Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and 8. If you have a smartphone, you know that most “free” apps come with annoying advertising headers, footers or links. It turns out that Windows 10 is no exception to this rule. EDRi (the European Digital Rights information organization) has released an analysis of Microsoft’s new “privacy” statement.
According to EDRi’s analysis, “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. The company appears to be granting itself the right to share your data either with your consent ‘or as necessary’.”
Thus it captures not only your browsing history but all your passwords as well, including the BitLocker recovery key for your encrypted data. Perhaps more importantly, Microsoft captures a unique advertising ID, which it can then sell to third parties for targeted advertising. Apparently some people like targeted advertising (it helps them shop) but I am certainly not among them.
Not surprisingly, if you use Cortana, Microsoft also collects a host of data from your computer to make Cortana more efficient, including data from your email (all of it) and text messages. Making Cortana more efficient is all very well, but it is unclear how having the passwords to all your web sites and to your encrypted data makes this service “more efficient.” Similarly, it is unclear how the fact that Microsoft will be routinely examining all the email to and from your clients (most likely with automated searches to examine where you’ve been and people and companies you’ve associated with) impacts attorney-client privilege.
In short, you are paying for Windows 10 by giving Microsoft carte blanche to collect an indeterminate (but presumably very large) amount of personal information about you and your law practice and sell it to unspecified vendors/advertisers at its discretion.
Some of these features can be turned off, but presumably not nearly all of them. Bottom line: when you upgrade to Windows 10 (which I would certainly not recommend doing for 6 months or so), take a close look at your security settings. You might also want to consider using a local account, not a Microsoft Cloud account with OneDrive, which will limit the amount of data Microsoft examines.