Microsoft may be collecting more data than initially thought

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 5, 2016

Microsoft recently told the world that its new Windows 10 operating system was active on over 200 million devices, a fact that leaked a week earlier already.

The company stated that Windows 10 was its fastest growing operating system to date beating Windows 8 and even everyone's darling Windows 7 so far, and that it was seeing great adoption in retail and the Enterprise sector.

Considering that Windows 10 is offered for free currently to existing Windows users on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, it is not really a surprise that this is happening.

The same article revealed data that may be of concern to privacy conscious users. If you read it carefully, you will notice that Microsoft provides aggregate usage statistics not only for the operating system's uptime, but also information about individual programs running on it.

Windows 10 usage

windows 10 privacy

In particular, it listed the following information to demonstrate the popularity of Windows 10:

  1. People spent more than 11 billion hours on Windows 10 in December 2015.
  2. 44.5 billion minutes were spent in Microsoft Edge across Windows 10 devices in December 2015 (0.71 billion hours).
  3. Users asked Cortana more than 2.5 billion questions since launch.
  4. More than 82 billion photos were viewed in the Windows 10 Photo application.
  5. Windows 10 gamers spent over 4 billion hours playing PC games.
  6. Gamers have streamed more than 6.6 million hours of Xbox One games to Windows 10 PCs.
  7. About 30% more Bing search queries from Windows devices compared to previous versions of Windows.

The statistics indicate that Microsoft may be collecting more data than initially thought. While it is unclear what data is exactly collected, it is clear that the company is collecting information about the use of individual applications and programs on Windows at the very least.

The real question is how fine grained the data collecting actually is. For instance, is Windows 10 recording what users do in Edge or the actual questions that individual users ask Cortana?

According to Microsoft, the data collecting is for the greater good only. It is being used to make the product work better and that is certainly true to an extent as Microsoft can use the data it collects to find out about the popularity of an application or operating system feature.

Still, since Microsoft does not reveal detailed information about what gets collected and to what end, it is something that users need to be aware about at the very least. Obviously, it would be helpful if Windows 10 would ship with options to turn off these data collecting features.

While some of that is implemented in Windows 10, it seems difficult to near impossible to block all the data collecting from taking place.

It is certainly no coincidence that the rise of privacy software went along with the release of Windows 10.

Now You: Are you concerned about the data collecting in Windows 10?

Microsoft may be collecting more data than initially thought
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Microsoft may be collecting more data than initially thought
Microsoft revealed in a new blog post celebrating 200 million active Windows 10 devices some of the data that it is collecting.
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  1. CHANGE said on January 16, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Microspysoft is a front-end for the NSA, deal with it. If you want privacy, you can use BSD or Tails, forget this so called OS. There are hard-coded urls in their dlls, lol. More spying isn’t even possible.

    1. Changed said on February 2, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      Can anyone prevent NSA/Microsoft from legitimately spying on the customers?
      Sure, but next update will reopen the five-eyes on you. Legitimate spying against hackers and terrorists: EULA clearly state that NSA/Microsoft will spy on you. Denying the facts in the EULAs make anyone a bad actor pushing five-eyes agenda against the people. Accepting the policy is the right way here… Don’t you like to be spied? Change the OS.

  2. Jackal said on January 8, 2016 at 10:04 am

    ..and just to drive the point home, 18 minutes or so into ‘Windows Weekly’ this week, both Mary-Jo Foley and Paul Thurrott say what a lot of sabre-rattling/clickbait this stuff really is.

    1. Corky said on January 8, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Just to drive the point home, ZDNEt has been in Microsoft’s pocket for many years now.

      ZDNet promotes Microsoft in the editorial sections, not just in the ads, and it employs Microsoft people who habitually also censor commenters for expressing views that may upset the customers (advertisers like Microsoft)

    2. Corky said on January 8, 2016 at 12:43 pm

      Maybe you should get your news from people that aren’t in Microsoft’s pocket, ZDNet has a long history of “working” with them.

      Take Microsoft’s need for constant, high pitched spin to detract from its grave mistakes and regular failures and combine it with ZDNet’s unapologetically desperate brand of sensational headline writing, and you have fertile ground for arrogant morons ready and willing to say anything and everything. High up on the moron pile is George Ou, a blogger billed as a “Technical Director of ZDNet.”

      If you’re not a Microsoft booster yourself you really need to get your information from “journalists” that don’t owe their living to a single firm, easiest way to spot them is that they only ever talk about the hand that feeds them.

  3. S2015 said on January 8, 2016 at 5:02 am

    Now, Microsoft is facing yet another biggest possible antitrust probe made by CN gov:
    “The China State Administration for Industry and Commerce Investigation announced Tuesday that Microsoft must answer questions that came to light from DATA obtained by the regulator.”

    For details, go to

    As for privacy leak, some installed updates do have the ability to upload one’s (potential) personal info to Windows’ servers, according to thehackernews’ info@

    So, what’s your choice: Remove those updates or using other alternative operating systems?

  4. Jackal said on January 7, 2016 at 9:53 pm

    *sigh* Yet again the voice of reason has to chime in and calm the TinFoil Hat/Microsoft haters down. Honestly, so much ado bout nothing with all this stuff.

    Read. And learn. Then take your Hats off.

    1. Corky said on January 8, 2016 at 9:04 am

      Seriously? You think Ed Bott is the voice of reason, he’s the most well know pro-Microsoft shill in the history of shill’s. If you don’t believe me hear are some links to how close his ties are to Microsoft, and how his entire livelihood depends on them.

      Royalties from 25 books, every single one about Microsoft products.

      He claimed Windows 8 was the new XP, we all know how that turned out.

      Microsoft gifted him a $2000 laptop.

      That’s just a few of the examples of how Ed Bott is nothing more than an extension of Microsoft’s PR department, and how if you listen to him you’re basically listening to Microsoft spin.

