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Windows 10 is awful spyware. It records nearly EVERYTHING you do on your computer. Here's what to do about it.

about Windows 10 and Manjaro Linux, macOS, Ubuntu · · 5 Helpful

Why Microsoft spy on their users

Google, Facebook, Amazon and others have adopted a business model in which huge databases are constructed about their users' contacts, who and when they talk/email/chat, what about, what files they store, calendar contents, search history, bookmarks, posts, likes, where/when you go physically, what they read and buy... and on... and on.* Doing this allows them to know their users in incredibly intimate detail. They are then able to promise advertisers that their ads can be targeted with huge precision because they know who to display specific ads to. This is where many modern billions are made.

In this context, Microsoft have a distinct advantage: a world-wide near monopoly on desktop operating systems. They have chosen, via Windows 10 and retroactive updates to Windows 8 and 7, to make use of this monopoly. Windows 7, 8 and 10 now gather gigantic amounts of data about Windows users. In this way, Microsoft can potentially out-compete Google, Facebook and the rest. (That means you are not avoiding Microsoft's violation of your privacy by staying on Windows 7 or 8.)

What Microsoft's Windows collects about users

Recent EU pressure on Microsoft about its privacy practices (including over the 2017 Creators update) seems to have forced them to reveal which "telemetry" data Windows 10 gathers. It includes, but is absolutely not limited to:

  • What you search for online
  • What files you search on your computer
  • Which networks are available to you/near you
  • Voice recognition (activated, it listens all the time)
  • Typing patterns that may uniquely identify you
  • Which keys you are hitting (in principle can record everything you type)
  • How long you have your browser open
  • Which websites you visit
  • How many photos you have
  • Which music/videos you have/listen to/watch
  • Which programs you have installed
  • What you search for within programs
  • Make, model and serial number of all your hardware
  • What you write, including with a pen/stylus
  • How you write, including with a pen/stylus (which can identify you)

... and all of this in addition to the data you give them if you have a Microsoft account:

  • name
  • phone number
  • email address
  • calendar information
  • and contacts (who you know and all their details)

Note also, that if you use Microsoft's email services, e.g. Outlook, or other services, like LinkedIn, they can correlate all of this information with what you email, when you email it and to whom and who you know.

Note that if you store other people's contact details or private information on your Windows machine, all of this in principle can be monitored by Microsoft. For example, if you search in your computer (locally) for a name that has someone's personal details (e.g. name, address, National Security Number), all of this can be sent to Microsoft servers. Microsoft is therefore not only using your privacy for their profit by amassing your details into a database, but also that of people you may know, contact or whose details you might be responsible for, even if they never agreed to Microsoft's Terms and Conditions or Privacy Policy.

Microsoft categorize the telemetry settings into "Basic" and "Full", and claim that user data collected is not personally identifiable. This is misleading. Firstly, the Basic level collects 90% of what the Full level collects, so it's does not give users meaningful control. Secondly, at least according to one former Microsoft employee, Jerry Berg, Microsoft databases are easily cross-linked and therefore it is trivially easy to correlate telemetry gathered via Windows to, e.g. telephone numbers and mobile phone sim card numbers, and vast amounts of other types of personally identifiable data.

Why It is Wrong & Dangerous

  1. Microsoft push updates to Windows computers and with them install ever-increasing levels of spyware ("telemetry") from which users cannot, effectively, opt out. This applies to paying customers. Microsoft already has their money; but it wants to make more by violating your privacy and freedom to say no.

  2. When you read the End User Licence Agreement that every Windows installation requires, you realize that Microsoft retain the right to control your computer. Whilst you might, on a day-to-day level feel that you are the computers owner, it remains nevertheless true that Microsoft can download and install software onto your computer against your wishes, reset your preferences and much else besides. This means that your computer becomes a node for software you might not want, but for which you paid to have the privilege of not controlling. This is unethical because it gives control of your machine to Microsoft. However much control you have, they have more.

  3. Microsoft updates - the recent Creators one included - resets many user preferences, such as which browser is default. In effect, this is saying they don't care about what you like; they will try any and every trick to get you to use their preferred apps instead of those you chose. Again, the reason for this is because their apps give them enhanced levels of information about what you are doing on your own computer.

  4. All data Microsoft collects and stores about its users can be subpoenad under NSL and FISA legislation in the US, and this applies to information about non-US citizens. So Microsoft and the American government (and companies they sub-contract, e.g. to analyze the data) can know everything about you, even if you are not American and have never even been to the US. And, of course, you have no choice to opt out. Because it is true that Microsoft control your computer (see point 2 above), your computer effectively becomes a spyware device for both the company who stand to profit (Microsoft) and US federal agencies, like the FBI, who can - in principle at least - force Microsoft to use your computer to spy on you. If you doubt this relationship between large US firms and the feds, read about how Yahoo wrote software for the FBI to search through all their users emails. Yahoo has also had hundreds of millions of accounts hacked, and some have alleged this was made possible by a security exploit introduced by the feds.

