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August 01, 2015

Microsoft Getting Very Googley with Windows 10

Basically, they are going to watch everything you do. Soon we're all going to be Winston Smith in Orwell's 1984. A long time ago when I read the book, I wasn't that worried. I knew what it would take to install cameras everywhere, including peoples' homes, and that the cost would make it an impossible undertaking for government. But in the digital age, we're doing it to ourselves. The government doesn't have put cameras in our homes and create two-way television sets; we are. Now Google is talking about smart thermostats, and guess who will require them to be installed. Well, all those who will ostensibly come to believe it's essential for energy conservation--Jerry Brown types.

There was a television news report several years ago with some agency higher up grinning and bragging about their ability to get into your computer and use the camera, mic, and Bluetooth, etc. And with the computer's Bluetooth, for example, they can access and download all the information in other Bluetooth equipped devices like, say, phones in the area. I put a piece of electrical tape over my computer's camera and disabled Bluetooth. Not because I'm particularly interesting. I just don't like the idea of a swaggering bureaucrat with little or no concern for constitutional protections having access.

We began to address some Fourth Amendment concerns when Rand Paul and the Senate let section 215 of the "Patriot" Act expire in June, killing bulk metadata collection. But we have a long way to go, and there is even talk of Section 215 coming up again.

If you don't know what an administrative subpoena is, you should familiarize yourself with that. It's a tool that completely subverts the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

And no warrant is required at all in situations where courts have decided you have no "reasonable expectation of privacy." Your checking account and your credit card transactions are frequently used as examples: third parties see your purchases; they can see your checks, and they can see your credit card bills. Thus, the court reasons, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. But what they've done here is insert in the word "absolute" without saying so. I have no reasonable expectation of absolute privacy in my checking account: I know banking proof and end-clearing departments can see my checks. But thousands--if not millions--of checks whiz by at around 40 or so per second, per machine. (And that was 30 years ago.) Who is going to notice my check? And even if my check gets thrown out of the machine, what are the chances someone I know will see my check? So, yes, although I don't have a reasonable expectation of absolute privacy, a reasonable expectation of privacy is precisely what I do have. I can reasonably expect no one will notice I bought a can of Jock Itch for $5.95 at the local Wallgreens. But the courts disagree. I'm not a Fourth Amendment expert, but in the case of checking accounts and credit card transactions, it's obviously a legal fiction you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. We need to work on that one.

So, if I'm sharing my data with Google and Microsoft, do I have a reasonable expectation of privacy? Can an agency use an administrative subpoena and get anything Microsoft has on me without going to a court and getting a warrant? Does anyone think these giant corporations are in the habit of not cooperating with the government when the government wants something?

From the Newsweek article:

More than 14 million devices are already running Microsoft’s Windows 10 after its global launch on Wednesday, but it’s unclear how many of their users read the company’s Privacy Policy and Service Agreement before downloading. Tucked away in the 45 pages’ worth of terms and conditions (effective August 1) is a substantial power grab: The company is collecting data on much of what you do while using its new software.

From the moment an account is created, Microsoft begins watching. The company saves customers’ basic information—name, contact details, passwords, demographic data and credit card specifics —but it also digs a bit deeper.

Other information Microsoft saves includes Bing search queries and conversations with the new digital personal assistant Cortana; contents of private communications such as email; websites and apps visited (including features accessed and length of time used); and contents of private folders. Furthermore, “your typed and handwritten words are collected,” the Privacy Statement says, which many online observers liken to a keylogger. Microsoft says they collect the information “to provide you a personalized user dictionary, help you type and write on your device with better character recognition, and provide you with text suggestions as you type or write.”

Read the rest. That's about all I can quote. It turns out Microsoft will share the information it gathers with third-parties for "targeted advertising." But I'm sure there will be "no personally identifiable information." Right? I'm also sure I'm going to win Powerball tonight.

Are you upgrading?

I didn't mean for this Windows 10 thread to be about privacy and the government, but the Newsweek article pushed it in that direction. So let this be about two things, if possible: privacy and your experience with your Windows 10 upgrade. Do you like it? Why or why not?

Additional links:
The Guardian: Windows 10: Microsoft under attack over privacy
The Register: Wait, STOP: Are you installing Windows 10 or ransomware?
USA Today: Surf Report: 10 things you didn't know about Windows 10


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posted by rdbrewer at 04:54 PM

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