      1. Corky said on January 8, 2016 at 4:35 pm

        @Rainer, Just to be clear i have no problem with Ed Bott or anyone else offering their opinion but when people like Jackal and Mr Bott himself peddle that opinion as facts or that people who don’t share their opinion are TinFoil Hat/Microsoft haters, uneducated, and any other number of insults people like this throw at people who disagree with them, that’s when i take exception, their opinion is no more or less valid than anyone elses.

      2. Corky said on January 8, 2016 at 4:24 pm

        @Rainer, Sure, for starters it’s nothing more than an opinion piece layered with emotive attacks on anyone that may disagree with his opinion, such as ginned-up, Microsoft haters and clueless writers, breathless clickbait, not interested in facts, and numerous other attacks, and all this from someone who has no more facts on the subject than those hes attacking, or so we are meant to believe as he has clear links to the company hes offering his opinion on, his opinion may differ but that doesn’t warrant emotive attacks no matter how much he needs to defend his paymaster.

        He claims “Microsoft does not care that a random Windows 10 user (let’s call him George), used a particular app for 40 minutes yesterday,” If that’s true where is his evidence that they don’t care? Is he basing that on the very same thing hes accusing others of.

        He then goes on to claim that “they are so not interested in George’s individual activities that they anonymize the telemetry data returned by Windows 10 so that it cannot be used to personally identify him. You and I are similarly protected.” Yet it has been shown that anonymized data can be de-anonymized very simply, it would be a very simple matter for Microsoft to personally identify him should they wish or need to.

        Later still he says “So Microsoft knows what percentage of their installed base uses Edge, but they can’t tell a thing about the behavior of individuals like you or me or George.” And how does he know this? Does he have some insider knowledge, is he just more trusting, is it that hes concerned about upsetting Microsoft should he not put a positive spin on it.

        He even openly contradicts his earlier statement that they anonymize the telemetry data when he quotes Microsoft’s privacy policy, he states “If an error report contains personal data”, but wait didn’t he just say that they anonymize the telemetry data, what one is it? They either anonymize telemetry data or they don’t.

        He then makes the same mistake that seems many people have, he conflates the information gathered when someone visits a website with the data being gathered by Microsoft, the two are very distinctly different and attempting to conflate them just goes to show a fundamental lack of understanding.

        He then goes on to claim it’s no worse than Google, Facebook, again another example of how hes trying to excuse the behavior of Microsoft, one of the first things you’re taught as a child is that two wrong don’t make a right, that it’s It is not acceptable to do something bad just because they did something bad first.

        And lastly the links i posted weren’t meant to the discredit the author, he does a good enough job of that himself, they were meant to show how close his ties are to Microsoft and how his opinion is a very biased one.

      3. Rainer said on January 8, 2016 at 2:08 pm

        @Corky: I read through article provided by Jackal. Could you explain what is wrong with what Ed Bott says other than discredit the author?

  5. Lurking Again said on January 7, 2016 at 3:52 am

    The problem has multiple issues. One there is a unique ID for each W10 box and I believe user account. Two a lot of information about user activities is being sent to the mothership. Three, there is no guarantee that hackers will not get some of this material.

    The unique id means MS knows on which machine the activity is occurring. How much other information about the system is not stated. This is troubling because if the machine or account can be linked to specific person then the only guarantees about privacy with MS is whatever their current policy is.

    Explicit information about usage is being sent not just online browser interactions. If not spying now it can easily become spying.

    The best security practice is never collect unnecessary information. The less MS has the less damaging any data breach would be. The security assumption should be not if but when will MS be breached.

  6. Chromeuser said on January 6, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    Wow, a lot of personal attacks. Some people seem to be really passionete about this.

    Calm down; I never said that it is okay for MS to collect data just because Google/FB/Apple does it. I was just wondering why people are so concerned about MS collecting data but not so much on Google/Apple/FB.

    To make it clear; I am against all forms of private data collection.

    But I guess there is not much we can do about it… Unless we all switch to linux. Which is not going to happen in a near future. We can talk about it atleast :).

    Have a good day.

  7. Cristi said on January 6, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    With all this information and the old information about how much M$ is spying on you, you’d have to be really stupid to continue using Windooze…
    Switch to Linux before it’s too late..

  8. Yo! said on January 6, 2016 at 9:29 am

    i am confuse why we have to many talented keyboard warriors. but no one shows evidence for what and what was been collected. How can we achieve or protect our privacy if we just sit, stop blaming, do something….


    1. JohnMWhite said on January 6, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      I don’t think you understood the article or the comments at all. The point being made is that Microsoft are talking about statistics that they then will not explain how they collected. They claim to know things about their users without saying how they came to know it, and it is known that Windows 10 tracks a lot of information through telemetry services. It is also known that Microsoft have released updates that switched on users’ attempts to turn off such services without telling them. The discussion here is the inference that they cannot be trusted and might have more information than they are letting on.

      What would “do something” look like to you? Hack into their servers to prove that they are spying on how long you play Fallout 4? Something is being done by the article and the comments it generates – people are looking at and discussing the privacy implications of the operating system, and Microsoft’s very poor communication about that issue.

    2. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 10:55 am

      Because despite claims to the contrary Microsoft are being anything but transparent, and their not allowing people a choice, when Cortana and searching the Web from the Start menu are disabled Windows 10 still requests a file called “threshold.appcache” that contains a random machine ID that persists across reboots every time you click the startmenu.

      Even with no Live tiles pinned to Start (and hence no obvious need to poll for new tile data), Windows 10 seems to download new tile info, it will periodically send data to a Microsoft server, this server seems to be used for OneDrive and some other Microsoft services. Windows 10 seems to transmit information to the server even when OneDrive is disabled and logins are using a local account that isn’t connected to a Microsoft Account.

