Security Windows

Windows 10 Is Watching: Should You Be Worried?

Gavin Phillips 07-09-2015

Since its July 29th release How to Upgrade to Windows 10 Now & Why You Should Wait Have you been waiting patiently since July 29 for your Windows 10 upgrade? You should probably wait until you receive an official notification, but if you are determined, you can force the Windows 10 upgrade. Read More , Windows 10 has been constantly dogged by rumors concerning user privacy. Whilst confirmations and solid evidence are thin on the ground, these rumors persist, helping to highlight a worrying mentality towards Windows 10. If it cannot be trusted, who will want to continue using it?


In amongst the rumors there are truths for us to consider, as well as myths to debunk. Let’s take a look at where Windows 10 stands on privacy.

Windows 10: Peering Over Your Wall

In amongst the numerous reports of privacy infringements, there have been a handful of genuine issues Everything You Need to Know About Windows 10's Privacy Issues While Windows 10 has some issues that users need to be aware of, many claims have been blown out of proportion. Here's our guide to everything you need to know about Windows 10's privacy issues. Read More . Reports of Microsoft utilizing your computer as a P2P node for update sharing were completely founded, and the 13 pages of privacy settings are also no joke.

Add in the lack of transparency regarding the irksome Windows auto-update system Pros & Cons of Forced Updates in Windows 10 Updates will change in Windows 10. Right now you can pick and choose. Windows 10, however, will force updates onto you. It has advantages, like improved security, but it can also go wrong. What's more... Read More , ongoing reports of Cortana spying, and further reports of WiFi-Sense sharing your password and you understand why some people are decrying Microsoft as the destroyers of personal privacy.

Cat Peeking

Microsoft do use your computer as a node, but you can turn it off. This is an irritating feature you have to opt out of, but once done should cause you little issue. Similarly, Cortana’s Cortana Arrives on the Desktop & Here's What She Can Do for You Is Microsoft's intelligent digital assistant as competent on the Windows 10 desktop as she is on Windows Phone? Cortana has a lot of expectation on her shoulders. Let's see how she holds up. Read More data collection can be switched off How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 Cortana is Microsoft's greatest productivity tool since Office. We'll show you how to get started with Windows 10's digital assistant or how to turn Cortana off for improved privacy. Read More in her settings, but to improve the personal service it makes sense for her to read your data Do Siri, Cortana & Google Now Need Too Much Personal Data? Read More . WiFi-Sense is the opposite Does Windows 10's WiFi Sense Feature Represent a Security Risk? Read More ; you have to opt in, and even when you do, it doesn’t share your password, just your WiFi Easily Share Your Home Wi-Fi With Friends Do you use a complicated password for your Wi-Fi network? You should. But sharing your connection with friends shouldn't be a pain. Don't worry, we've got you covered. Read More .


However, unless you manually disable data sharing features during the initial installation process, the Express Installation feature will go-ahead and enable the full spectrum. And there is no denying the navigation of each privacy page can be a tiresome, irritable affair thta Microsoft seems to have spread as widely as possible.

Windows 10: Gaming Search and Destroyer

Windows 10 has also come under fire for supposedly enabling search and destroy indexing features to scan and remove any pirated games or software found on a system. This latest privacy destroying rumor followed the August 1st Microsoft Services Agreement update many will have signed without reading. Those that did were unhappy, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

The MSA update states:

“We may automatically check your version of the software and download software updates or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the Services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorized hardware peripheral devices.”

Take that how you will, but it is worth remembering that this agreement now spans each Microsoft service including Xbox. And this appears to be the key: Microsoft isn’t looking to scan your computer HDD to eliminate pirated games, but wants to keep tabs on Xbox users playing pirated games and eliminate the practice 5 Strange Video Game Copy Protection Measures Used In History DRM isn’t a recent invention. There are games twenty years old that try to throw off hackers, pirates and thieves through various means, some of which are devious or downright evil. Pirating a game is... Read More where possible. Microsoft lawyers have had to word the agreement so it fits each platform Windows on Every Device - This Is How Microsoft Is Realizing Its New Ecosystem Windows was never gone, but it's about to make a comeback nevertheless. You can currently observe how Microsoft is getting its flagship up to speed. Last week on Microsoft... Read More , and it means maximum confusion about which aspect of the agreement is going to affect any given set of hardware.


