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Privacy Activists Aren't Happy with Windows 10

That’s an awful lot of data you’re requesting, Microsoft.
July 31, 2015, 4:09pm
Image: Microsoft

A healthy 14 million devices are now running Windows 10, Microsoft's latest operating system, which was released on July 29. That shouldn't be too surprising: it was a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8, and reviews have been largely positive from both mainstream critics and PC enthusiasts.

Privacy activists, however, are less impressed.

Complaints are piling up on places like Hacker News, Reddit, and Slashdot, with users taking issue with a number of aspects of the operating system:

  • Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant that's similar to Siri and Google Now, requests access to "various types of data, such as your device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device." Though to be fair, Siri and Google Now need access to similar data, too.
  • As with Windows 8, Windows 10 stores users' hard drive encryption keys on a central server. The concern is that someone—hi, FBI!—can gets a hold of these keys.
  • Solitaire, Microsoft's long-running time waster, now comes laden with ads. The only way to remove these ads, which include video ads that can't be skipped, is to cough up $1.50 per month or $10 per year. (The version of Solitaire available on the Windows 8.1 store also included ads, but few people noticed because nobody uses the Windows store.)

Mozilla CEO Chris Beard even called out Microsoft in an open letter, saying it was "very disturbing" that the Windows 10 upgrade replaces users' default web browser to Edge, the company's new web browser which, like Windows 10 itself, has won praise from critics.

"These changes aren't unsettling to us because we're the organization that makes Firefox," Beard said. "They are unsettling because there are millions of users who love Windows and who are having their choices ignored, and because of the increased complexity put into everyone's way if and when they choose to make a choice different than what Microsoft prefers."

Microsoft has not yet publicly addressed these criticisms, nor has it responded to a Motherboard request for comment.