      Because despite attempts to discover what’s being sent to Microsoft they’ve made it very difficult, some of the requests bypass any proxy settings making detection difficult, because when asked for more information Microsoft chooses to be deliberately evasive.

  9. Simon said on January 6, 2016 at 7:09 am

    1. trick non tech-savvy users into installing Windows 10

    2. call it the fastest growing OS

    Classy, MS.

  10. Tom said on January 6, 2016 at 6:20 am

    No one commenting here understands privacy. So here’s a video to explain what you’ve apparently missed. TED talk, Glenn Greenwald, 20 mins.

    Please also know that according to Greenwald’s site The Intercept_, Microsoft Windows 10 uploads your HDD Encryption Keys without notifying you, and stores them on its own computers. But YOU are kewl with that, because who cares about passwords, banking details, nudie pix, porn collections, your Ashley Madison profile name… NOT YOU!

  11. martin J said on January 6, 2016 at 4:13 am

    Well, then it should be about time with a fairly test and/or recommondation to WHAT IS THE BEST PRIVACY PROTECTOR (free or paid) PROGRAMME OR FEATURE AVAILABLE here at ghacks? (Great idea for an article, right?)

    win 7 so far only ;-) but am considering 10….

  12. Ron said on January 6, 2016 at 2:34 am

    I have nothing to hide . . . but Microsoft doesn’t need to know that.

    1. common sense said on January 6, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      If you have nothing to hide, you will (please) publish all your email addresses and the associated passwords below. If you prefer not to, explain why you won’t at least hand that info over to the NSA, a “trusted” institution of the US government.

      Or have you suddenly remembered that you DO have something to hide. In fact, tens, hundreds or maybe even thousands of things to hide?

      1. Ron said on January 7, 2016 at 8:18 pm

        You obviously didn’t understand my post; read the last part again. It’s tongue-in-cheek.

    2. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 5:00 am

      Everyone has something to hide, if they don’t you’re just not digging deep enough.

  13. Chromeuser said on January 5, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    But he is right.
    Why so much hate on MS? Apple and Google do collect data too.
    In ios you cant even disable tracking, only limit it.
    And we should not even talk about google….

    Use a typewriter if you want to be 100% safe.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 6, 2016 at 6:06 am

      This article is not about “hating” Microsoft. I love Windows and use it on a daily basis. But, things could be better especially if you compare W10 to previous versions of Windows.

      Why not be more open about the collecting of data? If you are open and state what is being collected, and implement options to disable everything, you’d please all critics of Windows 10 and would not get nearly as much negative press as you do.

      This is similar to the OneDrive issue that I talked about in December. If Microsoft would have revealed why they are limiting storage, feedback would probably not have been that negative to begin with.

      1. Tom said on January 6, 2016 at 6:32 am

        Martin, I posted already but I guess it is being held back till the moderators can look at it. In case it won’t be posted (due to the fact I’m not logged in to this site), check out the 2 links below. You will unpleasantly surprised (I hope). You seem to be trusting MS a lot more than MS trusts you, and that’s a bit asymmetrical.

        1. Why Privacy matters: (TED talk, 20 mins)

        2. Windows 10 steals your HDD Encryption keys! (article)

    2. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 4:59 am

      JohnMWhite is correct, the because someone else does it or done it isn’t an excuses or did your parents teach you nothing?

    3. Pants said on January 6, 2016 at 12:16 am

      I can’t speak about apple products or services, since I don’t use them and I lack the knowledge. But lets talk about google.

      Gmail, Google+, Youtube accounts etc are all optional services, just like email and skype accounts are. You sign up for these knowing the terms. Sure the same can be said of Win10’s terms (but there is a difference, more on that later). Google search engine is optional, same as bing, yahoo etc. You don’t have to use them. Moreover, you can block cookies, strip out tracking references on links, and more (use proxies, VPN, etc). And all these services can be dropped and replaced with little to no cost or downsides to the end user.

      An OS on the other hand, is not so easily replaced. Let’s not go down the linux thread here. Most end users will never do it, all they know is windows, and they’ll stay that way. We’re not talking about the 10% of technical users that can do it, but the 90% of mom & pop everyday users (Hi mom!). It’s also a substantial outlay of money for a machine. And it’s also a rather essential piece of equipment. I can live without google, I can’t live without a computer (and remember, I’m stuck with windows because its all i know and I’m frightened of change).

      Another consideration here is to stand back and separate the desktop/local environment from the web. Google services are generally web based, as are smart phones. We have come to expect some sort of tracking with web apps so products work (eg gps & maps, or sending voice data for voice commands etc). And these are optional. Not having an OS is not an option. And “local” files should not be targeted. Desktops/laptops are generally considered the domain of work and private business – where we type up documents, do spreadsheets, build code, create graphics etc. Yes there is a growing percentage of users who have been born into or started computing life with smart phones and tablets, and who can do everything with SaS (software as a service) and use the cloud. And that will grow. But it still doesn’t change the fact that the “desktop” has always been “private/secure” – end users do not expect their desktops to start behaving like smart phones. Enterprises simply won’t tolerate it.

      The stark difference between Win7 and Win10 is a slap in the face. MS is abusing their position to effectively force hundreds of millions of users into being monetized (yes the OS is free, big fukkin deal). Give uninformed end users an option between free and a paid up enterprise version, and they’ll take the free one. Add in the skullduggery around Win10 upgrades and updates and the bullshittery about “hiding” 30 or more privacy settings in 30 or more places in menus 30 levels deep – and hard-coded ip addresses that bypass hosts etc (you have to block them at the router level), and .. as far as i am concerned .. Windows 10 is broken

      Windows 10 is broken. It’s a crippleware, featureless, spyware, advertising platform with limited options and serious privacy and security concerns. To foist this on uninformed end users from Win7 is diabolical. MS are morally bankrupt in my book.

