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Microsoft’s new privacy policy and Windows 10 troubleshooter to stop automatic updates

Jul 29, 20155 mins
Data and Information SecurityMicrosoftSecurity

Microsoft’s new privacy and service agreements kick in on August 1, right after Windows 10 is released. If you run into driver problems after installing Windows 10, grab the troubleshooting tool to stop automatic updates.

It’s the big Windows 10 launch day and Microsoft has reserved a huge amount of bandwidth for the massive rollout, reportedly “up to 40Tb/s per second of capacity from all of the third-party CDNs combined.” If you haven’t done so yet, then you should review Microsoft’s new privacy and service agreements as well as the privacy dashboard to consider making changes to your settings for Windows and Cortana, as well as Microsoft services such as Office 365, Xbox Live, Groove Music, Office Online, OneDrive, Skype, and Bing Rewards.

According to Horatio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, the company’s updated Privacy Statement and Services Agreement were guided by simplicity, transparency, and privacy. Gutierrez said consumers need “clear terms and policies that both respect individual privacy and don’t require a law degree to read.” The new Privacy Statement, which kicks into effect on August 1 – mere days after Windows 10 – is supposed to have “straightforward terms and policies that people can easily understand.” Yet since the new privacy policy is 22 pages long and the service agreement is 23 pages long, the European Digital Rights (EDRi) group said, “So much for clearly understandable and straightforward terms of service.”

“Summing up these 45 pages, one can say that Microsoft basically grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write with and on your devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties,” warned EDRi. “Each user on a device will be assigned a unique advertising ID.”

At the start of June, Microsoft offered a tweaked version of its privacy dashboard to consumers. There it says, “Microsoft uses your data and preferences to personalize your experiences, send you marketing info, and advertise things we think you’ll like.” You are given “some resources to manage these settings” with some “additional settings” in “some Microsoft products and services.” If you haven’t checked it out, you really should. For example, under marketing preferences, “uncheck” the box for Microsoft to send you promotion offers unless you want to stay subscribed.

Microsoft’s privacy dashboard is where you can see what apps and services you’ve given access to and manage those permissions. EDRi wanted users to know that “by default, when signing into Windows with a Microsoft account, Windows syncs some of your settings and data with Microsoft servers, for example ‘web browser history, favorites, and websites you have open’ as well as ‘saved app, website, mobile hotspot, and Wi-Fi network names and passwords.’ Users can however deactivate this transfer to the Microsoft servers by changing their settings.”

EDRi highlighted some other interesting facts, such as how, if “device encryption is on, Windows automatically encrypts the drive Windows is installed on and generates a recovery key. The BitLocker recovery key for the user’s device is automatically backed up online in the Microsoft OneDrive account.” Is that handier for users or for Johnny Law Officer?

If you use the virtual assistant Cortana, then to enable “personalized experiences and relevant suggests” Microsoft will collect almost all of your data, ranging from location, calendar, apps, services, browsing and search history, and “data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device.” That may seem invasive, but Cortana allegedly can’t work without hoovering up all your data. You can turn off some of those, as well as Microsoft’s collection of your speech input, but disabling them will disable Cortana.

EDRi called Microsoft’s updated privacy policy “bad news for privacy” and for free speech. “Your free speech rights can also be violated on an ad hoc basis,” EDRi warned before quoting Microsoft.

“We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to,” for example, “protect their customers” or “enforce the terms governing the use of the services.”

Speaking about building Windows 10, Mohammed Samji, Microsoft’s principal group program manager, told IDG News, “We joke on our team that we’re ordering pizza for one-and-a-half billion people.” But your pizza doesn’t come with 45 pages of terms you automatically agree to by eating it and it won’t collect “basic” info from you, your devices, your apps or networks to which you connect.

Windows 10 troubleshooting tool to stop automatic updates

You may be ready to pounce on Windows 10, but you also might want to see what happens to other guinea pigs first; basically, you might want to make sure device setups that are similar to yours don’t get bricked.

Microsoft’s automatic update feature has already caused problems for users with Nvidia graphics cards and multiple monitors. A “lot of money” means different things to different people, but gamers can easily drop $700 to $2000 on a single Nvidia card and hundreds per monitor. Yet Microsoft automatically installs new drivers that could break “multimonitor setups, SLI (dual card) configurations and can even stop PCs booting entirely which pushes Windows 10 into its emergency recovery mode.” An update pushed out Saturday caused some other folks to have problems with Explorer crashing.

Before you join the millions making the move to Windows 10, you should be aware of Windows 10 troubleshooter package KB 3073930, aka “how to temporarily prevent a Windows or driver update from reinstalling in Windows 10.” If you run into problems, you can download it after you upgrade to Windows 10. Running the troubleshooter will “detect problems” and then allow you to “hide updates,” meaning Windows won’t automatically update drivers or other updates. If you run into a driver problem, you will need to uninstall it, select “hidden updates,” and uncheck the problem driver so Windows won’t try to update it again with its version.

Good luck, and may the force be with you as you upgrade to Windows 10.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.