decade of Apple/Google doing it. It’s not gonna be MS that produce the first Terminators who know when you’ll be going to J Crew so they can exterminate you there.

  33. Don Reba says:

    Actually, none of that looks particularly egregious. So, Microsoft will get the content of the files that if I choose to store them on its cloud — well, obviously. Microsoft will get the content of emails I send through its servers — what else would you expect?

    • 10min says:

      Wrong.

      The contract is explicit: Microsoft will collect any file you have, aside the ones you “provide”, including anything in your private folders, including any password, of any nature belonging to you, not limited to the computer and devices running Windows 10, or any microsoft service. If you encript a drive, Microsoft gets the key.

      There is no clause forcing Microsoft to limit or obey any opt out, or choice you make.

      In case of doubt, Microsoft gets the right to change the contract.

      • Don Reba says:

        We collect content of your files and communications when necessary to provide you with the services you use. This includes: the content of your documents, photos, music or video you upload to a Microsoft service such as OneDrive.

        Granted, nowhere in the service agreement does it say that the types of data listed are the only ones collected, but at least it does not explicitly give Microsoft permission to arbitrarily take your files — only to enable services, like storage of those files in the cloud.

        • 10min says:

          Wrong again.

          You can’t read a contract the way you read another text. A contract is literal. You cannot assume or interpret it according to your opinion. That’s the point of writing the contract: to rule away “opinions” about what are the right and obligations.
          It does not says “ONLY when necessary to provide you with the services you use”. You cannot add the “ONLY” word. Is not in the contract. There is nothing to argue. Is a contract.

          Also, when it says “This includes: the content […]”, the word “includes” is the key. Including something does not excludes any other thing.

          Yet, in case of doubt, the contract is explicit saying that any kind of data will be collected, for example
          “[…]we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content ([…] or files in private folders)[…]”

          The wording “files in your private folders” mean any file in any private folder. Not ONLY files you upload to the cloud.
          Again the word “including” specifies a subset of your “personal data”, but does not restrict it to only “your content ([…] or files in private folders)[…]”.

          Still in doubt? Read this clause:
          “In addition to those you explicitly provide, […] may also be inferred or derived from other data we collect.”
          It completely denies any voluntary choice you may have in what you provide. There is no restriction to “other data we collect.”.
          Is not even restricted to collecting the data trough Windows. Any way of collecting data about you, even illegal, is made legal, because is you will, as stated in the contract, when it says that Microsoft collects data “with your consent”.
          It does NOT says that you need to give your consent each time your data is collected. It says that Microsoft activities have your consent. Is a FACT stated in the contract.
          Microsoft does not need you to consent again ever more.

          “We also obtain data from third parties (including other companies)”. ANY third party. Anybody. Spying you is now legal by any means.
          Microsoft can write a letter to your doctor and demand your medical records, and since your records are probably stored in a computer, it would be easy. If it needs your password, remember that Microsoft got the right to grab any of your passwords:
          “Credentials. We collect passwords, password hints, and similar security information”

          It collects “passwords”. Not ONLY the ones you MAY provide. Not ONLY the ones belonging to you. Not ONLY computer passwords.
          If somebody has a locker combination written in a piece of paper, and that paper can be read by the laptop camera, Microsoft gets the right to collect it.
          It collects “Credentials”. ANY credential. Your passport is fair game. Your fingerprints, your driving license, the card you use to cross a door at work, the wireless key needed to open your car, your photo, a 3D scan of your face, your eyes pupil patterns; ANY credential.

          So yes, absolutely and undeniable: it EXPLICITLY GIVES MICROSOFT PERMISSION TO ARBITRARILY TAKE YOUR FILES. “Your files” is not restricted to any specific computer. Not even a computer. Even a paper file is included.

          Also if you read the contract, take in consideration that any word or phrase written in Uppercase is OLNY a label, and does not mean anything in a contract, unless defined in the contract.

          For example, the title: “How We Use Personal Data” has no legal effect. You can delete it and nothing changes, unless some other clause defines it, or references it by that exact title, with that exact uppercase format.
          You cannot argue to a judge that ONLY that clause describes how your data is used. You cannot argue that you were misdirected by that text, the same way you cannot argue that you “didn’t read the small letter because …”.

          “Bing services are also included within other Microsoft services, such as MSN Apps and Cortana, and Windows (which we refer to as Bing-powered experiences).”
          So, if yo do read “Bing-powered”, it means Windows.