    4. JohnMWhite said on January 6, 2016 at 12:13 am

      “Everybody else does it” is not an excuse and you should have been aware of that since the age of five. The topic here is Windows 10 and its specific telemetry features, that is why many commenters choose to ‘hate on’ Microsoft. On a topic about iOS they would hate on Apple.

    5. jo said on January 5, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      Let’s not try to hide the problem by turning this into Microsoft vs Apple/Google/Facebook and using silly arguments like “but some other companies are doing it too, so it’s OK”.

      The comparison, if any, should be Windows 10 vs previous Windows versions. And last time I checked previous Windows versions managed to work just fine without sending out data (yes, they have some of that data collecting functionality, but it’s totally optional, unlike in Windows 10).

  14. Jackal said on January 5, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    It’s telemetry/usage data…whoopee. The usual storm in a teacup and tinfoil hat theories over what basically amounts to not much.

    It’s strange how people whine about Microsoft, then happily run back to their Apple and (even worse) Google products. People need to wake up.

    1. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 4:54 am

      Mind if we install some cameras in your house, it’s only for telemetry/usage data, you know how often you use particular rooms, when your at home, when your sleeping, it wont amount to much.

      1. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 8:38 pm

        @Rude, Why would you want to choose where the cameras go, have something to hide, want some privacy?

        And good luck with demanding ownership of your data, in fact good luck with defining what’s your data in the first place, it’s not as simple as it first seems.

      2. Rude said on January 6, 2016 at 6:24 pm

        Certainly, I don’t mind – its great security when a burglar enters my home – I will have nice record of that incident. I will choose where the cameras go though.

        Do I want you to watch my morning bowel movement? probably not (*maybe – i dont know) – I dont want you to see what happens in there. Nope, no camera there. Lets see – you can have a camera in the front garden – maybe one in the hallway closet – and an oven cam so you can see what I am cooking up.

        The next question becomes – Do you mind if I watch you watching me? If citizens/customers/consumers demand ownership of their data then I think companies would be very careful with it. So companies are paying Microsoft for a glimpse at aggregated data of which my data contrives 0.03% – give me some of that back – and tell me who sees it.

        Then take this to the next level – I see myself as a premium user – my data is valuable. If Microsoft wants to market my data then they should pay me for that privilege. Companies that are basing their revenue on my data – should be paying me for my time on their services.

        I am quite happy with sharing of data and “telemetry” but I think that the transparency must be 100% – I need to see exactly who has seen my data – what they have seen and when they accessed it – in a neat little report. I should then be able to control who can access it.

        If you zoom out a little – embrace the inevitable but then wrest control of your data back from the giants. I smell class action, I smell seared flesh of corporations. EULA will do nothing once the applegooglemicrosoft fanboyism-hate-trains slow down, the companies will actually have to compete with each other and the a clever aggressive startup that does do this.

    2. Jason said on January 5, 2016 at 10:07 pm

      I make it a point not to listen to critique from people who refer to “storms in teacups” and “tinfoil hats”. These are really lame attempts to demonize an entire group of people by attaching an epithet to them. It’s not going to win a debate.

  15. Yuliya said on January 5, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Windows 10 makes Windows 8 look like a good OS. And I think Windows 8 is awful.

    “More than 82 billion photos were viewed in the Windows 10 Photo application.”
    Do people need another private photos leakage to understand the value of privacy? I understand those were acquired with the help of phishing websites, but still. Having your personal data in the hands of a large company is no different than having them in the hands of an attacker.

    1. seeprime said on January 6, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      The biggest difference is that Microsoft never acted like this to such a deep and wide extent before. Also, Windows 10 Enterprise users will be able to fully disable telemetry. That shows that Microsoft current management does not respect consumers.

  16. Nerdebeu said on January 5, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Windows, Edge, Cortana, Photos App, Xbox One, Bing…
    Only Microsoft products and services.
    Do not use if you do not want to be followed. Microsoft had never hidden collect data in ITS products. Personally, I use Windows 10, but none of these products, they are all bad (for me).

    1. Anonymous said on January 6, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      think again , every time you click Start, or access the start menu/screen, you’re using BING if you like it or not.
      And rest assure that they also know how long you have use firefox or chrome or any other browser, they just will never tell that.

      oh we need an Edward @ microsoft.

    2. Corky said on January 5, 2016 at 9:08 pm

      Games aren’t Microsoft products, how exactly do Microsoft know there’s been 4 billion hours playing PC games?

      If their gathering data on when Windows 10 is running a game what makes you believe their not gathering data on when your running other programs?

      1. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 12:36 pm

        @Nerdebeu, even if we take it that Microsoft are using the term “PC Games” to mean Windows store game it doesn’t change anything, if as Microsoft have said in the past that they only collect telemetry data for safety and reliability reasons then where, or how does recording the hours of usage come in to that?

        If the only reason is to make the product work better where do all these stats fit in to that, surely they would only need to collect data when something goes wrong, why keep records of how long each person uses edge, why record how many photos were viewed, hours stream from Xbox, hours spent gaming, where are the controls with the ability to determine what information is collected on all of these?

      2. Nerdebeu said on January 6, 2016 at 9:56 am

        Let us be logical. Since except games where it is not clearly told, all the products in the list concerning MS products and services.
        So for games, it is logical that it is also related to Microsoft games: either directly (App Xbox), or by the store.

        Why can’t we find in the list creative softwares, productivity or all what you want ? Why, if Microsoft was spying on people, the list is so restrictive?

      3. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 4:51 am

        If you’re looking for specifics Anon then you’ll probably have a long wait as Microsoft isn’t good with those, your guess is as good as mine with regards to what games, all we know is that they describe them as “PC Games” and not Windows store Games, and also that they mention Minecraft (fair enough as it’s owned by them) and World of Tanks Blitz.