Broken Hard Drive

Equally unclear is the range of targeting for these services. Would Microsoft merely target its own games, or would this extend to third-party developers too? Because I can imagine a long line of developers jostling for position in the sign-me-up queue.

Reddit user GenuineID took the time to elaborate on the particulars of the MSA and how the stories of search and destroy tactics making the rounds are without substance at best, and completely baseless at worst. Have a look at the link, it is interesting!

Windows 10: Pirates Won’t Touch It

Microsoft may well be rubbing their hands gleefully at this one. It is a statement on privacy delivered by a number of private torrent trackers Why Safe Torrenting Died With The Pirate Bay As far as "popular" torrenting is concerned, the comparative safety that existed at The Pirate Bay is gone, and safe torrent downloads with it. Read More aimed at discouraging would be pirates accessing P2P networks whilst running Windows 10. This stems directly from the above privacy concern, and has gathered more pace than a nun on a bike.


Beware of Pirates

A number of private torrent trackers have publicly decried Windows 10 privacy. Understandable, as the base installation doesn’t offer much in the way of protection. However, they have also sought to remove any Windows 10 users from their trackers, with staff at iTS claiming:

“Amongst other things Windows 10 sends the contents of your local disks directly to one of their servers. Obviously this goes way too far and is a serious threat to sites like ours which is why we had to take measures,”

Other popular trackers to have blocked Windows 10 include BB and FSC, with the prospect of more to come. However, it seems unlikely most regular people will notice… well, because they are private trackers. The TorrentFreak article linked above also reads with a serious hint of gentle ribbing of the private trackers, so believe what you will.

Windows 10: Tools to Secure Your Privacy

These two are the latest in a long line of issues and as we’ve seen, some of these are unfounded. But some aren’t, and with an awful lot of settings to fiddle with, some nice little tools have popped up to help manage the deluge.


Windows 10 Privacy Fixer

This is a tiny tool written in a ‘few minutes’ by developer lordfiSh. It aims to provide a privacy check, followed by ‘fixing’ a number of key privacy switches without you having to traipse all throughout the settings pages.


Do steer clear of any PowerShell 3 Clever PowerShell Functions After Upgrading to Windows 10 Windows 10 brings us a new PowerShell, essentially Command Prompt on steroids. This article shows you how to do the otherwise impossible with PowerShell. And it's easier than you think! Read More or Registry settings How to Fix Windows Registry Errors (And When Not to Bother) Fiddling with the Windows Registry can be harmful to your PC. Here's how to fix registry problems and when to not bother at all. Read More if you’re not 100% on what they do. Similarly, don’t disable Windows Update unless you know what you’re doing. It may be irritating, especially for those on PAYG connections, but disabling it might open you up for other nasties.

O&O ShutUp10

Another delightfully tiny tool with support for around 50 privacy tweaks, as well as a list of ‘recommended’ tweaks. These disable what could be considered the most harmful privacy issues whilst leaving SmartScreen, Windows Update, and other equally useful services intact.


Fix Windows 10

Not a tool, but a website detailing each switch and change you can make to Windows 10 to raise privacy settings to a level you feel comfortable with. Especially handy if you hit ‘Express Installation.’

Windows 10: Privacy Problems Roundup

Are you now feeling more worried, or realizing the ill effects of mass-paranoia? Honestly, you should be somewhere in middle: Windows 10 has a substantial amount of privacy settings to toggle, but handy tools such as O&OShutUp10 make an enormous difference to keeping your privacy up.