  5. Databases of private people of the type Microsoft is creating are ripe for huge abuses. Please observe that every totalitarian government in history has aimed to manipulate citizens by gathering information about them. For any kind of political power to know what its citizens are thinking, what they are saying, where they are going, with whom they are meeting, what... all of this is a problem because:

    • people change their behaviour when they know they are being observed (they cannot be themselves)
    • it gives people with this data the ability to manipulate emotions (as Facebook did), predict political prefernces and your personality generally, control the flow of information, pre-empt protests, thwart human rights activism, and a lot else besides. The only thing that stands in the way once the databases exist is the will, political or otherwise, to misuse it.
    • there are no guarantees where the data will be in the future. Who will own Microsoft's data in 20 years? Even if you trust them, it's still a fact that the largest technology companies (e.g. here) and intelligence agencies leak sensitive, even top secret information (see the recent FBI Vault 7 leaks or the NSA's leak of Windows exploits).
    • As Jerry Berg explains, databases of the kind Microsoft are creating can be correlated and subpoenad to incriminate even innocent people. I would add that with such capability, you should now be scared not to cross the people who can use that data against you. Except, as I wrote above, you don't know who that will be, necessarily.

The only way to avoid all of these problems is not to create such databases in the first place.

(You should also know: previous independent programs/apps distributed by individuals aiming to help people switch of Windows telemetry are now unlikely to work because of "under-the-hood" changes the recent Creators update includes.)

What you can do about Windows spying

If the databases continue to be created, as individuals we have the choice (still) to opt out by not using products that treat us this way. If you don't have to use Windows (and most people reading this probably don't have to), then I cannot possibly recommend anything other than to switch away to an operating system that doesn't spy on you. Note that some of what Windows does, Apple's MacOS also does. For example, Apple's desktop search app, Spotlight, records the search terms you use on your own computer. (You can disable this, but then you disable the search.)

Operating systems that do not spy on users include Linux and BSD. Of these, Linux is by far the more popular and comes in many different flavors, including user-friendly versions for beginners (e.g. Ubuntu, Linux Mint, OpenSuse and even Manjaro). They are also free, open-source (which means the code can be trusted) and have huge communities of people happy to help newcomers. There are general Linux forums and distribution specific forums. Modern Linux distros are now largely so usable and stable that a beginner would only really have to relearn a couple of basics about what some new icons do and where some folders are that they might not be used to. That's about it. It is also possible to run Linux with Windows in a virtual machine for programs that don't have a Linux equivalent (although most do).

Other fantastic resources online that you can use to learn more about protecting your privacy are:

  • PrivacyTools.io (info on everything from browsers to file sharing)
  • ThatOnePrivacySite (the best site for neutral analysis and reviews of VPNs and private email services)
  • PrismBreak (read advice about how to avoid being surveilled by the government)

The other thing to do is to campaign against what Microsoft (and Google, Facebook, etc.) are doing. Contact your local representatives, politicians, MP or MEP and get them to kick up a fuss about this. You can also


Last updated: 2017-04-20

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Beware it can expire and kill itself

about Windows 10 · · 1 Helpful

I did the free upgrade when it first started form windows 7 pro retail and last week the computer I was using it on which is a secondary I rarely use killed itself, or well MS killed it. I didn't use it for a month and a half turned it on got a treating message saying that the "build" had expired (I'm using stable not Insider) and if the system wasn't updated it would shut itself off every couple hours and then stop working all together... It followed through with these threats. I was unable to run the update and it simply failed each time half way through I tired a dozen times and then by the end of the week just as the message said it just booted to a screen that more or less said to reformat the system. So consider this a warning do not use windows 10 on a system that isn't used for long spans of time.

Today I reinstalled windows 7 on the system and thus ends my venture into windows 10. I was mainly keeping it on the secondary computer to check out every once in a while to see how it improved as it updated... Overall you could say I'm very much not impressed.

I've been using Manjaro Linux as my main for some time now and am getting quite comfortable in Linux. Truly I think it's the way of the future at this point and is what I plan on teaching my kids. Windows was my childhood so it dose make me sad to see it go this way, but truly all the best jobs are in Linux, and even as a home OS once you get use to it over windows it's actually quite a bit less stressful.