        Although I’m fairly certain that no matter how much evidence that’s put in front of some people they’ll turn a blind eye to the amount of information Microsoft is gathering about their daily lives, some people seem to be happy with a large organisation such as Microsoft knowing what times of the day they use their PC and for how long.

      4. Anon said on January 5, 2016 at 10:25 pm

        Well, does it say what games where played? Or is it only reading games from the Windows app store?

  17. Henk van Setten said on January 5, 2016 at 6:37 pm

    The fact that Microsoft is collecting detailed user behavior data, is of course no surprise at all.

    The truly worrying issue right now is that the comments on this page represent a small minority. Meanwhile, the huge majority of new Windows 10 users simple don’t seem to care or even think about their own privacy. Whether it’s out of ignorance or indifference, most people are willingly sacrificing their precious private data in return for a little cloud storage, or Cortana, or whatever convenience. And as long as most users keep doing this, Microsoft will be able to ignore any opposition or protest against their spying. Minority protests will remain ineffective, and will eventually die out.

    Remember how some years back, at the introduction of Google Chrome, protests went up against all the data-collecting by Chrome? Most users just didn’t care, and happily began using Chrome because it looked so sleek and fast. Through Chrome, today Google still keeps collecting user data at a much more detailed level than most other browsers allow. Now did you still hear any protests about this lately? No: because the majority didn’t care, Google could have its way, and in the end, protests petered out.

    The only way to initiate some kind of fundamental change would not be through trying to get big companies like Microsoft or Google to change their data-mining ways, but rather through some kind of massive public information campaign: trying to really change the present privacy ignorance and indifference of the general public. Only under the subsequent pressure from an actual majority of users, the big companies may be forced to change their spying policies.

    Will this come to happen? I confess I’m a pessimist.

    On the other hand, I myself still refuse to use Google Chrome. I still will not upgrade to Windows 10. I still resist the pressure to open a Facebook account. Maybe each one of us should try a little harder to kindle this same kind of attitude among our families, our friends, our colleagues — in the hope that each of them will then go on doing the same, so that ever more sparks of protest will begin to glow, so that in the end Microsoft and Google and Facebook and all those other big commercial privacy-stealers will actually begin feeling a little heat.

    As a pessimist, I still am naive enough to have a dream.

    1. Zdrobot said on October 13, 2016 at 9:21 am

      Sadly, I have to agree with you.
      I use Linux for almost everything (except for gaming, alas) and will never touch Windows 10 with a 10-foot pole, despite sweet siren song of DirectX 12. No Chrome, no Facebook either.
      But while all of this is great, it’s the behavior of “I have nothing to hide so I don’t care” masses that really disheartens me. As long as consumers keep eating this cr*p, big companies are going to feed it to them – and us, by extension.

    2. Corky said on January 5, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      While i mostly agree with what you say Henk van Setten i have no sympathy for the type of people you describe, when these peoples nonchalance for privacy bits them on the behind like with the celebrity iPhone hack I’ll laugh in their face and tell them how they have no one to blame other than themselves.

      1. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 4:37 am

        @Jason, Very true it’s just at times i get tired of explaining the effect a lack of privacy can have, how it can change a society, a person, etc,etc, trying to explain what a dramatic effect the lack of privacy can have on people often leads to derision as the people that don’t care, the people that say “if you’ve got nothing to hide” tend to dismiss how much of an impact it can have, how it can effect everything you do and say.

      2. Jason said on January 5, 2016 at 10:04 pm

        Corky, I agree with your attitude in a way, but let’s also keep in mind that if the majority of society accepts these dangerous intrusions, this will inevitably change ALL of society (it’s already happening). And this means that you and I will be affected as well.

    3. RottenScoundrel said on January 5, 2016 at 8:43 pm

      M$/Google et al rely on the fact that people have short memories.

      Like you I have never used chrome, never will I use Palemoon with NoScript, Adblock latitude (AdBlock Plus fork for PM) ublock-origin and Selfdestructing Cookies (turned off here :) of course) to minimize the online data capturing but I am realistic enough to understand I am not blocking it all. I mostly use Linux now and what Linux needs is a “Wine” that works as well as windows emulator for iOS. For now, though I must use winXP/Win7 and win8 for a small number of bespoke software applications.

      In a few years people will be so burned out by the “data-worry,” they will just shrug and accept it. Just part of the corporate Master Plan. LOL

  18. Corky said on January 5, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    I found the following in the comments section of The Registers article on this subject so the credits go to Kanhef

    11 billion device-hours in December using Windows 10. 200 million monthly active Windows 10 devices. 31 days in December.

    On average, each device is being used for 55 hours per month; less than two hours per day. Of course, some get used much more than that, which means many of their ‘monthly active devices’ are hardly being used at all. Not exactly encouraging numbers.

    ^^This puts Microsoft’s numbers into context (IMO)

    1. jern said on January 5, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      The question is whether MS can make enough money with its new business model to justify Win10’s freebie status. I’m inclined to agree, “Not exactly encouraging numbers.”

      1. seeprime said on January 6, 2016 at 4:58 pm

        MIcrosoft still charges what they always have to OEM’s and for System Builder DVD’s for new PC’s. Windows 10, outside of the free upgrade offer for existing 7 and 8.1 users, is expensive. My costs are between $79 and $101 per license. The big OEMs pay $40 to $50 per license. Store sales and freemium purchases are gravy to Microsoft.

  19. Anon said on January 5, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Why don’t people see that M$ don’t care about users at all and why don’t they try to find an alternative to their OS. At the beginning, I was so dependent on Windows, but after some patience and learning, I began to use Linux as my main alternative. And I don’t regret it at all!

