Windows 10 Possible Privacy Concerns

Update: 5th October 2015:

Microsoft has published a new blog post that describes what data they collect from Windows 10 devices and why. They also provide a means of contacting them should you have any questions or concerns about the privacy aspects of Windows 10.

They also provide explanations for consumers and companies providing more information on how to control what data is collected and why such data is collected.

I hope this additional information is of assistance to you.

Thank you.

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Original Post:
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With the recent launch of Windows 10 near the end of July, the new operating system has very quickly developed a large user base (14 million users after just 24 hours from initial launch). However during the upgrade process (from a previous version of Windows) you are presented with a settings screen that lets you choose Express Settings or to Customize Settings.

If you value your privacy you may wish to choose Customize Settings in order to change how much information Microsoft collects from your Windows 10 device. This information includes (among others):

  • Page Prediction: Speeds up web browsing but sends your browsing data to Microsoft
  • SmartScreen: Scans and possibly sends downloaded files and suspicious files to Microsoft for further analysis.
  • Automatically connecting to open WiFi (wireless) hotspots
  • Automatically connecting to networks shared by your contacts
  • Sending error and diagnostic information to Microsoft

While I have no issue with the collection of this data, it’s a little disconcerting that the defaults if you choose Express Settings will leave all of these enabled. Encouraging users to check these settings and make the changes of their choice (which will take only seconds) would be a better approach rather than down playing them and encouraging the use of the Express settings. A full guide with very helpful screenshots to change these settings if you have already installed Windows 10 is provided here (hat tip to The Register for this link). It has also been pointed out that the collection of error and diagnostic information from Windows 10 devices can be limited but not fully disabled.

Please note that disabling some of the above mentioned settings will make certain features of Windows 10 e.g. Cortana will no longer function exactly as intended.

In addition, Windows 10 by default uses your internet/broadband/network bandwidth to download Windows 10 updates in order to speed up the downloading of such updates for you (if you have more than one Windows 10 device on your network) and to people running Windows 10 nearby on other networks. This feature/setting is called Windows Update Delivery Optimization (WUDO).

As before while I have no problem with this, the default for this setting is on. As pointed out by Security blogger Graham Cluley, this setting can have an impact if you are using a metered or capped data plan for your internet access, this could be using more of your limited bandwidth than you would like. While WUDO will not download over metered/capped connections this will only be respected if you have informed Windows 10 that you are using such a network. How to inform Windows 10 of your use of a metered connection is provided in this FAQ. Information on how to disable this setting (should you wish to do so) is also provided by Graham in his post. My thanks to him for this very useful reference. Moreover Sophos confirmed that WUDO is not a security concern.

While all of the above settings do not pose a security concern; for any person concerned about their privacy, network bandwidth or who simply likes to know what’s going on with their newly Windows 10, the above information may be of assistance to you.

Thank you.

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