There are still instances where toggling the toggles does nothing. Turning Cortana off and typing in the search box prompts a request to for a ‘threshold.appcache’ file. Even when Live Tiles Manage Start Screen Tiles & Modern Apps Like A Pro Some things take time to grow on you. The Windows 8 Start Screen is one of them. I bet you'll appreciate it more after learning about these tips and tricks. Read More are disabled and removed from the Start menu A Guide to the Windows 10 Start Menu Windows 10 fixes the Start Menu dilemma! Getting to grips with the new Start Menu will supercharge your Windows 10 experience. With this handy guide, you'll be an expert in no time. Read More , Windows 10 still asks for periodic updates from Similarly, data is occasionally sent to a Microsoft server used for OneDrive storage, even after the service is completely switched off.

I understand that we don’t get something for nothing. Windows 10 ticks so many boxes, and paying for it with a bit of data, on the face of the situation, doesn’t seem that bad. But unless Microsoft can assure transparency moving forward, I can see issues arising for Redmond.

Have you turned everything off? Have you dumped Windows 10? Or are you just not bothered? Let us know below!

Related topics: Online Privacy, Windows 10.

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  1. John
    January 12, 2016 at 10:31 pm

    @John Banks perhaps you missed this article:
    "Which software had the most publicly disclosed vulnerabilities this year? The winner is none other than Apple's Mac OS X, with 384 vulnerabilities. The runner-up? Apple's iOS, with 375 vulnerabilities."

    So suggesting iOS/MacOS in any flavour is "safer" is hogwash. Every OS has it's vulnerabilities including *nix, iOS/MacOS and Windows (even OS370, VMWare and WangOS).

    @Steve.Gossett nails it when he says "Changing to a different OS such as Linux or OSX is not a real solution as each has their own set of security issues. In the old days hackers and script-kiddies wouldn’t even give MAC OS’s the time of the day as they were not as widely used. once these OS’s made their way more mainstream they then became and interest and vulnerable."

    The bad guys go where the money is. Period. End. Stop.

    Security comes at a cost (although it doesn't have to be exorbitant). I will leave you with one of my favourite says with credit to the author, whoever he/she is...

    "Too often taking measures to protect the security of electronic information assets is traded for usability, flexibility, convenience and trust - exactly what those who want your information, and your personal data, count on"

    Nobodies situation is identical and users should expect to bear some of the burden/responsibility of securing their own environment, accepting what the vendor gives you or some combination thereof.

  2. Anonymous
    September 25, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Windows 8.1 deleted files too

  3. Anonymous
    September 15, 2015 at 12:28 am

    Isn't it time that some bunch of lawyers looked at reciprocal liability on this. They want the data so are liable for all security of it. Any mishap or sharing without permission and automatic liability???
    That's how I think it should work.

  4. Anonymous
    September 10, 2015 at 7:27 am

    Look I understand there are inherent risk when going online. However I can and do make choices to protect my privacy. It takes dedication, and isn't always easy. I miss out on some things,and im ok with that. How do I protect myself from my own PC? I tried windows 10 and I tell you none of those privacy settings stop all the phoning home. and we are talking a lot of data!!! I tryd everything. I broke cortana good. I got rid of all the apps blocked everything in the hosts and firewall,tried the apps. No joy. windows 10 is the NSA's wet dream. When taken with the upcoming cyber security law in congress this is dangerous.

  5. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Damn my spelling!!!!!!

  6. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Not surprising that the Fix Windows 10 link goes nowhere. Otherwise, an informative article. However, I think its always amazing how Windows users complain about the lack of security and then cry foul when Microsoft implements more security.

    I have worked on a myriad of Windows PC's though to know that the issue is not always Windows on its own but the sometimes idiot users using them. Users going to game sites, online movie streams, porn sites, whatever and not fully understanding what they are clicking on or otherwise getting themselves into. User education on the proper use of Windows, for the most part, is still a must. I know people who are completely clueless on how do something as simple as sending an email let alone using a search engine.