    1. JohnMWhite said on January 5, 2016 at 6:46 pm

      That’s great for you, but the world is complicated. There are many reasons that people may remain dependent on Windows, and it is not just because they lack patience. Often they cannot get the software they need for critical operations on Linux. I know that many have alternatives, and maybe some fudging around could get it to work in Wine, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. A lot of vendors in the business world only make things for Windows, or the company will only license the Windows version, and so even if you’re working from home you’ll still have to have Windows on your machine to get your work done. Then there’s how fiddly Linux gets with drivers and codecs. How many years did it take for Netflix to work? You can’t just expect Linux to be the magic word that makes it all better.

      1. JohnMWhite said on January 6, 2016 at 6:01 pm

        I don’t think you get it, Anon. Doing what you need to do on Windows then going to Linux means, for most people, personal browsing and playing around on Linux. And if individuals want to improve their privacy that way (or with a VPN or other tools within Windows) I am all for it. That does not in any way solve the problem of people having to do their actual work on WIndows. It doesn’t make a dent. Again, you are just dismissing the idea of dependency on Windows for work because you like playing with Linux. Reforming Windows or educating users to protect themselves is also an imperfect solution but it is far more practical than this maxim of “use Linux”, which I say as a frequent Linux user myself. What you are offering is the software equivalent of “if you don’t like the country’s government, just leave” and saying it to someone with no money and no passport.

      2. Anon said on January 6, 2016 at 12:28 pm

        @JohnMWhite The whole point of dual booting is that what you can’t do on one OS, you can do on the other. “Linux isn’t going to get Microsoft apps and contracts just because people load it up to surf and play Tux Racer now and then.” Of course Linux isn’t going to do that. And if you can’t go full Linux then dual booting is a solution because it allows you to do what you need on Windows and when you are done, you can have more privacy on Linux.
        As for the other comments, I know that every system can be hacked, but why won’t you take the route that has more privacy (you know it, it’s open-source, so you can check it).
        @MdN I agree with you. I really like what you’re typing on the second paragraph, especially the fact that Linux minimizes the risk because you know what you’re dealing with(” Security patches for the kernel vulnerabilities are released as soon as they’re discovered”). Not the same can be said of Windows which you have no idea what goes on behind the scene.
        So in conclusion, what @MdN said: “Guess what, I’m still alive and doing things I used to do on Windows” is a good enough reason to try to move to Linux as soon as you can.

      3. MdN said on January 6, 2016 at 4:26 am

        Still, it’s hard to expect governments doing serious things with an OS from another country tracking them. Linux comes handy in here, some governments have switched, and more than 200 million people already use LibreOffice so by now it’s expected that others start using it together with the MS version or start losing business. For example, for the things I do I get to choose between a MS Office or a LibreOffice document. It’s a nice act of courtesy towards people you work with. Will you tell 200 million people that their money isn’t good for you?

        As for codecs and drivers, I hear similar stories about Windows 10 too, but very little real evidence. It’s not 2006 any more. No point in replying to “leaky modem” issues either, that’s completely strawman stuff. Security patches for the kernel vulnerabilities are released as soon as they’re discovered. And if my bank gets compromised I get to sue them. If my own data leaks from my own computer I can only blame myself. Using Linux minimizes the risk. Also, my smartphone doesn’t have an American OS. Guess what, I’m still alive and doing things I used to do on Windows.

      4. JohnMWhite said on January 6, 2016 at 12:15 am

        I do not see how dual booting is a solution to the problems I pointed out. Linux isn’t going to get Microsoft’s apps and contracts just because people load it up to surf and play Tux Racer now and then.

      5. Anon said on January 5, 2016 at 7:53 pm

        I understand what you’re saying, but at the same time, it’s a step in the right direction. I’m not expecting everyone to abandon Windows, but dual booting is one of those solutions that I think is possible for everyone. I get it that some people can not do without, but the more people use Linux, the better is for everyone in the long run. Things develop faster if there are more people behind them.

    2. jern said on January 5, 2016 at 6:34 pm

      Adopting Linux or a particular web browser will not solve the problem.

      What I’m coming to understand is that the internet is an interplay of software and devices that exceeds the limits of any OS or web browser. The best we can do is educate ourselves, determine for ourselves what balance of privacy and security makes us comfortable, and find and use the tools that help us to achieve that balance. However, even doing that does not and cannot keep people from accessing information about us while online.

      In a computerized world, we can’t achieve perfect privacy and security even by disconnecting from the internet.

      That said, I think you’re assessment of MS’s concern for its users is correct.

      1. jern said on January 6, 2016 at 12:24 am

        Linux can be part of an internet users solution (tools) but by itself it is only part of a solution. Can you positively state that a standard-installation Linux computer hooked to the Internet through a leaky modem could withstand a sustained hack-attack. I seem to remember stories of Unix/Linux computers being compromised. Am I wrong? The problem in this scenario isn’t Linux but the modem. Linux by itself will not solve the problem.

        I’m not conflating anything. There is data about each of us stored on computers we don’t own and can’t access. Does the government keep computer records of your taxes? Yes. Does your doctor keep computerized records of your exams? Yes. Does your bank keep computerized records of your deposits and withdrawals. Yes. Can each of those computers be hacked and that information compromised? Yes.
        Try disconnecting your personal computer from the interenet and see if it changes that situation.

        In a computerized world, we can’t achieve perfect privacy and security by disconnecting from the internet.

      2. Nerd001 said on January 5, 2016 at 9:49 pm

        I believe your comment is intentionally misleading. There’s no reason switching away from software that violates your privacy doesn’t help immensely. It’s like arguing against bothering to wear seatbelts because you can still be killed while wearing a seatbelt. Also, conflating privacy lost due to your online interactions to that of all your data safely inside your machine is ridiculous.

  20. PendragonUK said on January 5, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    Even if we are to trust the Microsoft has no evil intent with it’s data harvesting. Leaks happen, companies get hacked, things can be intercepted. For years we have all learnt to avoid spyware but somehow now it’s OK if it’s bundled in with our operating system???

