Windows 10 gives Microsoft control over privacy

Expats retire to Costa Rica to get away from the hustle and bustle of life. The problem: Retirees usually bring a computer, tablet and a smartphone along with them so they can stay in contact with loved ones back home.  Most do not realize these devices are like sticking Orwellian big brothers in the goods they pack.

Windows 10 was released last Thursday. The software is Microsoft’s latest version of its most popular operating system. In the first 72 hours after its introduction, 67 million computers received upgrades. That is 258 installs per second.

An expat living in Costa Rica, expert in computers and Windows, related in an interview that upgrading from an older version of the operating system to Windows 10 is pretty much a breeze. He recommended making a good backup before starting the upgrade process.

The system is faster, more efficient and easier to understand. It is also designed from bottom up to spy on its users. Here are some examples and instructions on how to turn off the prying eyes.

Wi-Fi Sense: This system automatically connects a user to Wi-Fi hotspots much as smartphones do. However, by using the system, one agrees to give Microsoft one’s secret passwords. In doing so, the computer and its location is no longer a secret but available to all Outlook, Skype, and Facebook contacts on the system.

This can be turned off in the main settings menu, under manage Wi-Fi. The only way to really block the system, is by putting “_optout” at the end of a router’s public network name, the service set identifier.

Bandwidth Sharing for Updates: Microsoft with Windows 10 will now use everyone’s computer to share update information between other computers in its worldwide network, much like how torrents and the bitcoin system works. This could lead to increased internet charges to those on a metered system because a computer is available on the network serving others, not to mention, seeding other machines with information from one’s private home computer.

Turn off “Updates from more than one place” in the advanced menu in the update and security section of settings. While there, disable automatic updates in this section, too, so Microsoft does not reset the computer without permission.

Microsoft wants to get to know everyone better and has a scary new feature called just that, Getting to Know You.

This disturbing feature, designed to make the Windows 10 experience better, sounds great.  What it means is applications — not just Microsoft, but other applications as well — can log typing history, save voice recordings and collect contact information and even handwriting samples from writing notes.

Tell Microsoft to “Stop getting to know you” to take back a little privacy in the privacy section of settings.

Poor big corporate conglomerate. It has had some real hard times over the past many windows080315years due to its failure with Vista and Windows 8. It obviously needs more money so Windows 10 now tags every user with a unique advertising ID. This identification is available to all applications in the system for data mining to achieve better targeted advertising.

Turn off the toggle switch in privacy settings to prevent third-party apps from accessing this data. IDs are not removed but reset. Turning off this setting in Windows 10 does not turn it off in specific applications like browsers.

App-Access to one’s location, microphone and webcam: Yes, applications on one’s machine can now turn on a microphone and a webcam without explicit permission to do so. Besides being a blatant violation of privacy, it can also run down a machine’s battery and overall performance.

Get rid of App-Access in the privacy settings, too, under the locations, camera and microphones tabs.  Turn them off by individual application.

There are other ways to tweak Windows 10 for better performance like turning off background applications from starting with Windows. These tips can be found by surfing the Internet. This operating system is in its infancy, only four days out to the public.

However, it seem like it will be a success for Microsoft. The reason for this is primarily due to how the company launched it, having people reserve the free upgrade and then prompting to install it without any disclosure as to its privacy striping features.

An excerpt of Microsoft’s privacy policy reads, “We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content, (such as content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary.”

Read between the lines here. Microsoft says they want the right to every piece of private information on a computer, and it is up to them to safeguard it when they feel it is necessary.

For anyone using Apple products and social networks like Facebook, they are used to some of these privacy issues. Really, it appears Microsoft has finally seen the light and believes striping people of their privacy is a way to make more money.  They are a little late on the bandwagon.

Garland M. Baker, a certified international property specialist, is a 45-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica. His firm’s team provides multidisciplinary professional services to the country’s international community.  Reach him at  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at, a free reprint is available at the end of each article.  Copyright 2004-2015, use without permission prohibited.

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