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No, the Windows 10 preview's keylogger will not steal your bank information

Word hit last week that the beta for Winodws 10 had a keylogger built in and the web went nuts. Understandable, but also wrong.

windows10 logo
Credit: Simon Bisson

Not long after Microsoft released its technical preview (another word for beta test version) of Windows 10, sites around the web lit up with the claim that the software has a keylogger to obtain information about the software's performance.

Now, in an era of privacy intrusion and justifiable paranoia, people went a little bonkers over this. But if you read a little closer, you'll see Microsoft was never being sneaky in its actions. The details were all there if you actually read the agreement before installing the software.

First up, Microsoft insists that Windows Technical Preview not be installed on computers that are used for everyday purposes. The company said flat out that this is not a solid piece of software, and told users to expect it to crash. It's not like the Windows 7 beta, which was so solid you could use it on your day-to-day machine.

Second, Microsoft tells you in the privacy policy that it is collecting keystrokes. There is a whole section called "Data we collect," and it clearly states:

[when you] enter text, we may collect typed characters and use them for purposes such as improving autocomplete and spellcheck features.

It also states that Microsoft is collecting information about you, your devices, applications and networks, and your use of those devices, applications and networks.

"Examples of data we collect include your name, email address, preferences and interests; browsing, search and file history; phone call and SMS data; device configuration and sensor data; and application usage."

Microsoft also said flat out that when users open a file, the company collects information about the file, the program that opened the file, and how long it took to open said file, all on the basis of improving performance. I'm not sure how much faster Word can open one of my files, but I suspect this is more oriented toward people with giant Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files, not basic users.

Microsoft offered this comment:

With Windows 10, we’re kicking off the largest ever open collaborative development effort that will change the way we build and deliver Windows. Users who join the Windows Insider Program and opt-in to the Windows 10 Technical Preview are choosing to provide data and feedback that will help shape the best Windows experience for our customers. As always, we remain committed to helping protect our customers’ personal information and ensuring safeguards are in place for the collection and storing of that data. As we get closer to a final product, we will continue to share information through our terms of service and privacy statement about how customer data is collected and used, as well as what choices and controls are available.

The bottom line is that Microsoft was never duplicitous or attempting to hide what it's doing. It's spelled out on a privacy policy that I suspect few people read. This is a beta program, regardless of the fancy name, and they need to collect metrics to make it better. If you don't like that, don't use it.

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