Is Windows 10 Privacy an oxymoron?
Hi Everyone! Leo Notenboom here for askleo.com. Before I get into answering that question a little bit more specifically, if there’s only one thing that you’re going to take away from watching this video today or reading the transcript, it’s this, please let it be this: Never, ever choose express or default settings when you install software particularly when it comes to Windows 10, and I’ll get into that in a minute, but to be honest it’s true for all software.
The problem is that many software vendors set up default choices for you, but they’re not really the best choices for YOU in all cases. Very often they’re the best choices for the software vendor. In the worst case, not related to Windows 10, you’ll actually get software that you didn’t expect if you just choose the default options.
Don’t do that. That’s been a problem for some time, but it when comes to Windows 10, when you’re setting up Windows 10, it’s important not to choose the express settings, because that will make a number of choices for you by default that in reality benefit Microsoft more than they benefit you, we think, and therein lies the problem.
A lot of it is really Microsoft’s own fault in two regards. One, they’re being very unclear, they’re being very vague about what they do with the information that they collect and why they want to collect it and how they collect it and where it goes once it’s been collected.
I mean there is a lot of, just a lot uncertainty and lack of clarity around that. They could clean that up. The other problem, and to be honest, I believe it’s a mistake that Microsoft made, if for no other reason than public relations, is that the default setting for Windows when you set it up for Windows 10 is now to share a bunch more information than has been shared in the past.
By the time you run down all of the default and recommended settings, you’re using your Microsoft account, and you’re sharing a tremendous amount of information (apparently) with Microsoft as you use Windows 10.
Now, that may, or may not actually be a problem, and that’s why I say things are really, really unclear. Certainly, a lot of the press, of course, the anti-Microsoft biased press is going to be jumping on this a lot, and you’re going to hear a lot of negative stories about how in fact, evil, this kind of data collection really is.
Personally, I’m not convinced it’s really all that evil, but I have no data, I have no proof, I have no way of knowing that it’s not and that, like I said is if nothing else, a really bad public relations result for Microsoft’s release of Windows 10. Now, a lot of the initial pushback to Microsoft’s privacy issues is that all of this opt out.
By that I mean you can, even after things have been turned on, turn them off. Well, that’s why I say the public relations aspect of it, and to be honest, just the mistake of this, is that Microsoft turns it all on by default. Technically, they’ve asked your permission, because you of course, read the license agreement, and of course, you’ve read everything that’s on the screen as you go through the set up process.
The reality, of course, is that we don’t. We basically blindly accept what the license agreement says. I don’t want to read the whole thing. It’s a formula for a nap if nothing else, but the problem is, of course, that even what’s on the screen telling you what they are and aren’t going to share or do with the information is stuff that most people still just glaze over or just don’t fundamentally understand.
Microsoft, whether they’re taking advantage of this or not, simply assumes that you’ll agree with everything that they’re suggesting and thus the privacy issues arise. Like I said, you can opt out of a lot of it before the fact and after the fact, and over the course over the next few weeks, I’ll be publishing some articles that show you exactly how to do that, both as part of setting up Windows 10 to begin with, and if you’ve accepted those defaults, how to undo some of the mistakes that you might want to change later on. But that’s neither here or there.
The issue really is: is this a privacy issue for Microsoft and for people like you and me? Now, a lot of people aren’t necessarily going to like what I have to say next, but ultimately it’s still very, very true. I believe that Microsoft has the right to do with their product what they will, as long as they are above board about it; as long as they are telling you what it is they’re doing or maybe fixing the things that they didn’t tell us about that’s crept in by mistake.
Now, what that means though is that they have the right to require that you share certain kinds of information in order to be able to use certain functionality within Windows. Sometimes it makes total sense. Cortana, for example, wants your data about what you search for and how you search for and potentially even your voice recordings so that it can do a better job of recognizing and helping you in the future.
That happens on the Microsoft servers, not your local machine. That’s the way they’ve implemented it. That’s the way they’ve chosen to implement that. That means that they have the right to require that information in order to be able to provide that service. You, of course, have the right not to use that service. In fact, to be really hard-core about it, you have the right not to use Windows. You can switch platforms. You can switch to a Mac. You can switch to using Linux if you’re so inclined.
Yes there’s a cost involved, be it an actual monetary cost in getting a new machine or a cognitive cost in learning how to run these other operating systems, these other non-Microsoft alternatives, but those alternatives do exist, and that’s why just as Microsoft has the right to do what it wants with Windows, you have the right to do what you want with your time and your money. So, ultimately, is this a big privacy issue? Well, we don’t know.
My gut tells me that the information that’s being collected, be it everything by default, or some subset thereof is, in fact, being used for your benefit and for Windows’ benefit. I say that for two reasons. The information that’s being collected, I believe, is being used to make your experience with Windows better; to make your searches better; to provide more relevant information; to provide a better experience for you as you use the product.
I also believe it’s being used to make Windows better. If they see that a million people are doing this thing wrong by tracking their keystrokes or tracking their mouse movements or just tracking how they interact with an application, then that becomes data that says maybe we need to improve the product in that area.
I believe they’ve actually done that. They’ve listened to a lot of feedback already from Windows 8 and 8.1 and made some of the changes in Windows 10 to address those issues. I believe that a lot of this ongoing data collection to the extent that exists is for exactly for that same purpose.
Here’s the problem. I have no proof. It is just a gut feeling. I tend to assume that they’re using the information for good, not evil. Could they be using it for evil? I don’t know. I can’t prove that they’re not. I will say this though. I’ll quote what’s called Hanlon’s razor. Hanlon’s razor says this: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”
Now, I’m not saying that some of these things are stupid. Some are; they could very well be. They could be blundering mistakes as part of implementing Windows 10, but I do believe that there are less severe explanations, less evil explanations for what’s going on, and that’s where I tend to migrate. That’s where I tend to go when I start looking at reasons.
Does this mean that they are not culpable? Of course they are; they are making mistakes; they are doing things that they shouldn’t be doing; they should be doing a better job of explaining this to us. Microsoft should be giving us more control, more transparency over what they’re collecting and how they are using it. They’re not; they should. That’s a mistake, but does it mean that they are being evil? I don’t think so, but I can’t prove it.
What do you think? Where are you going with all this? I’ve heard from many people that are happy with Windows 10; I’ve heard from many people that are avoiding Windows 10 specifically because of the privacy issues. Where are you on that spectrum? What’s your take on all of this? Remember, if you’re using other services like Google, like Gmail, like Facebook, like Twitter, like any of the other online services, you’re already sharing a tremendous amount of your information with those services.
The difference here is that it’s another big entity; another big entity that may have access to a little bit more, maybe, of what you’re doing on your PC. In a lot of ways, it’s not information that you’re already sharing with other services and providers.
So, like I said, what do you think? Where do you want to take this? What are you doing or not doing? What’s your gut feel? My gut feel is that they’re not being evil. What’s yours? Let me know. As always, if you’re seeing this anywhere but on askleo.com go visit this URL, I’ll have this article posted there with a transcript and the opportunity to comment.
I’d love to hear what you think. This privacy issue is a big one and I think it’s very important that it be discussed and that Microsoft hear some of our feedback. I hope that they’ll hear some of yours by posting it here on Ask Leo! Until next week, I’ll see you then. Take care.