With the forthcoming launch of the Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft has released more information about the amount of data it collects from your computer, and sends back to Redmond.
A lot has been much said about Privacy issues with Windows 10 since its launch, although it’s fair to say that Apple and Google similarly scoop up data from your devices too. This time, Microsoft are saying that they are cutting down on the amount of data that they collect with this latest update and the details of what they actually do collect makes interesting reading.
What data they collect now
Windows 10 Home and Professional versions currently have two levels of data collection – Basic and Full.
Basic Mode is supposed to collect data on your hardware, records of crashes, how good your internet connection is, driver software usage, what apps you have installed and how they are used, as well as other things that are diagnostic in nature.
Full Mode collects the data from Basic level as well as things like your “inking and typing data” (yes that’s right, typing data) and records of system events. In certain circumstances they can get copies of user documents that have caused software crashes and run diagnostic tools on your computer, although there is a set of rules that apply before they can do so.
What data is collected after Creators Update
In Basic Mode, a lot of diagnostic technical information is sent over (see this although it’s written in geek) which is supposed to help Microsoft identify potential malware infections and the causes of crashing, to help them make the operating system more reliable. Also collected will be details of your hardware including the serial number of the machine, data on what applications are given administrator access permissions, your battery life, what mobile phone network you are using, and some other things.
Full Mode has not been explained as fully as Basic Mode, but as well as everything in Basic it includes data relating to your browser choice, the apps that you use to edit videos and images, user settings and preferences, what apps you have installed, internet addresses (URLs) that have triggered errors, total time reading eBooks, visited webpages, the list of peripherals attached to your computer, text typed in searches, words you have spoken to Cortana and more.
There has been a third option, where telemetry data can be switched off but that has only applied to the Enterprise, Education and other specialist versions – if you are using the Home and Pro version, you’re stuck with either Basic data collection or the Full package.
Microsoft emphasises that data collected is intended to be primarily for diagnostic reasons and the Creators Update will make it more explicit what data is collected, so you will be able to make more informed decisions when setting things up after the update. Having said that they are also being more transparent on what data is collected for marketing and advertising purposes too.
The jury is out as to whether privacy continues to be a thorn in Windows 10’s side and certainly some governments are taking an active interest into what information is actually being collected from peoples’ computers and why. The unfortunate thing is that users will not have any choice – if you use Windows 10 you will have data collected, possibly on a substantial scale.