Microsoft has responded to Windows 10 users’ privacy fears by insisting that it does not scan emails, messages or files for advertising purposes. When Windows 10 launched some users complained that Microsoft had compromised their privacy due to its default settings.
It was later revealed that even when all data collection settings were turned off Windows 10 still sent identifiable data to Microsoft.
Now Microsoft has moved to clarify the types of data it collects. Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president of Windows and Devices said: “No matter what privacy options you choose, neither Windows 10 nor any other Microsoft software scans the content of your email or other communications, or your files, in order to deliver targeted advertising to you.”
Myerson explained that Windows 10 collects two types of data. The first is designed to help Microsoft and third-parties identify bugs or problems in software – items such as crash logs, system information and other diagnostic data.
“This doesn’t include any of your content or files,” says Myerson. “And we take several steps to avoid collecting any information that directly identifies you, such as your name, email address or account ID.”
Behavioural data for Cortana and personalisation
Windows 10 also collects information on user habits in the name of personalisation. Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana collects the most, but it and other settings that remember preferences such as favourite sports teams and commonly typed words can be disabled.
This type of personalisation and behavioural data is commonly used by other platforms for digital assistants and other machine learning processes that adjust to the user, such as Google Now, Siri and autocorrect software for keyboards.
However, when all personalisation features were turned off Windows 10 was found to send personally identifiable data associated with Microsoft’s OneDrive and an unknown content delivery network.
Microsoft has been under fire from privacy advocates with some describing Windows 10 as the most invasive Windows yet. It has also seen issues with compulsory automatic updates, and has been seen to download itself onto user machines without permission, but is considered to be the best Windows version yet.
Its rate of adoption is also higher than Windows 7 or 8 within the first few months, according to data from web analytics firm StatCounter, which saw Windows 10 account for 4.9% of desktop internet users in August. Windows 7 held the controlling 48.1% share of desktop internet users in the month.