Normally , I would not give any strong opinions on anything. However, this does raise a whole lot of concerns and worries. I’ve seen reports of privacy violations with Windows 10 (Computer World, Slate, TechRadar, Tech Republic). I am a pragmatic person, and not easily shaken or swayed by things.
For an example. If I do a research project with students, I have to ask for their permission to collect data and information about them. If they say ‘no’, I simply cannot collect data or information. It’s the law in Australia, the US, the UK, and international laws of human rights. If someone first agreed, and then later withdrew from the project, I must stop collecting data from that person. If that person also says they don’t want me to retain any data, and that it must be destroyed or deleted, I simply must. It’s the law.
However, Microsoft’s new Windows 10 violates this principle of permission, and right to withdraw, and the ability to demand that data about me is or is not collected, or that data about me is destroyed. Ars Technica reports that despite all the privacy settings being switched on, the new OS still phones home, some times with identifiable information (The Guardian, 13th Aug 2015).
It was already reported about the creepy advertisements on the OS, where people playing Solitaire receive personalised advertisements (The Guardian, 31st Jul 2015). Also, how much personal data is uploaded to MS, including wifi passwords (The Guardian, 31st Jul 2015). This has got to be bad for a lot of people. With thanks to Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, we know about the mass collection of people’s personal information by the US government. This mass collection is done regardless of my rights, permissions, law, of innocence or guilt. I’m not American, I don’t care about the US, and have no interests there. So, of course I would object to a foreign government collecting my personal information. What American would feel comfortable having all their personal information collected by the Chinese government? However, the collection of my personal information by a foreign government is surely going to happen by default as soon as my new Windows 10 OS is installed, and despite what my privacy settings are on. This is bad for journalists, political activists (regardless of their allegiances), and even for legitimate human research. Even if you say, “I have nothing to hide”, police forces are still staffed by humans who have their own personal agendas, and will eventually have access to that information about you. That is to say, they can look at your personal data and make deliberately false assumptions about you. Consider your internet browsing history, and the automatic pop up ads you sometimes get. What story could someone make up about you?
Update 31st March 2016: If you have Windows 10, and want to fix the privacy problems, Tech Radar offers some help, and Slate give a great guide on how to install Windows 10 and organise the privacy settings as you go.