Windows 10, Microsoft’s newest operating system, was launched in July 2015.
Microsoft claims that it is the best Windows ever and was built to empower people to do great things.
It has new innovations like Cortana, Microsoft Edge and the Xbox app. It’s fast, more secure and
compatible and it’s still available as a free upgrade in the summer of 2016.
And there’s the first problem, Windows 10 is available as a free upgrade. Microsoft is a multi-billion
dollar corporation and like any corporation its goal is profit. So how can Microsoft make a profit from
giving away its product? It can harvest information from you and direct advertisers to you. Social media
websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google have been doing this successfully for years.
But what’s the harm in getting a few adverts thrown at you, especially if those ads are tailored
to your interests and buying habits? Of course there is nothing wrong with that if you are happy to receive
these ads and if that’s all Microsoft, Facebook, Google etc. did then you wouldn’t be reading this because
this website wouldn’t exist.
The main concern with Windows 10 is privacy. Windows 10 has the ability to know everything
about you, your loved ones and your friends. It can listen to everything you say, capture everything you type
and know every website you visit. Every file on your hard drive is backed up to Microsoft servers, Microsoft
state in their user agreement that they will turn over that information to the authorities if they believe there
is a reason to do so. Nowhere in the user agreement does it say that Microsoft will wait for a court order
before that information be released.
But why is privacy important, you’ve got nothing to hide right?
We all have secrets, big or small. We may be secretly building our evil empire to rule the world or may
just have an embarrassing rash. The chances are that when in a public place you talk quietly to a loved one
because you don’t want strangers hearing what you are saying. I’m sure you expect to see a doctor in private.
When you vote you go into a voting booth so that you can cast your vote in private. Would you allow a stranger
to walk into your home and take notes on what you are saying or look over your shoulder when you are on
your computer, probably not because you would want to protect your privacy.
Windows 10 comes with Cortana. Cortana is an intelligent personal assistant that sits there waiting to hear
you say “Cortana” and give it an instruction. E.G. “Cortana, will it rain today?” Cortana will then give you a local
weather forecast. All very nice but Cortana can only work if it listens to every word you say so that it can act when
it hears its name. Is Cortana listening out for certain keywords so that Microsoft can send you relevant adverts?
Microsoft isn’t saying but it would make sense to if you stood to make billions in advertising revenue.
Then there’s the Windows 10 keylogger. Microsoft says it’s there to help improve typing and writing in the
future. Imagine that, every keystroke you make is sent to Microsoft. You are potentially given them every password,
online comment, phone number, email or that secret recipe for the perfect jam sponge that you’ve typed out in
Notepad and put in an encrypted folder for your eyes only. Sending encrypted emails is getting more popular by the
minute as people become more aware of governments spying on their communications. Encrypted emails ensure that
only the recipient can view the mail but Microsoft will have a copy of that email before you even send it and as it
states in its user agreement, it will turn over that information to authorities if it believes there is a reason to do so.
There are other privacy concerns with Windows 10, a web search for them will produce many results.
You can, supposedly, disable most of the privacy concerns within Windows but does disabling them actually disable them?
Many tech sites think it doesn’t as Windows 10 will still communicate with the Microsoft servers. Is Microsoft really going
to give you something for nothing and allow you to disable everything that can potentially bring in advertising revenue?
The best option would be to disable Cortana, the keylogger etc. and block Windows 10 from connecting to the Microsoft
data servers. Thankfully this can be achieved, for the most part, by blocking addresses in the Windows Hosts file and
HostsCK makes that easy to do. However, Microsoft have been caught in the past deliberately sabotaging their DNS client’s
hosts table lookup functionality so people can’t override the DNS lookup using their Hosts files. As a write this doesn’t
seem to be the case with the blocked list HostsCK uses but who’s to say that Microsoft won’t start bypassing the hosts
table lookup again. In that case their servers would have to be blocked in your router.
The Microsoft Privacy Statement can be viewed at: https://privacy.microsoft.com/