The EFF calls out Microsoft for disregarding user choice and privacy in Windows 10

Despite the offer for a free upgrade to Windows 10 ending almost three weeks ago, the animosity against Microsoft's operating system rages on. This time, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called out the company for its aggressive upgrade tactics and privacy concerns.

The EFF breaks up its article into two parts, the first dealing with the upgrade tactics. It calls out the obvious with references to the Get Windows 10 app, the switch to Windows 10 being a recommended update, and of course, when Microsoft changed the Get Windows 10 app so that closing it confirmed the upgrade.

It's at this point that a reader would wonder what the point of the EFF's article is. If it's to serve as a warning to potential Windows 10 users, none of that section is relevant at all, given that all of those aggressive tactics are in the rear-view mirror. If it's a call-to-action for Microsoft, that doesn't make it more pertinent. The entire section of the article comes across as a means of setting the reader up for the next section: privacy concerns.

This is where the EFF gets a bit conspiratorial, starting off by saying the following:

The trouble with Windows 10 doesn’t end with forcing users to download the operating system. By default, Windows 10 sends an unprecedented amount of usage data back to Microsoft, and the company claims most of it is to “personalize” the software by feeding it to the OS assistant called Cortana. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of data sent back: location data, text input, voice input, touch input, webpages you visit, and telemetry data regarding your general usage of your computer, including which programs you run and for how long.

Surely, most of the data being sent back cannot be surprising, given Cortana's functionality. Anyone who has used services such as Cortana or Google Now know that they simply wouldn't be able to function without vast amounts of data about the user, and if you're not interested in that, you always have the option to turn it off.

The EFF does note that users can opt out of most of these data collection methods, but the organization takes issue with Microsoft's collection of telemetry data, which is anonymous data that is collected for the purpose of improving Windows. To be clear, this is nothing new, no matter how much urgency the EFF attempts to imply by using italics.

The organization offers the following solution:

Microsoft should come clean with its user community. The company needs to acknowledge its missteps and offer real, meaningful opt-outs to the users who want them, preferably in a single unified screen. It also needs to be straightforward in separating security updates from operating system upgrades going forward, and not try to bypass user choice and privacy expectations.

Otherwise it will face backlash in the form of individual lawsuits, state attorney general investigations, and government investigations.

We at EFF have heard from many users who have asked us to take action, and we urge Microsoft to listen to these concerns and incorporate this feedback into the next release of its operating system. Otherwise, Microsoft may find that it has inadvertently discovered just how far it can push its users before they abandon a once-trusted company for a better, more privacy-protective solution.

To be more accurate, the many users that have asked the EFF to take action stand at a grand total of 5,994. The statement refers to a Change.org petition, which you can sign as well if you agree with it.

The fact is that services such as Cortana are meant to enhance the user experience. As for telemetry data, there will always be those who assume that Microsoft is spying on them. After all, Windows is not, nor has it ever been an open-source system. As long as it's sending back data, there will be those that wonder what that data is.

Image via EFF

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