    Changing to a different OS such as Linux or OSX is not a real solution as each has their own set of security issues. In the old days hackers and script-kiddies wouldn't even give MAC OS's the time of the day as they were not as widely used. once these OS's made their way more mainstream they then became and interest and vulnerable.

    I'm not siding with these scrupulous people but I cant say I'm totally against what they are doing in showing the vulnerabilities of these OS's. It would be nice if it could happen in less catastrophic ways but in some ways thats what is necessary to get a point across. Politeness in notifying OS developers I don't believe has ever statistically gone well. Ive worked around developers before and "some" have a chip on their shoulder that their code can do no wrong, have an OH SHIT moment or sit on the issue too long.

    In any regard, I think Windows users should prepare themselves mentally for the future as Windows gradually gets more and more "security" features instantiated. Not just to keep Windows echo system as safe as possible but to save Windows users from themselves.

    I'm expecting flack for some of this but right or wrong, I'm just speaking my mind but open to criticism.

    • Anonymous
      October 20, 2015 at 9:36 pm

      Having windows be more secure is exactly what people have been wanting for a long time now. Linux users sometimes would love to use windows, but don't due to the glaring holes in the OS concerning security. Windows XP and up have each updated security methods in the OS and I had thought maybe MS was coming along, but with windows 10 I feel they took a hard left turn. The spying on people's data that is included does absolutely nothing for the OS's security.

      I agree with the next statement, as most people, even those using linux, aren't entirely educated when it comes to the software they use.

      As for the next statement, I do not entirely agree. While there is no software that is completely immune to security breaches, Unix, and by extension Linux and MacOS have MUCH less holes in that regard than Windows. MacOS has more security holes than other unix-likes due to the Apple closed source code, and whatever data-collection apple does.

      I'd say that the next statement is loaded on both ends. I do agree with notifying a dev about a security hole in their software so they can get it fixed quickly without it becoming a huge risk by dissemination online, while at the same time I understand that yes, some devs have a huge stick up their butt. Personally if I make a report to a dev, I include a disclaimer that since I've given them warning, that all of the information will be posted to public medium in "x weeks" unless a reasonable request to delay is received.

      Windows users would love any actual security measures that did not also include free data-mining ops from MS and whomever they share data with.

  7. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 6:07 am

    Since The Last Draconian M$ Stance On Updates, People That Do Not Trust M$:

    A - Can Not Accept M$ Updates On W10,

    B - Can Not Accept M$ Updates On W8.1,

    C - Can Not Accept M$ Updates On W7.

    What Is The Difference Between This And APRIL 2014 ?


    Since The SUMMER Of 2009 I Refused To Install Any Newer M$ Updates, Period.

    6 Years And Counting.


    • Anonymous
      September 8, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      Enjoy your viruses.

      • Anonymous
        September 10, 2015 at 9:00 am

        That SUMMER Of 2009 Gave Me More Headaches Than 20+ Years Of Malware Put Together.

        Enjoy M$ Legally Changing All Your Privacy Settings While You Are **Asheep**.


      • Anonymous
        September 15, 2015 at 2:27 am

        Naw,just use Sandboxie or a similar program.I use it all the time,and haven't had a problem with malware,even though I occasionally go to some pretty skanky sites.Oh,and I have my regularly undated Avast! AV.

  8. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 5:24 am

    It's nothing that Apple hasn't been doing for eternity.

    It's a small price to pay for security.

  9. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 4:45 am

    Well. i can't say SHARING your private info with all your contacts is spying, it is a way to connect people together. On the other hand those things like password sharing (which can be turned off when you install windows) or pirated apps\games\music (which will protect you from some viruses) aren't that good, well that thing with pirated games or music.. doesn't really work i have 3-3.5GB of music and it is 98% pirated and windows didn't do something about it, actual antivirus tried to delete some of my songs because they had "tipic.trojan.68013" no idea what it is. I can't say that windows 10 is a bad one, personal i think that is better than windows 7(which I've been using since it's release) better gaming performance, it doesn't eat more than 700mb of ram(from 32gb of ram is something windows 7 being like 3 or 4 gigs). Oh read that thing which is widows telling you to read before you install the windows, i will tell you what are you SHARING SENDING or watherver

    • Gavin Phillips
      September 11, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks for reading. Unless you know the source or have intentionally installed the mentioned file, I would advise its removal as a potential Trojan infection. Full system scan with an anti virus, as well as Malwarebytes.