          “You may access Bing-powered experiences when using other non-Microsoft services, such as those from Yahoo”
          So if you use Linux or Macintosh, and you use Firefox, which defaults to yahoo search, and you do not change Yahoo search to another search engine (like DogDogPile), you sign the contract.

          So, as you can see, a contract is full of bobby traps. You may think that it says something, but actually it says something else entirely.
          Only a lawyer is trained to fully understand contracts, and this one is a really evil one.

  34. Monggerel says:

    The unenlightended masses
    they cannot make the judgement call

  35. BigPrimeNumbers says:

    Won’t let me disable “Personalised ads in this browser” on the given page. WTF Microsoft?

  36. All is Well says:

    Here’s a nice guide to disabling/minimizing the data collection in W10:
    link to theblogpirate.wordpress.com
    which covers some stuff not included in the article. I’d maybe recommend not outright deleting services, like the guide suggests, but rather stopping+disabling them in services.msc, though.

  37. trooperwally says:

    Gosh, this makes me feel old because I remember when having this much activity tracking junk was available separately and it was known as spyware. These new fangled all in one OSes really have it all.

  38. Blaaaaaaag says:

    How long am I going to be able to hold out on ‘upgrading’ from 7? Other than DirectX 12, what does it offer me? When will it become hard to be a gamer without DirectX 12?

    I basically have only the one device. It’s a gaming rig/web browser. I’m a simple user, I game and web browse. I don’t use the calender, have no contact info stored in here, so maybe I have nothing to worry about, but “having nothing to worry about” isn’t a good enough reason for me to switch, just as “not being thaaaat bad” wasn’t a good enough reason to jump onto 8. Anybody wanna try and sell me on this OS?

    • All is Well says:

      These are some reasons I can think of:
      (Disclaimer: can’t guarantee 100% accuracy, some stuff may be subjective, and most pertains to 8 over 7 but should apply to 10 as well).
      1. More secure in various ways
      2. Faster boot
      3. Better task manager and file transfer dialogues (pause!)
      4. Integrated Virtual desktops
      5. Integrated disk image mounting (.iso only though)
      6. Native USB 3.0 support (e.g. no need to install drivers, was new in 8, might have been added to 7 too, dunno)
      7. Notification center is great – works way better than Action Center
      8. Cmd/Powershell are supposedly improved but I don’t use them enough to verify
      9. You can maybe stream to your xbox one if you have one? or from it? something like that.
      10. Integrated OneDrive can be used with a separate sign-in (e.g. no need to use MS account for Windows itself)
      11. If you’re willing to give up essentially all of your privacy (meaning even MORE data collection than what Alec is talking about), you can have a “digital assistant”!
      12. Free as in gratis! That’s gotta be a “pro”.

      • RabbitIslandHermit says:

        Why on Earth did it take them so long to integrate virtual desktops, anyways? I remember thinking they were a revelation in OS X 10 years ago, and I assume some linux window managers had them well before that.

        • All is Well says:

          They do seem to be suspiciously resistant to adopting genuinely useful features, at least without delaying them forever. Virtual desktops are just in and they STILL haven’t added tabs to the File Explorer, despite how obviously and immensely useful it would be.

    • Don Reba says:

      Well, as a Windows 7 user you can expect:

      • a start menu with a limit of 6 most used applications and no jump lists for pinned items
      • no network map in the Network and Sharing center
      • system configurations scattered between Settings and Control Panel
      • visually indistinguishable focused and background windows
      • forced driver updates
      • new invasions of your privacy
      • having your WiFi password shared with your Facebook, Skype, and Outlook contacts

  39. 10min says:

    So, now you receive Windows for free, like in a communist country.

    You no more have right to privacy, are surveyed 24/7, like in a communist country.

    No more own your property, files, data, video, music. It’s all owned and managed and communally shared by an unelected governor.

    In exchange for that, you get the benefit of being told what to buy, like in a communist country.

    You lose your liberty for the price of an OS. So you entire life is worth 100/500$.

    • All is Well says:

      I am very interested by these thoughts
      Do you have a newsletter that I can subscribe to?

    • Crimsoneer says:

      I installed Windows 10 and Hitler walked in and dragged me to a camp.

  40. fish99 says:

    When people talk about this data being used to drive ads, are we talking browser ads or does Win10 have ads in it?

    • Don Reba says:

      Some Store apps have ads, including ones installed by default.

      • fish99 says:

        Thanks. Pretty sure they’re stuff I wouldn’t be using anyway so that’s not a big deal.