  21. Peter said on January 5, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    All points are normal usage statistics. Those are common on other platforms, too. Especially Android and Android apps like to report to the mothership. No idea what the fuss is about. The analytics embedded in this website surely report the same things: how many articles I read and how long my browsing sessions are.

    1. Jason said on January 5, 2016 at 10:00 pm

      Peter, the point is that traditional desktop operating systems don’t do this sort of thing. It emerged as a pattern of behaviour on mobile devices, and now Apple, Microsoft and Google are trying to replicate it in the PC environment. That’s a big problem if you care at all about “big issues” like civil rights, the reach of private corporations, and the future of democracy. (Actually, it’s even worse that this is happening on mobile devices, because unlike your desktop, the phone is in your pocket all day long… But that’s another story. Here we are talking about Windows 10.)

    2. Corky said on January 5, 2016 at 6:01 pm

      An Operating system is not a website, it’s not something, in the case of Windows 10, that gets used in the public space, it’s an Operating system that some people may have very sensitive, or private data on.

      If a politician was photographed reading classified documents in public there would be uproar, certain things should remain in the private space.

    3. jo said on January 5, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      Windows 7 and 8 don’t do the same.* We should compare Windows 10 to those two, not to Android or to websites.

      (*Yeah, there are some data collecting updates/features in 7 and 8, but they’re trivial to avoid. Not so in 10.)

      1. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 3:40 pm

        @walkergw, What is it with people conflating the Internet and an Operating System, you do know an OS is installed locally and the Internet is data served up to you from a remote computer right?

        Also the 30% you mention walkergw is in reference to the amount of extra traffic being sent to bing, in case you didn’t know when you connect to any site on the internet it send a user agent string that identifies the operating system, that’s how they measured a 30% rise in traffic, not via any data acquisition built into Windows.

      2. walkergw said on January 6, 2016 at 5:48 am

        Did you not see the “30% more than previous versions of windows.” type information? How would they know this if they didnt have the same stats for those versions, hmm? I seriously suggest you reread the article an play close attention to the datat that was captured. None of this stuff was particularly worrisome. Since windows 8, I have increasingly seen these kind of needless fear mongering articles. This is not about privacy, this is just about how you use the computer. If this type of information bothers you, you really must stay off the internet completely because I guarantee that way more personal information than this is being watched by everyone.

  22. Scott said on January 5, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    If anyone thinks that being connected to the internet does not make nearly EVERYTHING they do “visible”, they are sticking their head in the sand. It is a reality we live with. If you really want 100% guaranteed privacy, stay off line, don’t use a phone or snail mail or …

    Me, I’m not worried.

    1. Pants said on January 5, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      That’s re-DICK-ulous.

      First, it’s impractical. The internet is a fantastic development that can break down borders/languages etc. It should be available to everyone. It’s the great enabler.

      Secondly, we don’t just have to blindly accept “big brother” type tactics. We can complain, fight back, use other products etc. What’s so wrong with transparency and options. It’s not much to ask. MS are abusing their position and being unethical, IMO.

    2. Yuliya said on January 5, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      Your argument is laughable. Your browsing behaviour may be visible to third parties, but your photos, videos, recordings, etc, taken with your camera and later transfered to your PC should not be “visible” unless you deliberately upload them. If they are without your consent (simply because you opened/previewed them), then it is called invasion of privacy.

    3. Corky said on January 5, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      There’s a big difference between everything i do on the Internet being “visible” and everything i do on an Operating System being “visible” though isn’t there Scott, it’s like saying everything people do in a public space is visible so they shouldn’t have a problem with everything they do in a private space being visible.

    4. Kulm said on January 5, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      Over the last 16 months, as I’ve debated this issue around the world, every single time somebody has said to me, “I don’t really worry about invasions of privacy because I don’t have anything to hide.” I always say the same thing to them. I get out a pen, I write down my email address. I say, “Here’s my email address. What I want you to do when you get home is email me the passwords to all of your email accounts, not just the nice, respectable work one in your name, but all of them, because I want to be able to just troll through what it is you’re doing online, read what I want to read and publish whatever I find interesting. After all, if you’re not a bad person, if you’re doing nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide.” Not a single person has taken me up on that offer.
      Glenn Greenwald in Why privacy matters – TED Talk

      1. PhoneyVirus said on January 12, 2016 at 1:09 am

        I take it that this person is one of the people with pop-ups every time the system is power on, along with 236GB of pictures on a seven year old laptop that looks like it came from a war zone, or worst a Mac user that thinks his or her PC is not affected by malware or viruses.

      2. John said on January 6, 2016 at 6:31 pm

        Sure, Nothing to hide? oh, nice, please tell us your bank login details, your real name and address, social security number, phone number(s), PayPal login details, Credit card number, security number, its pin, name on it. Oh, wait? you DO want to hide that kind of stuff?

        How about tracking you and your spouse, kids, etc? Example, couple years ago, a shop send baby folders in the name of the daughter of a family. Problem was, the daughter was like 16. Dad was angry and went to the shop and went raging there. Couple days later dad came back and made his apology, what had happened? Daughter was pregnant, and had been active on the web-shop. The browsing matched of other “expecting” women, and the shop had picked that up and had send folders in her name to her home…

        That kind of data can be quite hurtful. and abuse does happen.

        Advertising does track your every move, for every little bit of information about you is worth money due targeted advertising.

        Its not due being “terrorist” or “criminal” that privacy is a issue. You might like kinky sex… but if you visit a sex toy shop, the advertisers will forever advert sex toys anywhere you go, Facebook, amazon, whatever.

