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In an attempt to illustrate just how much Windows 10 users love the new operating system, Microsoft rolled out stat after stat about growing adoption and momentum (Black Friday and Christmas play their part here). But then things got weird:

“One of the ways we measure our progress with Windows 10 is looking at how people are using Windows,” explained Microsoft Senior Vice President Yusuf Mehdi. “Recently we reached another milestone – people have spent over 11 billion hours on Windows 10 in December alone, spending more time on Windows than ever before.”
That’s a crazy amount, but what is even crazier is the revelation that Microsoft is tracking exactly how long every single user is using Windows 10. Then things got ever weirder as Mehdi announced: “Here are a few fun facts on what people have been doing on Windows 10”. They are as follows:

    Over 44.5 billion minutes spent in Microsoft Edge across Windows 10 devices in just the last month
    Over 2.5 billion questions asked of Cortana since launch
    Over 82 billion photos viewed within the Windows 10 Photo app
    In 2015 gamers spent over 4 billion hours playing PC games on Windows 10
    Gamers streamed over 6.6 million hours of Xbox One games to Windows 10 PCs

Yes, Microsoft admitted it not only logs its users time on Windows 10 but also their time using Microsoft Edge… and gaming… and streaming games… and counting your search queries… and every single time a user opens a photo.

Understandably perturbed by this BetaNews took Microsoft to task on these revelations and asked if it would like to “explain how it came about the information, and why it is being collected in the first place”. Microsoft’s official response: “Thank you for your patience as I looked into this for you. Unfortunately my colleagues cannot provide a comment regarding your request. All we have to share is this Windows blog post.”

To which BetaNews makes a very fair conclusion: “Microsoft’s spying is intrusive enough to reveal how long you have been using Windows 10, but the company is not willing to be open about the collection of this data.”

Consequently the next obvious point to ponder is: If Microsoft is happy to disclose this data without saying how it was attained, what else does it access and track without user knowledge? Given Microsoft already admits much of its automatic spying cannot to turned off, just how many more metrics and how much user data is it gathering from every Windows 10 device?
Windows 10 update prompts are removing all obvious options to decline. Image credit: Hayden Dingman ‏(@haydencd)

Windows 10 update prompts are removing all obvious options to decline. Image credit: Hayden Dingman ‏(@haydencd)

Conspiracy theorists are welcome to go wild here, but I have a simpler end goal: Microsoft needs to come clean and state everything it tracks, exactly what can and cannot be stopped by users and why. Now let’s be clear: Windows 10 is Microsoft’s product so it has the right to do whatever it likes with it, but only after a full disclosure to customers of its practices so they can make an informed choice about whether or not they wish to be a part of this data gathering process.

None of this is too much to ask given Microsoft’s self admission that it is pushing Windows 7 and Windows 8 customers hard to upgrade. This includes some outrageous scaremongering and malware-style UI tricks. Contrary to common perception, Windows 10 also is no charity as Mehdi’s 200M celebratory post reveals the ‘free’ operating system actually generates 4.5x more revenue per device (presumably from the Windows Store) than Windows 8.

But the time for transparency is running out. By 2018 Microsoft aims to have one billion devices running Windows 10 and with that comes truly global reach and insight. The world deserves to know exactly what it is signing up for…

Source: forbes.com

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