The Privacy Question Of Windows 10

Windows 10 is out as of today (Wednesday 29th July 2015) and on the surface is a major improvement over the much maligned Windows 8. This should be excellent news for consumers, which it is to a large extent, but what is lurking under the hood in terms of privacy?

Well, according to the Windows 10 piracy and service agreement (even word knows where I am going with this as I typed privacy and this was changed to piracy) There are a few settings which you might want to take note of.

Data Sync

Firstly, Microsoft has implemented “Data Syncing” by default, this means when you sign in with your Windows account, the operating system immediately syncs settings and data to the companies servers. This includes your browser history, favourites and the websites you currently have open as well as saved app, website and mobile hotspot passwords and Wi-Fi network names and passwords.

You can opt out of this if you look under “settings” but just to be clear, you are already opted in to Data Sync unless you decide that you would rather not have your history on Microsoft’s servers.

Information Cortana shares

Like the idea of voice assistant “Cortana” you might also like to know what data is also shared within this feature, which includes information such as your device location, data from calendars, the apps you use, data from emails and texts, who you call, your contacts, how often you use your device (takes in a deep breath) What music you like, alarm settings, if you have the lock screen on, what you view and purchase, your voice input as well as nicknames, names of people and appointments, whether or not you’re building an underground lair aaannnndddd how often you interact with them on your device. Granted Cortana is designed to “learn” from analysing information, a lot of information as it turns out.

Microsoft’s encryption and collection of data

The terms and conditions also state that Microsoft will collect app use data for apps that run on Windows’ and ‘data about the networks you connect to” Windows 10 will also generate a unique advertising ID for each user on each device, this can and probably will be used by developers and ad networks to profile you. You can turn advertising profiling off in the settings, which might be worth a look.

Like the idea of encrypting your drive? It might be worth mentioning that your BitLocker recovery key will be backed up to your OneDrive account.

Disclosing data

Now for the killer privacy lacking feature, the following is what Microsoft defines as to who they might disclose your data to.

“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services”

This is not clear when the criteria would be met and who they might disclose private data in folders to. Behind the glossy façade lays at the very least a few questionable policies which might infringe on basic liberties. If you’re using Windows 10, I would have another look at the settings to see what can be turned off, that is unless you’re happy with Microsoft’s new arrangements with its customers.

Thank You thenextweb, Microsoft Privacy and service agreement

Image courtesy of christianpost

Who Has Your Digital Back: 24 Major Tech Companies Analysed

Ever since the NSA clothed assassin Edward Snowden released a cache of documents, (I am not an all government sympathizer and I admire the steps which Mr Snowden took to place this information into the public domain) there has been a greater emphasis on how companies handle your private data. Tech companies are brilliant at telling you how your data is “important to them” and how they safeguard a user’s digital life, but how do we know this? After all, you won’t be receiving a phone call from Tim Cook to offer any assurances anytime soon.

Here’s where a non-profit organisation by the name of the Electronic Frontier Foundation swings into the picture, as you may know, every year this organization publishes an annual report which details how tech companies handle your data or who they may hand it to. The 2015 report has been submitted and is split into the following five categories

  • Follows Industry accepted best practice
  • Tells users about government data demands
  • Discloses policies on data retention
  • Discloses government content removal requests
  • Pro-user public policy opposes backdoors

As you can see, each category is defined with the aim of requesting transparency from each of the 24 individual tech companies who were analysed. The aim of this study is to detail how each company deals with requests from government sources for your data.

So who has kept their word? Well, Tim Cook, you have seemingly kept yours as Apple earned itself a score of 5/5, there were other companies who also earned top marks, I know! These were as follows;

  • Adobe
  • Apple,
  • Yahoo
  • Dropbox
  • WordPress,
  • Wickr,
  • Credo Mobile,
  • Sonic
  • Wikimedia.

A question mark may arise over Dropbox with the controversial appointment of Condoleezza Rice to the board in April 2014. There is no evidence of a policy shift between Dropbox and the US government after Mrs Rice’s appointment, but never the less, its noteworthy.

Now for the worst, open golden envelope, drum roll please, ok metaphorical drum roll, the three worst companies are… I mean I really should win an award for suspense, Get on with it! ok, goes to;

  • AT&T
  • WhatsApp
  • Verizon

AT&T and Verizon failed in every category except “Follows Industry accepted best practice” Although which industry of what universe is anyone’s guess, with WhatsApp failing in every category except “opposes backdoors” But then again, who needs a backdoor when you place all your users details into a post stamped addressed envelope to any government who asks for it. Maybe an exaggeration, but if WhatsApp won’t tell you who demands a section of data, then it’s anyone’s guess..

These reports are well worth reading as it gives you a snapshot of how transparent tech companies are willing to be, after all, we as a society should demand information into what exactly is happening with our data.

Thank You to Electronic Frontier Foundation for providing us with this information

Image Courtesy of Electronic Frontier Foundation

David Cameron Will Allow Government to Easily Monitor Your Internet Activity if Re-Elected

UK Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to introduce powers allowing security and intelligence services to monitor internet communications if re-elected in May. He made the promise on Monday morning during a speech on the economy in Nottingham.

Referring to the basic concept of internet privacy, and being able to monitor communications and access content in direct breach of that privacy, Cameron said, “Are we going to allow a means of communication where it simply isn’t possible to do that? My answer to that question is ‘No we must not.'” In other words, anything anyone in the UK posts online is at risk of having their privacy violated, supported by the rule of law.

“If I’m Prime Minister I will make sure it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that makes sure we do not allow terrorists safe space to communicate with each other,” he added, using the nebulous term ‘terrorism’ as justification for encroaching on liberty. The UN brands such actions a violation of human rights, and a move towards an Orwellian state.

Previous attempts to introduce similar legislation have been shut down by the Conservative’s coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, but Cameron argues that these powers were “absolutely right” for a modern liberal democrat, demonstrating a total misunderstanding of the words “liberal” and “democrat”. Then again, the same accusation could be levelled at the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg.

Last year, the head of GCHQ, the British security organisation that handles communications intelligence, implored Twitter and Facebook to grant them greater access to user messages.

Source: Reuters