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Windows 10 update didn’t remove spying utility, Microsoft just renamed it

News Analysis
Dec 01, 20153 mins

A spying utility people thought Microsoft removed was merely renamed.

windows 10

One of the services at the heart of Windows 10’s user information gathering (otherwise known as spying) that many thought was removed in the latest update to the operating system is, in fact, still there, doing what it always did.

The Diagnostics Tracking Service, aka DiagTrack, was one of the main culprits in telemetry and other user activity gathering in Windows 10. It has been identified as a keylogger, although some people dispute that. Given the concerns around spying in Windows 10, just the accusation is damaging enough.

See also: Windows 10 update deep dive: Big changes, minor tweaks, and common problems

With the release of Build 10586, or Threshold 2, DiagTrack disappeared and there was much rejoicing. However, the white hat hackers at Tweakhound (and confirmed by BetaNews) have discovered that Microsoft merely renamed it to the Connected User Experiences and Telemetry service, which throws people off, along with all the utilities to turn off these services, like DoNotSpy10.

Even sneakier, when you install Threshold 2, Windows 10 resets user preferences, so everything you turned off is back on without telling you about it.

Fortunately, the service can still be manually disabled, and no doubt the anti-spying apps will be updated to reflect this. If you are running the new build, do the following:

Hit the Windows key and R, type services.msc, and press Enter.

Locate Connected User Experiences and Telemetry and double-click it.

Click the Stop button.

Select Disabled from the drop down menu and hit OK.

Meanwhile, the issue over deleted apps continues to grow and rile people. Before the release of Windows 10, Microsoft did disclose that Windows 10 would have the ability to automatically remove apps, especially illegal/pirated apps and games. 

“The Microsoft Services Agreement allows Microsoft to change or discontinue certain apps or content where we deem your security is at risk,” a Microsoft spokesperson told GamesBeat in August.

OK, fair enough, but why are CPU-Z, a free utility from Intel, and AMD Catalyst Control Center for tweaking Radeon cards among the apps being removed? Other apps affected are CCleaner, Intel WiDi Remote, Speccy, and the Cisco VPN.

The November update has proven to be rather buggy, so much so that the downloadable version was pulled over the Thanksgiving week. However, you can still install it over the RTM version of Windows 10, which would indicate the problem was with the installer. Ars Technica has a good, in-depth write up on the litany of problems.

All things told, Windows 10 looks less appealing the longer it is on the market. It was buggy at launch and isn’t getting better. It engages in a disturbing amount of user monitoring, and when we got wise to the offending app, Microsoft tried to hide it. And it removes apps people need.

All of this is going to make Windows 7 the new Windows XP. People just aren’t going to move. I won’t.

Andy Patrizio is a freelance journalist based in southern California who has covered the computer industry for 20 years and has built every x86 PC he’s ever owned, laptops not included.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ITworld, Network World, its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.