  41. racccoon says:

    For me this is normal procedure in any TECH stuff I have acquired.
    Whether it be a… mobile phone, Tablet, Tools, Apps, and Systems.
    Turn all the Shit off !!I
    its simple..as all they want to do is monitor your behaviour it an agreement we make all day long just by the clicking of their agreement options.. but.. after that you can stop/block/&shut them off from seeing and researching your behaviours, Steam is a massive culprit alongside Facebook and now everything!
    its like the new wave trend for corps!! Lets get them to agree and take their info!
    So your answer is to block it
    On the other hand…
    if your a person who likes being watched! your good to being watched and followed goodluck with that..
    Welcome to the world of Nosey Corps!.

  42. falcon2001 says:

    Well frankly, if this is super important to you enough to write super alarmist comments, then I would suggest becoming a linux developer and helping to make it a great system. If enough people really put effort into it, linux could absolutely take Windows’ place, but it’s not there yet, and honestly for all that people ramble against it, a lot of the features here that are getting flack are part of the reason that people like it. Cortana and Google Now are hugely popular and rely entirely on knowing information about you.

  43. HermannTheGerman says:

    Does anyone know if this also goes fully for the enterprise edition? It’s the only edition AFAIK that gives you manual control over the update process. So maybe it doesn’t spy on the user as much as well ?
    Probably just hopeful thinking though….

  44. RayEllis says:

    See, the problem I have with Windows 10 is that, whilst you may be able to turn off all the privacy invading nonsense at install, or later on, what is to stop Microsoft turning it all back on again with one of their “Automatic” updates?

    Facebook has been doing this for years and getting away with it. I can’t see MS not bundling a reset to default option with their updates from time to time. If only on the basis that people will get tired of having to go back in and change it all back again and will, eventually, just give up on the notion of privacy altogether.

    The above, plus the thought that we haven’t yet seen all the horrors Win 10 has to offer, is what will keep me firmly persevering with Win 7 for the time-being.

    • Nereus77 says:

      Yeah, that’s the crazy thing. Windows 10 just launched and we are seeing all the ways that M$ is spying on its users. What are we going to find in the next coming weeks/months/years about the more hidden and sinister features?

  45. Havalynii says:

    Any chance of covering the same topic for Windows 8.1?

  46. DeepFried says:

    There was a time when antivirus programs removed adware, now they’re running on adware.

  47. thinkforaminute says:

    I am so happy I did not join the rest of the early adopters in installing Windows 10, or Windows 8 for that matter. Now if I could get rid of that silly icon in my system tray that keeps nagging me to get this spyfluff

  48. Catocalypse says:

    To get rid of the Win10 adware icon just uninstall KB3035583 after killing GWX.exe in task manager.

    Then refresh updates and hide KB3035583.

    MS can still undo this (it’s happened once so far) so you might have to redo it periodically.

    • plehtinen says:

      Sounds very difficult and complicated. Linux seems to be much easier to use.

  49. plehtinen says:

    I’m so glad Ubuntu works perfectly on all of my PC’s and all needed software is there.

  50. Nereus77 says:

    I love how so many people are defending their spyware OS. Windows 10, which I believe is very nice to use, has scary levels of surveillance built-in. Sure we can switch these features off, but how else is the OS spying on us? Are there ‘features’ that have no settings at all? What about that keylogger ‘feature,’ exactly what keystrokes are being sent back to Microsoft? Why the hell does Solitaire have ads now? Why is Microsoft dead-set on making us use only their default apps?

    No, I’m sorry, I think I’ll stick to 7 for now on my main PC and start messing around in Linux Mint on my laptop.

    • Asurmen says:

      So your argument consists of conspiracy theory and a bunch of obvious answer questions. Riiiight. It has ads because that’s how they’re going to make money. They want you to use their apps because they’d rather you use theirs than someone else’s and some ad revenue from them.

      • Fred says:

        I tend to not listen to conspiracy theories. They’re BS.

        Only … elements of this aren’t theory: they’re fact as written in the contract. I suppose a strong determiner is how much do you value your privacy (do you even necessarily understand that or do you just not care that so much about you is known? The ‘you’ here is general and specific in that it refers to those who are unconcerned about the wider aspects of this policy rather than at the more atomistic level the propagation of advertising.) and your life as is when considered in a wider aspect and how much this can be said to be the beginnings (or later) of a return to the practice of tied accommodation as was. I’m sure you can make the leap.

        • Asurmen says:

          Except Nereus was talking about conspiracy theory. He wasn’t talking about the known features (that can all be turned off) but wondering whether there are unknown aspects.

        • Don Reba says:

          Wake up, sheeple! All conspiracy theories are perpetuated by governments to keep us distracted from the important things — like voting and community participation!