Windows 10 sends a weekly “activity update” on childrens’ internet browsing and computer history to parents, by default and without telling anyone. The feature could be dangerous as well as embarrassing, users have pointed out, allowing parents to watch everything their children do on the computer.
The operating system sends a weekly note that includes a list of websites children have visited, how many hours per day they have spent on the computer, and for how long they have used their favourite apps, according to reports.
The feature appears to be turned on by default for family accounts — not notifying either children or their parents that they are being spied on — and was reported by parents who hadn’t asked for and weren’t aware of activating the feature themselves.
Some worried that the feature could accidentally out young LGBT people, by sending details of their web browsing to their parents. That could then in turn put them at risk of abuse by their parents, or danger, Twitter users have warned.
Others have worried that the feature is part of a shift towards “teaching children from the youngest age their every motion is being digital watched and they should self-censor as appropriate,” wrote Twitter user mcc.
Parents that warned about the feature have told young people to be aware that their parents might be spying on their web browsing.
“This weekend we upgraded my 14-year-old son's laptop from Windows 8 to Windows 10,” wrote a Boing Boing reader in an email to the site. “Today I got a creepy-ass email from Microsoft titled 'Weekly activity report for [my kid]', including which websites he's visited, how many hours per day he's used it, and how many minutes he used each of his favorite apps.”
The reader, known as Kirk, said that he couldn’t be sure that the reports were directly related to the upgrade. But they began very soon after the upgrade.
“OK, I admit that the timing might be coincidental but that would be one hell of a coincidence. I've never seen anything like this until we upgraded to Windows 10, and then I got the spy report the following business day.
“A message to young readers: if you have Windows 10 now, your parents might be getting the same kind of report I did. Don't assume your own computer has your back.”
The dossiers are just the latest example of worries about invasive spying on Windows 10 — which includes settings that allow Microsoft to look in on users’ computers, and which continues to send data to Microsoft even when they are turned off.
Those concerns have led to worries that have meant that some Windows 10 users are being banned by pirates from torrenting, for fear that Microsoft has installed technology that can look at their hard drives.
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