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Security & privacy

Microsoft data tracking practices revealed! Windows 10 is worst culprit

It has been nearly two years since Microsoft released Windows 10 and to this day, the company is still trying its best to address the criticisms against the operating system’s user data collection.

To its credit, Microsoft has been pushing tools to rebuild the trust of Windows 10 users and improve its transparency about its data collecting practices. Although the new tools like the online Privacy Dashboard and the streamlined privacy settings of the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update are more than welcome changes, Microsoft is taking it a step further by revealing all the data it collects in Windows 10.

“More transparency and controls for you”

In an official Microsoft blog post published April 5, Windows and Devices Group executive vice-president Terry Myerson introduced “three new things that will help you be more informed about your privacy with Windows 10.” These improvements will be rolled out with the new Creator’s Update.

  • Improved in-product information about Windows 10 privacy  This includes short and easy-to-understand descriptions and “Learn More” buttons for each privacy setting.
  • Updated Privacy Statement – the new statement will include more information about the privacy improvements in the Creators Update and more detail about the data they collect to support new features. The company will also provide summaries of the key changes in the statement’s Change History.
  • More published information about Windows 10’s data collection – In an effort to inform people about the data they collect and use, the company is publishing a complete list of diagnostic data collected at the Basic Level and a detailed summary of collected data on both Basic and Full privacy levels.

What diagnostic data does Windows 10 collect?

As revealed last year, Microsoft is streamlining Windows 10 down to two levels, Basic or Full, dropping the Enhanced level option. Furthermore, the data collected in the Basic level will be further reduced.

Exactly how much diagnostic data is being collected? Well, in a new document at Microsoft’s TechNet site, the company revealed a complete list of all the diagnostic data they collect.

“For the first time, we have published a complete list of the diagnostic data collected at the Basic level,” Myerson said. “Individual data points that relate to a specific item or event are collected together and called Events. These are further organized into diagnostic areas.”

The Basic level lists all the common data extensions and events collected that are required for identifying problems on a particular Windows 10 machine.

The company also provided a detailed summary of all the diagnostic data they collect on both Basic and Full levels.

The diagnostic data collection list for the Basic level is quite extensive so we recommend that you head to the official page and review it.

The list is divided into distinct sections:

  • Common Data (diagnostic header information)
  • Device, Connectivity, and Configuration data
  • Product and Service Usage data
  • Product and Service Performance data
  • Software Setup and Inventory data
  • Content Consumption data
  • Browsing, Search and Query data
  • Inking, Typing, and Speech Utterance data
  • Licensing and Purchase data

Noteworthy items include data collection about app usage and state, installed applications and history, consumption data about media (Movies, Music & TV, Reading and Photos App), and web browsing and search data on Microsoft browsers.

Windows 10 Creators Update

On the same Microsoft blog post, Windows and Devices Group Privacy Officer Marisa Rogers also reviewed the Windows 10 Creators Update privacy changes.

She stressed that “everyone will have the opportunity to their privacy settings” when the update is installed. Anyone who is already running Windows 10 will receive a notification to schedule the Creators Update and choose the desired privacy settings.

Keep in mind that the actual values of the new privacy settings when the update is installed will still be based on your current Windows 10 settings. For example, if you turned off all Location Services before applying the Creators Update, your new privacy settings will reflect the same.

Changed your mind about a privacy setting? Rogers said that you can always go to Windows Settings from the Start Menu then select Privacy to review and change your Windows 10 privacy settings anytime.

Additionally, as we reported earlier, the update will revamp the initial Windows 10 setup to clearly show the important privacy settings that you need to choose from, whether you are upgrading from a previous Windows version or you are already using Windows 10. This setup will replace the “Express settings” option that is currently in Windows 10.

Are you satisfied with how Microsoft is being up front with Windows 10’s privacy? Drop us a comment!

To read Microsoft’s official blog post about these privacy updates, click here.

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