Microsoft attempts to put Windows 10 privacy concerns to rest

Microsoft's Terry Myerson addresses Windows 10 privacy concerns

Two months after the Windows 10 launch, Microsoft has responded to relentless criticism over how much user data the operating system collects.

The Windows 10 privacy concerns have become something of a PR nightmare for the Redmond firm. Critics have accused Microsoft of collecting data en masse and using it for nefarious purposes; and the press has enjoyed fanning the flame.

The European digital rights organisation (EDRi) said that Microsoft’s terms and conditions have given the firm carte blanche over how it uses personal data.

“Microsoft basically grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write with and on your devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties,” EDRi said.

In reality, Microsoft’s data collection policies are no more nefarious than any of the other big players and, unlike other platforms, Windows 10 allows users to customise the data being collected. In an increasingly connected world, where users demand a personalised experience, Microsoft’s privacy policies are far from draconian.

But the facts have done little to quell public concern. Microsoft hasn’t done itself any favours in the PR battle by adopting a ‘deny, deny, deny’ policy and pointing disgruntled users and the media to its convoluted privacy Ts&Cs.

Today though, the folks at Windows HQ decided to change tack and began a dialogue with the Microsoft community. Writing on the Windows blog, Terry Myerson, head of Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, attempted to clear up some of the misunderstandings.

“We aspire to deliver a delightful and personalized Windows experience to you, which benefits from knowing some things about you to customize your experience,” Myerson said. “You are in control of the information we collect for these purposes and can update your settings at any time.”

The Windows boss made it clear that much of the data collected was not personal in nature, but instead was system related.

“We collect a limited amount of information to help us provide a secure and reliable experience,” he explained. “This includes data like an anonymous device ID, device type, and application crash data which Microsoft and our developer partners use to continuously improve application reliability. This doesn’t include any of your content or files, and we take several steps to avoid collecting any information that directly identifies you, such as your name, email address or account ID.”

Myerson couldn’t help but have a dig at Google, when it came to personalised advertising.

“Unlike some other platforms, no matter what privacy options you choose, neither Windows 10 nor any other Microsoft software scans the content of your email or other communications, or your files, in order to deliver targeted advertising to you,” he wrote.

Microsoft has added additional content for both consumers and IT Pros, which clearly explains how to customize telemetry settings within Windows 10 and is designed to ‘complement’ the 17,000 word One Microsoft Privacy Policy.

While the blog post is great first step in becoming more transparent, it is unlikely to silence the critics. Many privacy advocates argue that the issue is not the collection of data, but rather that the default settings are weighed heavily in favour of sending personal information to Microsoft. The inability to opt out of security updates is also a major irritation for many users.

Read more on Microsoft Windows Services