  10. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 3:25 am

    Windows 10 can't spy on me because I wiped the entire partition and did a fresh install of 8.1 on a small partition just to run a photo editor I like. My main OS is now Linux Mint. I don't like the direction MS is going and the spying and bandwidth stealing ways of W10 was enough to push me into abandoning the entire MS platform.

    • Anonymous
      September 8, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      What's wrong with WINE?

      • Mihir Patkar
        September 8, 2015 at 6:48 pm

        It makes people sleepy #AmITalkingAboutTheDrinkOrNot #NoOneWillEverKnow

      • Anonymous
        September 8, 2015 at 9:36 pm

        Nothing wrong with WINE Howard. I just haven't figured out how to use it yet.

  11. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 1:08 am

    Reasons We Share Personal Data

    " Finally, 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:
    1- comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies;

    Emails and communications are obvious, we send information to the internet, we know it will be kept by someone somewhere, ok. But... "files in private folders" is not ok. I may keep a file with my passwords, or I can have my girlfriends/boyfriends naked pictures. I may even not have any sensitive or personal information in my private folders. But those are MY private folders, not Microsoft's. I don't need to have something to hide, it's my computer, my private folders and I should be able to deny access to them.

    I switched to Kubuntu a couple years ago but still have an Win7 OEM key. Before Win10 launched, I was excited to install 7 again, do the upgrade, and try the new OS, it still seems to be a good OS, but after the privacy issues we all heard since it launched (some things can be deactivated, others cannot), I prefer to keep my stable OS AND (some of) my privacy.

  12. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 12:11 am

    My primary OS is Fedora Workstation 22 and Windows 10 is sitting idle for most of the time in a partition. I just boot it once a week to update things. So I dont get that much worried about privacy
    But ya, its not a good direction MS is moving in for sure.

  13. Anonymous
    September 8, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Did Windows10 on custom install, turned IT ALL OFF but still had an enormous problem with both app and hardware compatibility after the last update. Slowed PC down tremendously; caused the "no internet connection" problem. Reverting back to Win7 for now but not happy with it either since four recent KBs - 3068708, 3075249, 3080149, and 3022345 do much the same thing as Win10 privacy/sending data to MS shtick. This article is not doing justice to those who do have concerns with the "big brother" attitude - I don't have XBox anything but can't play basic solitaire on MS10; geesh. MS is a mess and other than keeping techies in a job not worth it to the basic consumer. We PAID for the OS and all we get is disrespect.

    • Anonymous
      September 10, 2015 at 7:31 am

      You do know you dont have to install those updates don't you? just run this if you did install them but changed your mind.Go to start and type cmd. then click it. run these one at a time to uninstall

      wusa /uninstall /kb:3068708 /quiet /norestart
      wusa /uninstall /kb:3022345 /quiet /norestart
      wusa /uninstall /kb:3075249 /quiet /norestart
      wusa /uninstall /kb:3080149 /quiet /norestart

  14. Anonymous
    September 7, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    Most people put more sensitive info onto Facebook than Ms, Apple, Google solicit.....

    A big todo about nothing.......

    • Anonymous
      September 8, 2015 at 5:25 am


    • Anonymous
      September 10, 2015 at 7:34 am

      They chose to! what about people like me that has never had a face book account? Frankly I think not being worried about this is nuts!!

