Another week, another freak out over Microsoft snooping

Have we reached peak paranoia over Windows 10?


A blog post from a Microsoft executive on Windows 10 telemetry has people going nuts again because in addition to every other spying accusation that has been leveled at the company – and I'm as guilty as anyone, I admit it – now people think Microsoft is watching you work.

Yusuf Mehdi, senior vice president of the Online Audience Business Group at Microsoft, published a blog post discussing how quickly Windows 10 has been adopted. He led with the news that Windows 10 had surpassed 200 million devices – not downloads, but devices being tracked by Microsoft telemetry.

Mehdi said Windows 10 adoption is tracking nearly 140% faster than Windows 7 and nearly four times faster than Windows 8 (which is no surprise, as Windows 8 landed with a wet splat).

Some of the news was rather encouraging. He stated more than 40% of new Windows 10 devices became active since Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. That would indicate a lot of Christmas sales, something the industry as a whole desperately needs.

Also, he said more than 76% of Microsoft's enterprise customers are in active pilots of Windows 10, and we now have over 22 million devices running Windows 10 across enterprise and education customers.

That's good because the enterprise is often a laggard when it comes to adoption of new operating systems. But he also made references to some usage information and monitoring, which is causing much clutching of pearls on the Web.

Mehdi noted:

-- Over 44.5 billion minutes spent in Microsoft Edge across Windows 10 devices in just the last month.

-- Over 2.5 billion questions asked of Cortana since launch.

-- Around 30% more Bing search queries per Windows 10 device versus prior versions of Windows.

-- Over 82 billion photos viewed within the Windows 10 Photo app.

-- Gamers spent over 4 billion hours playing PC games on Windows 10 in 2015.

What that told people is that Microsoft is watching specific app use (Cortana, games) and how much time they were spending at their machine. That hit people right in their paranoia funny bone.

But that's to be expected. This kind of telemetry is normal for system performance monitoring and crash reporting. Cortana in particular is a cloud-based app. Your queries aren't staying on your PC, they go back to Microsoft. If you don't want Microsoft to know your searches, you can shut Cortana off.

At this point, I'm really not surprised, and it's not worth getting upset over it any more. So I want to lower the temperature on this issue. There are a number of third-party apps out there that will disable all of the Windows 10 nosiness, and they aren't hard to find.

At this point I am sticking with Windows 7 not because of the spying but because I find Windows 10 to be atrociously ugly.

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