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Microsoft’s tin ear for privacy

Preston Gralla | Sept. 9, 2016
The company keeps defending data-gathering features that some people don’t want instead of just making them optional.

When the Windows 10 Anniversary Update was released this summer, Microsoft saw the light and killed the Wi-Fi Sense features that people worried invaded their privacy. (Though its reason may have been that few people found the feature useful.) But at the same time, it also changed Windows 10 telemetry settings so that they couldn’t be turned off. And that was a bad thing.

This is an issue that has as much to do with perception and choice as it does with privacy. I think it’s unlikely that the telemetry data Microsoft gathers is particularly dangerous and invasive. But if it worries people, they should be given the power to opt out. The EFF recommends exactly that, saying that Microsoft should “offer real, meaningful opt-outs to the users who want them, preferably in a single unified screen.” Microsoft should take up the recommendation, if only to be seen as the friend of privacy advocates, not their enemy. It would garner the company a good deal of favorable publicity, something that’s often rare for Microsoft. And those who worry about their privacy would feel more comfortable using the latest version of Windows.

 

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