Why Data is being Collected in Windows 10?

There are many discussions about privacy issue with Windows 10 and people claiming by installing Windows 10, Microsoft steals your data and hand them over to national security agency and the U.S. government. It also gives opportunity to Linux fans and they posting articles saying that if you want privacy, you better use Linux. In this post, these issues will be analyzed. I would like to start with story why companies or governments need to collect data. Let’s go back to the time when computer and internet doesn’t exist. During those time governments still collect data on paper. When new baby born into hospital, his or her parent need to fill up some form including the place of birth, parents, given name, national id number and so on. All of these was inside a piece of paper (before computer and IT come to picture). And our government would have access to these data. So, they will know who are citizens of a country, so they would grand them special benefits which wasn’t available to people who aren’t citizen and if someone born into a country but doesn’t have any national card, then they would ask for one and at some point, of life, people must share some data with governments. Then another scenario come into picture when people would want to travel to travel to other country and stay there for longer time. In this time diplomacy come into picture and passports created. In this case, when you wanted to enter to another country, you should share some details about yourself, like place of birth, date of birth, passport number and so on. If you required to get visa, you need to share more data with the embassy of foreign country. It makes like a bit difficult for many citizens (and still people are suffering because of diplomatic conflicts). Therefore, new systems come into place, where governments could share data easily through fast and secure diplomacy protocols. Consider Schengen system for example, countries under Schengen agreement would get special carts for their citizens and they could use it to travel in other countries borders. No one asking you any question or ask you to submit tons of documents to embassies so they could figure out whether grand you a visa or not. Why? Because, whenever there is problem, they just get your ID Card and insert through IT system, they will know whether you are legal traveler and in case of crime, they could quickly investigate the all your crime activities across Schengen areas. Europol doing great job with providing powerful IT infrastructure. And if you are able to travel across countries without staying in long lines for interview and visa, because your governments doing great job in diplomacy by protecting national security and sharing data when needed and it is all thanks to IT.

When we talk about privacy, it means we are sharing data, so a system give us certain benefits and they are protecting our data and there are certain rules there and if we break those rules, then we are in trouble. For example, when you are communicating through your mobile phone, then your telecommunication company would have ability to trace your location but they never do it unless if you are wanted by police or legal authorities or you are threat to your country. If you are not breaking any law or you are not in watch list, then nobody would trace you. Even if you are living in no digital environment, so you don’t have any phone or communication devices, governments still could collect data through your friends or by sending someone to watch you over. They will do they job but with different methods.

Microsoft like all other companies does collect some data and all these have been discussed in Privacy Statement. And all data there are being collected to help users. For example, consider case of Windows Update, they need to collect data like what version of Windows you are using and what updates has been installed so far. If this mechanism is not in place, then Microsoft need to release all updates for Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Windows Server 2012, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016 and so on. And whether you got your PC today and need to install tons of updates and someone who just check for update yesterday both would have get gigs of update and many of those updates would have been failed. Therefore, you need to share these data to automated server and it will offer you updates which you will need. In government agency and when privacy is their main concern, they have local deployment of update, so when new update released, they will test it to make sure it is safe and they IT admin check systems to see what version of Windows are there and what updates do they need and then deploy those updates. So, they won’t share data with Microsoft and these data shared with their internal server. If they need their private email server, they won’t setup Office365 but they create their own email storage and use Exchange Server, OneDrive for Business and other private cloud services.

In higher level governments also get involve, so for example in European Union, data from citizen of these countries will be kept inside a server inside the EU, so even if U.S. government want to access data of any European citizen, they need to ask permission from EU government and those governments protect privacy of people. Same scenario is applicable for Linux, it also collects data for example to check for update and there are several things which it won’t collect, because it doesn’t private services where Microsoft provide to users. For example, when error detect in Windows, it asks users to send more data anonymously, so people in Windows team investigate the problem and release a fix for it. And you could disable this feature. In Linux, you need to share your error to public forum and keep share them to everyone and maybe you find some fix or you force to reinstall it. I addition, if U.S. government want to access your Linux PC, do you think, is that difficult task for them? Several security features in Windows are not available in Linux and someone with basic hacking knowledge could break into Linux system easily and collect all data. Even if you are not connecting to internet, they could send someone to steal your device. You just make things harder for them and yourself but you won’t stop them.

When it comes to privacy, governments must build powerful regulation to collect and protect data and build trust between people and government. People should have right to complain when their privacy broken and get response from government. It is job of government to create law so data protection and privacy is in place for their people like Privacy Shield in EU which did a great job. Switching to different operating system and spreading groundless rumor about companies stealing data won’t solve problem with privacy. We need to come up with some evidence and propose solutions to protect our people’s privacy. If you have knowledge of using Windows, you could take complete control of your privacy and create your own private cloud where no date being shared with Microsoft but for this you need to purchase your own data center and tools and spend more time on it. You actually, should do a job which Microsoft is doing for you as part of Windows warranty.

 

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