Windows 10 sends personal data to Microsoft, even if users tell it not to

Microsoft has already come under fire for the default privacy settings on the new operating system — but even tweaking those doesn’t seem to fix all concerns

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 13 August 2015 12:48 BST
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Fans celebrate the launch of Windows 10 in Sydney
Fans celebrate the launch of Windows 10 in Sydney

Windows 10 is sending personal information about computers up to Microsoft, even if users have changed all their settings to tell it not to do so.

Computers running the new operating system regularly get in contact with Microsoft servers to download and upload identifying data, an analysis by Ars Technica has found. While much of the information is harmless, some of it includes an identification number that could be traced back to the computers’ users.

The technology website set up a computer with the privacy settings set at their most careful — disabling voice assistant Cortana and not signing up for a Microsoft login, for instance. But they still found that the computer was sending requests to those services, even when they’d been turned off.

For example, Windows 10 computers “periodically send data to a Microsoft server named ssw.live.com,” according to the site. That server seems to be used for Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage system, but the information is sent whether or not users have signed up for it.

Ars Technica said that the OneDrive seemed to be sending telemetry settings — data about how the computer is being used.

Other information that the computers send out is “quite impenetrable”, according to the site. The computers seem to be sending out information through a special network that means that it can’t be monitored.

There are also less worrying uses for the traffic, like requests to Cortana even when it is disabled, and updates for the live tiles that are on the home screen, despite them being turned off.

“The traffic could be innocuous, but the inclusion of a machine ID gives it a suspicious appearance,” concludes Peter Bright, writing for the site.

Microsoft told Ars Technica that “as part of delivering Windows 10 as a service, updates may be delivered to provide ongoing new features to Bing search, such as new visual layouts, styles and search code.

“No query or search usage data is sent to Microsoft, in accordance with the customer's chosen privacy settings. This also applies to searching offline for items such as apps, files and settings on the device."

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