    • Gavin Phillips
      September 11, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      It isn't nothing. Facebook and Google solicit your data in exchange for free services. Microsoft and Apple offer paid products, so consumers should expect their privacy to be respected especially after altering privacy settings. FB and Google use data you provide, explicit or implicit, for their business activities. MS and Apple want the cake, and to eat it.

  15. Anonymous
    September 7, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    I agree with you. Although it's a radical break with tradition, people should actually READ the Windows 10 EULA and privacy statements. It's a shocker!

    And no mention has been made of the fact that they are back loading some of these "features" on to Win 7 and Win 8, even if you've had express update disabled.

    • Gavin Phillips
      September 11, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Thanks for reading. Increasingly important to check and double check any user agreements involving data transactions.

      Haven't talked about the features creep because I think it'll end up as another article in the near future.

  16. Anonymous
    September 7, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    I will probably get laughed at and I understand I am not nearly clever enough to debate the fine print on this deal.

    I will say this, Microsoft was never shy or opaque or sneaky about its "as a service" model. 10 was never presented as an " operating system" to me. It's an ecosystem. I share everything with Microsoft, I know I share everything with Microsoft. If I don't want to share it Idont

    • Anonymous
      September 8, 2015 at 5:27 am

      Well said.

      Nothing to worry about.

      They collect data to improve the operating system. They collect it for security.

      If you don't like it, go to.... Hmm, I think most OSs do this.

      • Gavin Phillips
        September 11, 2015 at 2:06 pm

        But there is a difference between consensual data sharing for security, and broadcasting and reporting back to Microsoft after the services are switched off. Would you be happy if your smartphone uploaded a snapshot of your passwords to Sprint every week?

  17. Anonymous
    September 7, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Since Windows Update now is automatic, what is to prevent M$ from resetting to default any of the privacy settings a user has changed since the last update?

    • Random Guy
      December 26, 2016 at 4:40 pm


      I got an update, and then noticed something appeared to be back on. I thought I was crazy, but checked the settings anyway, and some of them were back on!!

      Normally, I wold uninstall this, but it's the only OS on my laptop at the moment. :(

      I tried to install 7, but there are some BIOS and HDD incompatibilities (probably intentional). I think I found a way around them, but if it doesn't work, then this may be a great time to try out Linux.

  18. Anonymous
    September 7, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    Use Windows 10 as is. Avoid weird tweaks. Windows 10 was designed to be Windows 10 and not some other OS, manipulated by amateur programmers.

    • Anonymous
      September 7, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      Sure, Nikolaj, just bend over and grease up.

    • Gavin Phillips
      September 11, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks for reading, Nikolaj. Unfortunately, many would disagree with you here, myself included. I don't have anything to hide, but as a paying customer I expect to be able to control the communication between my personal computer, with my personal data, and the manufacturer.

      How would you feel if your fridge was reporting your calorie intake back to the manufacturer? Its your private information being sent from an item you have purchased.

      • Anonymous
        September 11, 2015 at 3:17 pm

        The minute you hook a PC to the inet, data is collected. We all know that, and we give up part of the control over our personal data in exactly that very moment.

  19. Anonymous
    September 7, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    What this article is not say about Windows 10 removing pirated games and software is that W10 only disables Microsoft games and programs that do not have product keys. All other information gathering is nothing more than what Google and Apple are drawing or windows 7 for that matter.

    • Gavin Phillips
      September 11, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      "And this appears to be the key: Microsoft isn’t looking to scan your computer HDD to eliminate pirated games, but wants to keep tabs on Xbox users playing pirated games and eliminate the practice where possible"

      Didn't quite elaborate on your point, but you're right.

  20. Anonymous
    September 7, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    While some of MS is baking into Windows 10 is more than a little problematic the big issue is that MS seems determined to make exactly what is happening as opaque as humanly possible.

    That kind of behaviour does not engender trust or give anyone a warm and fuzzy feeling about there intentions.

    • Gavin Phillips
      September 11, 2015 at 2:13 pm

      Agreed. It isn't inspiring, and seemingly doesn't bode well for the future of data privacy.