Friday, August 14, 2015

Windows 10 Linkpost: Privacy Nightmare Edition

imageCC by 2.0 attribution: by Cory Doctorow on flickr.

In the last GSD Win 10 linkpost edition, we covered a lot of ground including a section on Windows 10 privacy concerns. We looked at a blog link that highlighted some of the EULA changes in Windows 10 and some general tweaks that could be useful to minimize the leakage of private data.

Not too long after that was posted, I began seeing some utilities and tools being developed and released that could allow concerned Windows 10 users to go beyond the standard set of Windows 10 tweaks easily accessible by knowledgeable users to curtail information and privacy leakage.

Since that time, even more research has been done on information leakage in Windows 10.  It looks to be increasingly difficult to prevent all information leakage on the Windows 10 OS. By that I mean information leakage from the Windows 10 OS itself; not even “normal” privacy leakage and user tracking via applications, web-browsers, cookies and “super-cookies”, etc.

Windows 10’s privacy policy is the new normal - Ars Technica

Even when told not to, Windows 10 just can’t stop talking to Microsoft - Ars Technica

As Peter Bright points out in his first Ars Technica post, a lot of OS’s have similar “phone home” behavior. And it is likely that the OS’s of mobile devices can track you even more closely as you walk around the earth than a more grounded laptop/desktop system. However, considering the broad release and “free upgrade” nature of Windows 10, many consumers may be unaware just how leaky Windows 10 is, or how significantly Microsoft has changed how the Win 10 OS chatters back home compared to previous versions.

For just one example:

So there are a number of guides on how a savvy user can modify the Windows 10 settings -- either during a custom installation upgrade or after the upgrade has gone on.

It seems these just scratch the surface.

If you really want to dial down on the leakage, you may want to consider using a third party tool to make more significant and deeper changes to you Windows 10 OS.

OK. Before we move on, here are some notices.


I’ve seen the following post comment issued out by Microsoft to a number of bloggers referring to the tools that will be discussed below. So let me save them some time by reposting it here.

“We strongly suggest customers do not install applications of this nature. These types of third-party apps can alter the way the system operates, creating future problems and changing important settings and features.”


Different tools take different approaches and some could significantly cause performance, stability, or security issues of their own if applied. Some whack into the Windows Registry. Some stomp on Windows services. A few even make (or block) specific network communications.  Few make backups of the system settings before changes are applied restricting your ability to roll-back the changes if something breaks.

Proceed at your own risk. I really encourage you to spend some time evaluating and understanding each of the tools listed or linked below before actually using.

Windows 10 Privacy Utilities

Martin Brinkmann’s post provides links and overviews to (currently) six maybe-ready for primetime utilities that can help Windows 10 users manage and take (some) control of privacy in Windows 10.

I highly recommend starting out there.

Here are some additional links I found in the days leading up to his post. Some of the tools mentioned in these articles are also covered in the gHacks post. Check out the comments for additional discussion.

I expect one or two things to happen in the area of Windows 10 privacy in the  coming months;

  1. We will see more of these Windows 10 privacy tools and utilities come out; each with greater capability, stability, effectiveness, and polish. With Windows XP the tweak tools tended to be “GUI experience” focused. With Windows 7 that trend continued. Windows 8/8.1 tweak tools seemed to be those to restore the Start Menu and make the GUI experience more familiar to XP/Win 7 users. With Windows 10, the tweaks-de-jour will most likely be “privacy” impacting. That’s my guess.
  2. I hope we will see more information and transparency from Microsoft on ALL the components, services, network features, etc. that apply to privacy, usage and behavior tracking, and network connections in support of the OS itself. I hope. This might go a long way to restoring a sense of trust to the Windows fan base.

Regardless, I’m still waiting a while before dropping Windows 10 on any of my home systems.

Constant Vigilance!

Claus Valca

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