Turns Out Windows 10 Users Didn’t Have a Problem With Microsoft Collecting Their Data

Rafia Shaikh
windows 10 privacy microsoft

While the Redmond Windows maker was criticized for hoarding up user data like crazy, apparently over 71% of Windows 10 users have chosen to enable the "Full" telemetry data collection setting that now appears during the upgrade process.

From users to privacy advocates to regulators, Windows 10 was hit by everyone for being a blow to user privacy. With the Windows 10 Creators Update released earlier this year, the company introduced a new privacy setting screen during the upgrade process that gives users an option to change the default "Full" to "Basic." The Full option sends app and browser data, along with inking and typing data to Microsoft. Here's a small glimpse of what Microsoft collects under this Full telemetry level:

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Browser Data - Information about Address bar and search box performance on the device such as:

  • Text typed in address bar and search box
  • Text selected for Ask Cortana search
  • Service response time
  • Auto-completed text if there was an auto-complete
  • Navigation suggestions provided based on local history and favorites
  • Browser ID
  • URLs (which may include search terms)
  • Page title

On-Device Search - Information about local search activity on the device such as:

  • Kind of query issued and index type (ConstraintIndex, SystemIndex)
  • Number of items requested and retrieved
  • File extension of search result user interacted with
  • Launched item kind, file extension, index of origin, and the App ID of the opening app.
  • Name of process calling the indexer and time to service the query.
  • A hash of the search scope (file, Outlook, OneNote, IE history)
  • The state of the indices (fully optimized, partially optimized, being built)

On its part, Microsoft had shared the complete details of all the data that it collects under both the Basic and the Full telemetry levels in April this year shifting away from its stealthy privacy policy. [Those interested can read the highlights in our earlier post and complete data collection details over at Microsoft.]

Following these changes, the French National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) and the Swiss data-protection authority had dropped their probe into Windows' excessive data collection and lawsuits over Windows 10 privacy concerns after Microsoft assured the regulators of more transparency.

"Windows 10 users want us to collect their data"

Microsoft is now highlighting that its consumers actually trust it with their data, opting for Full telemetry option even though the Basic setting collects far less data.

Marisa Rogers, Privacy Officer for Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, wrote in a blog post earlier this week that 71 percent of Windows 10 Creators Update users have selected Full diagnostics data to help the company fix things and improve products. "Feedback we’ve received about the Creators Update has been positive," Rogers wrote. "This is great news to us because what we hear from you directly impacts the improvements we make."

She also noted that over 23 million people have visited the new web-based privacy dashboard since it was released in January. This online dashboard enables users to see and control their activity data across their Microsoft devices. Rogers added that the EU's General Data Protection Regulation that goes into effect in 2018 is also shaping up Microsoft's privacy decisions around Windows 10.

We are also ensuring Windows 10 is compliant with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that goes into effect in 2018. Fundamentally, the GDPR is about protecting and respecting an individual’s privacy rights and Microsoft’s enduring commitment to trust is well aligned through the privacy principles that shape the way we build our products and services.

While it may be shocking for some to see so many users not disabling the "Full" diagnostics setting, it is likely that Microsoft's opening up about these changes and proactively talking about what exactly is it collecting is actually encouraging its users to better trust the company. Rogers also added that the company is still working on privacy controls and will be introducing new tools that should soon be coming to the Insiders community (which, on a side note, isn't going to receive any new builds this week).

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