Windows 10 Data Collection Clarification from Microsoft – No change!

Posted on September 29, 2015

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Microsoft’s have weighed into the exchange of opinion online over its new data collection practices in its new Windows 10 Operating System (OS).  Windows 10 overlord Terry Myerson (Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group) posted a blog yesterday called Privacy & Windows 10’.

The response is a credit to cordiality in the friendly way Mr.Myerson articulates his points in response to some abrasive critics, how much it quenches the fires is questionable. The response seems to largely re-iterates what has already been stated by Microsoft so there is no ground given, but a welcomed supply of additional information aimed to consolidate guidance to assist consumers and IT pro’s in managing the new privacy and data collection settings in Windows 10. For more information see:

The IT Pro guidance peels back exposing an acknowledgement by Microsoft of the 2 class system they are applying to their audience. The only functional change seems to be for enterprise customers in the form of a much fabled pending Windows 10 enterprise update due later this year.

The reiteration of Microsoft overarching position on data collection in Windows 10 can be summarised as:

  1. Building Trust and protection the privacy of its users is at the core of Microsoft principles and actions.
  2. Windows 10 is a new generation of OS that extends into ‘The Cloud’ to service increasingly what they would have us believe as essential service functions. So data collection and flows between end user devices and Microsoft servers is a new reality that users will have to get used to. ‘Continuum’ is another phrase you will hear used in the Windows 10 context, pointing to the future of a subscription ‘evergreen’ model of feature and functional releases.
  3. Microsoft attests that it does not scan any user documents or messages or use any use collected data for the purposes of targeting advertising. But its policy remains unchanged on the potential they reserve to do so.
  4. Any data collection is for ‘engine management’ and ‘end user experience purposes’ only.
  5. Data collection is end user controlled, furthermore enterprises will be provided with greater granulated control to disable the data collection, although Microsoft strongly advises against it.

Microsoft is asking us to trust them and ignore the discomfort that still remains in gap analysis between what Microsoft is saying and we are experiencing.

There are a couple of irritating obfuscations that remain in the angling of the statements made by Microsoft.

  1. The blatant acknowledgment that Microsoft sees its users in 2 distinct classes when it comes to trust in the choices its prepared to give them when managing data collection.
    1. Those they do not want to have full control over the data collection.
    2. Those they acknowledge they have to offer the choice to, but will do so in a way that is inconvenient and demands significant enterprise grade capability. (Enterprises that can afford an IT department ie: pay the larger license fee’s).
  2. The inference that Windows 10 cannot operate effectively without the data collection is false. The IT Pro functionality demonstrates this is a falsehood, Microsoft is simply denying consumers the convenience of the same freedom of choice.
  3. If you enable Cortana Microsoft does read your emails etc, completely reversing the statement that they do not.
  4. Myerson states in one statement that no data processing relates to targeted advertising, but then in a later comment confirms that they wish to ‘recommend apps you might enjoy’. In my interpretation that equates to advertising, OK let me be generous ‘promotion’, with further suspicion arising from another statement that Microsoft wishes to know what football team you support to target users with news alerts.
  5. Cloud independence is one of the great differentiators in the Windows OS platform and the inference that it is dependent on the cloud is potentially a home goal. It does not currently have to or need to be dependent despite what Microsoft would have us believe. Its just made very hard for users to switch stuff off or disable the tools ie: certain default apps such as Edge Browser that Microsoft would have us use by default. Not to omit the hard coded approach in some cases Microsoft has elected for to circumvent end users disabling some data collection channels.

These points are not meant to be awkward but out of a desire to drive a true clarity in what Microsoft is stating and executing on.  They are reasonable in the same way most of us enjoy complete control over vendor’s access and insights into our physical domains, my fridge manufacturer or house builder does not impose monitoring and promotion either of themselves or their partners in my physical environment. Furthermore any house automation is elective and completely under end user control, often by law and for valid safety reasons. Why should I compromise in my digital environment where the trust threshold is so much more intimate and fungible.

The recommendation is:

  1. Provide a single location (dashboard, settings screen whatever you wish to call it) where consumers can manage the FULL range of data collection settings, with clearly defined, neutrally weighted guidance, about each setting. Currently consumers DO NOT have full control over their data sharing, and what control they do have is blighted in the way Microsoft aggressively places physical (opt-out rather than opt-in) and physiological (negative statements and inferences against turning off data sharing) hurdles in the way.
  2. Treat your consumers as you are your enterprise users in the choices over data sharing and privacy freedoms they can enjoy. This world is blurring with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) so why take such a hard stance and impose a 2 class system.

This single inclusive action endeavours to treat users as equals and with respect, neutralising the combative attitudes to the current data collection that Microsoft may desire. This places the user truly in control, and in so doing Microsoft demonstrates a level of mutual trust and collaboration in a transparent way that would more readily proactively foster trust and confidence.

The encouragement of Microsoft to take this proactive action is supported in the expectation that they are more likely to win the hearts and minds and the co-operation of more users. Human nature tells us that Microsoft can expect a much more positive response to free choice in end user participation than the heavy handed ‘we know better’ patronising path they are straying down today.

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