I'm a mid-core gamer and was pretty iffy going into Linux, but have sense realized that if you are not dead set on playing EVERYTHING everyone is talking about then you will find you have far more then enough very high quality games. As an artist I have found that all my art programs run just fine under a VM, computers are powerful enough now days that even well working on a banner sized painting you just don't notice the system overhead of running a striped down windows XP 64-bit VM. Yes I find XP to be the best windows for VMing for windows programs it is still supported by nearly everything that's not a web browser, you don't want it connected to the internet so no security risk, and you can strip it down to next to nothing.

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Not for laptops

about Windows 10 · ·

This OS gives regular and ponctual LAG (latency peak for 2 seconds...) in online games...

Sounds like pebkac to me

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Better than 8.1, yet still needs work.

Comment by thornecamila
about Windows 10 · Mar 2016 · 2 Helpful

I want to be a fan for Win10 (after 8.1, I really needed the upgrade) but I can't overlook the things which are bugging me. It is a very heavy OS and makes me computer slow down a bit, and tries to take decisions for me. Automatic updates are a pain and the fact that the apps cannot be placed in the main screen is a little ridiculous (calendar and weather used to be on my desktop, would like that possibility to return). Don't even get me started on the lack of privacy this OS has...

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Spyware

about Windows 10 · · 6 Helpful

Who in their right mind would use this OS. Spyware (hi NSA), shitty dos, doesnt respect other bootloaders etc etc.

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about Windows 10 · · -10 Helpful

Best OS ever :)

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Not Ready to move to W10

about Windows 10 · ·

Its still same as W8

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Classic Shell should be integrated, many disadvantages

about Windows 10 and Classic Shell · · 2 Helpful

Many Disadvantages of Windows 10:

  • The start-menu of Windows 10 is unusable. If You install Classic Shell you have the very good start-menu from Windows 7 with printers and autostart group again
  • I miss the autostart group in the start-menu of Windows 10 without "Classic Shell"
  • In Windows 10 I cannot change the name of the local "OneDrive"-Folder to "OD" to avoid very long path-names, in Windows 8.1 I could
  • I had to reinstall SafeSync for Enterprise from a msi-Setup-File after Upgrading from Win 8.1 to Win 10 64bit Home, all other programs worked again without new installation
  • I would never use Edge instead of the better Firefox portable, because Edge has no plug-ins or add-ons: In the add-ons it currently looks rather poor. Microsoft has been announced that there will be extensions, and that even the existing add-ons for other browsers will work in Edge. When this will be the case, however, is not certain.
  • Windows 10 has so many disadvantages, that it is necessary to integrate a Uservoice-Feedback-platform, where users can suggest and vote about ideas to improve Windows 10. I miss an integrated Uservoice-Feedback-platform in Windows 10.
  • It is annoing, that the Windows-10-UAC asks everytime, when I open a portable app, if this app is secure. I miss a setting, where I only one time can declare a new portable app as "secure". I do not like apps, which must be installed, I prefer Liberkey portable apps.
  • Network-Drives defined with SUBST are not visible in many apps and dialogs in Windows 10. This is annoing, because I use "Index Your Files" portable (IYF) for searching files in big networks with SUBST-drive-letters instead of long network-paths.

Advantage of Windows 10 compared with Windows 8.1

  • Symbols of programs in the task-bar, which are opened, are underlined now in white. So it is easier to avoid second instances of apps and programs.
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A commercial trojan

about Windows 10 · · 7 Helpful

If you want to assist the US government in its quest for world domination or if you need a technological superego that constantly checks, watches and profiles everything you do and reports all of your activity to malicious institutions, then this trojan disguised as an operating system is the perfect choice for you. All others who still understand what freedom means should seriously consider switching to alternatives or stick with older versions of Windows (beware of the telemetry and spyware updates for Win7/8).

tin foil autismo detected

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Still not Moving to 8 or 10...

Comment by realnabarl
about Windows 10 and Windows 8, Windows 7 · Jan 2015 ·

I like the UI of Windows 7. Windows 8 and 10 use Metro UI, which looks quite boring.

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No use for it.

about Windows 10 and Debian · · 1 Helpful

I keep returning to Debian, over and over.
The fact how much binary applications are available.
The fact that they are rolling and acceptably stable (testing).
The fact, how easy to update and how easy packages are available.
It sure lacks graphical tools here and there, but with projects like Sparky and LMDE - its solved.

Ah, yes, not using any windows since Vista. Especially when they recently captured Nokia, destroyed it by Elop Burning platform speech, and now they attempt to bury the brand totally - they try to call Lumia a windows phone. No sign of "Nokia".

This is their way of doing business. It always was since ages. Even if one looks at OpenGL and DX, even all way back to Gary Kildall NDA lie and then murder.

Started my carrier with MSDos5.0 and windows 3.11 by the way.

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Windows 10

about Windows 10 and Ubuntu · ·

I'm waiting Ubuntu 15.10

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