        Privacy has way deeper impact then “I have nothing to hide” argument that is feeble at best…. Whenever I hear that argument, I always remember that lawsuit where Jehovah witnesses where trying to prove to a judge here in the Netherlands that the protest they did somewhere was non-violent etc. However, the VHS tape they took with them to show what they did at the protest was switched with a copied porn movie…
        They had embarrassed themselves so much, they left the country. (This happened somewhere here in the Netherlands back in the ’80’s or early 90’s).

        Nothing to hide… lol. Those don’t understand privacy.

      3. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 4:26 pm

        @walkergw, data doesn’t need to be viewed by a person for it to be an invasion of privacy, that’s the same strawman argument used by security services, meta data or data about data is far more powerful than the actual data itself.

      4. walkergw said on January 6, 2016 at 5:59 am

        That is not even close to comparable. Are you saying that Microsoft personnel can read my mail directly? What information the computers are sending is not read directly by people, and therefore not “personal”. The question is more like saying you refuse to tell your doctor your personal information because it is private. If Microsoft sold this data that it was mining to a third pary, then I would start to worry. I guess you trust Google more than Microsoft? I also would say, that if this kind of information bothers you, you really should never touch the internet as I guarantee that all sites are collecting this type of information and worse.

      5. Martin Brinkmann said on January 5, 2016 at 4:55 pm

        The nothing to hide argument is weak and easily refuted.

  23. jern said on January 5, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    It appears that MS’s new business model depends on aquiring and perhaps selling user-tracking data (if you give away free software you have to make money elsewhere). If Win10’s telemetry is sending a hardware hash of each device on which it is installed then the data could be very “fine grained” and could be personally identifiable.

    I wonder how much it costs phone users to send all of that info to MS on a regular basis. I think we have just seen MS start it “user data available for sale” ad campaign.

    1. RottenScoundrel said on January 5, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      Exactly. Think about the original release of win8 where they offered an upgrade from win7 for 30-bucks to early adopters.

      Now they are saying they have 200-Million seats of win10 for free. Even if they had charged ONE-dollar for early adopters that would be $200,000,000 in their coffers. No company can just stand back and give away that amount of cash — unless —

      I wonder what it must be like to be a Lemming. LOL

      1. Ivan Icin said on January 6, 2016 at 3:56 pm

        @Corky you say that people paid upgrades while paying original license, which I agree, it is quite in line of what I am saying. I say people don’t pay for upgrades solely. You haven’t ever paid, either, like that right? I can’t say the number is 0 but when rounded to a reasonable level it is 0.

      2. Corky said on January 6, 2016 at 3:33 pm

        @Ivan Icin, most Windows revenues comes from enterprise users but not all, irrelevant or not from Microsoft’s perspective money is money, and $4 billion may not compare to the $9 billion from Commercial Licensing revenue but i would hardly call it mostly irrelevant.

        Also your supposition that no one ever paid for an upgrade is BS, be it Microsoft or Apple people have paid for the original license, you can’t get a free copy of Windows or OSX.

      3. Ivan Icin said on January 6, 2016 at 12:10 pm

        Garbage in garbage out. Your calculation is mathematically correct, but based on wrong facts.

        First of all most Windows revenues comes from enterprise users and they have paid and still pay for right to upgrade (which they may or may not use) anyway. So for Microsoft from money perspective it is mostly irrelevant.

        Then nearly no one ever paid for Windows upgrade. You haven’t, right? So you can’t calculate that 1$ that no one pays. You could ask the same question for Apple. It could charge 1$ for iOS updates. It would be nearly billion $ a year for them, even bigger money. But why don’t they charge?

        But it is a very simple choice. Either Microsoft gives up a pocket money of million dollar or two from people that would actually pay, or it has ecosystem that is five to ten years old, and whatever it does now it can only have effects after 5-10 years, which makes it incapable of competing with Apple and Google, especially Apple that has a nearly instant upgrade cycle.

        Do you have some more FUD?

      4. Win XP said on January 5, 2016 at 10:18 pm

        I, for one, am browsing from Win XP.

  24. RottenScoundrel said on January 5, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    I am SHOCKED !! LOL Msoft being sneaky, I am shocked I say again. Just when I thought I could trust them, oh wait, I stopped thinking that years back.

    Good work Martin. I tried to define that here (I think or another forum) some time back that when you launch ANY program on your PC a call is made to a website the name of which escapes me at the moment, but it is something like “” or maybe “,” or “” Canadian based from memory when I tracked it back by IP.

    I immediately blocked the entire IP-range assigned to them in my dd-wrt router.

    1. Jason said on January 5, 2016 at 11:14 pm

      “…in my dd-wrt router.”

      I see someone knows how to do things right! :)

  25. michaelpaul said on January 5, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    works great one of the first programs i downloaded for privacy

    1. Maelish said on January 5, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Nice link!

    2. Corky said on January 5, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      And you know works great how?
      As far as i can tell it just puts all the privacy option in one convenient place, truthfully there’s no way to know how much data is still being shared with Microsoft even with all data sharing options switched off, most data that’s sent to Microsoft from a system with all options disabled is encrypted so ultimately there’s no way to know what gets sent.

      For example, even with Cortana and searching the Web from the Start menu disabled, opening Start and typing will send a request to to request a file called threshold.appcache which appears to contain some Cortana information, even though Cortana is disabled. The request for this file appears to contain a random machine ID that persists across reboots.

      1. Corky said on January 7, 2016 at 7:52 am

        Would that be the same host file that Microsoft bypasses for certain “features”?
        Although having taken a longer look at O&O ShutUp10 i can’t find any mention of adding addresses to the host file, disabling services, or renaming/deleting files, perhaps you would be so kind as to provide a link.

      2. Ryan said on January 7, 2016 at 12:48 am

        Do you know what the program even does? Yes, people know that the built-in “options” to turn of privacy features don’t really work. The program goes out of its way to add addresses to the hosts file, disable specific services, and probably renames/deletes files too. Point is, it does more than the Settings app does.

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