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Sneaky Microsoft yanked its latest Windows 10 update download: It hijacked privacy settings

Discussion in 'Windows 10 forum' started by ireland, Nov 25, 2015.

  1. ireland

    ireland Active member

    Nov 28, 2002
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    Why Microsoft yanked its latest Windows 10 update download: It hijacked privacy settings

    Update now fixed, we're told

    Microsoft withdrew downloads for its latest official edition of Windows 10, version 1511, after it meddled with people's privacy settings.

    Earlier we reported how Redmond disappeared the update, which could be fetched via the official media creation tool (MCT). The download became available in mid-November after Microsoft announced it as a major upgrade for Windows 10.

    MCT is aimed at IT professionals and enthusiasts juggling many PCs: rather than have each computer upgrade to the latest build of Windows 10 via gigabytes of Windows Update downloads, you can instead download and create a single .ISO image of the operating system via MCT, write the image to a DVD or USB stick, and install the software on as many machines as you're licensed to.

    So if you wanted to bring a bunch of Windows 8 machines up to the latest Windows 10, you'd pop into each of them a DVD or USB stick built from the latest MCT download, and save yourself a lot of time and bandwidth.

    So when the November MCT download vanished over the weekend, it was a pain in the ASCII for people – it forced folks to install the July launch edition and then apply loads of patches from Windows Update across the board. (If you've already got a single Windows 10 computer and are upgrading via Windows Update, none of this really affects you; you'll get version 1511 soon, if not already, automatically.)

    Now Microsoft's finally come clean on why it yanked the self-contained download of Windows 10 version 1511.

    According to Redmond on Tuesday, "when the November update was installed, a few settings preferences may have inadvertently not been retained for advertising ID, Background apps, SmartScreen Filter, and Sync with devices."

    Fair play to Microsoft for shedding light on the blunder. Basically, its operating system allowed apps to access people's unique advertising ID numbers; the SmartScreen Filter that sends executables to Microsoft servers to analyze was enabled; software was allowed to run in the background; and settings and passwords would be backed up the cloud. If you previously disabled any of those, they would be reenabled by the MCT-derived upgrade over a previous Windows 10 install.

    So in effect, installing version 1511 of Windows 10 via the MCT on Windows 10 machines overwrote the user's privacy settings.

    "Recently we learned of an issue that could have impacted an extremely small number of people who had already installed Windows 10 and applied the November update," a spokesperson told The Register on Tuesday.

    "Once these customers installed the November update, a few of their settings preferences may have inadvertently not been retained. For these customers, we will restore their settings over the coming days and we apologize for the inconvenience. We worked to resolve the issue as quickly as possible – it will not impact future installs of the November update, which is available today."

    Indeed, this update is supposed to correct the overwritten settings. Microsoft has come under fire for its odd approach to privacy in Windows 10, but at least in this case it acted fast fixing the cockup.

    The November update, version 1511 aka build 10586, is now available again via MCT for people with machines to manage.


    Windows 10 uninstalling user programs without permission
    [Update] I reached out to Microsoft for an official statement and... there isn't one. Microsoft has declined to comment on this story, which means it isn't a bug, and Windows 10 can and will remove third-party programs from your PC or tablet if it decides to, and without asking you first. Ouch.

    This page explains how Microsoft software is malware.

    Microsoft's Software is Malware

    Malware means software designed to function in ways that mistreat or harm the user. (This does not include accidental errors.) This page explains how Microsoft software is malware.

    Malware and nonfree software are two different issues. The difference between free software and nonfree software is in whether the users have control of the program or vice versa. It's not directly a question of what the program does when it runs. However, in practice nonfree software is often malware, because the developer's awareness that the users would be powerless to fix any malicious functionalities tempts the developer to impose some.

    Last edited: Nov 25, 2015
  2. ireland

    ireland Active member

    Nov 28, 2002
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    Sneaky Microsoft renamed its data slurper before sticking it back in Windows 10

    How many coincidences does it take to be Scroogled?

    “Anonymity is like virginity. You don't get it back once you've lost it,” writes one Register reader on Microsoft’s latest raid on your privacy.

    Microsoft pulled a major update for Windows after it blew away the user's privacy settings, allowing app developers and advertisers to glean the user’s identity.

    But that’s only part of the story, which gets murkier by the day.

    We already knew Windows 10 Threshold deleted third-party data monitoring tools and cleanup tools, including stalwarts like Spybot and CCleaner. It even disabled Cisco’s VPN software. Just a bug, said Microsoft.

    Two bugs would be a puzzling coincidence – but something else makes it altogether more troubling.

    This year Microsoft introduced background tracking services called DiagTrack, or the Diagnostics Tracking Service. It was added to Windows 8.1 installations as well as betas of Windows 10. It arrived without much fanfare in May 14, in the shape of a patch, KB3022345.

    It was just one of several slurping enhancements added via the back door.

    The data that DiagTrack collected was typical of a spyware programme. The only way you knew you were being monitored was by eyeballing the list of running processes in Task Manager. As Microsoft explained:

    Examples of data we collect include your name, email address, preferences and interests; browsing, search and file history; phone call and SMS data; device configuration and sensor data; and application usage.

    Users thought it had disappeared in recent Windows 10 builds – but it hadn’t. Microsoft had simply renamed it.

    The sinister-sounding tracking app was now the beatific and caring “Connected User Experiences and Telemetry Service”. Once again, it needs to be disabled manually (this time through the Services control panel).

    “It is this kind of overriding desire for control and a disregard for user choices which is harming Windows 10,” says Forbes journo Gordon Kelly, and he’s right.

    Microsoft spent millions portraying Google as a greedy and amoral data marauder. Redmond doesn't need to read your email, it told everyone. The Scroogled campaign positioned Microsoft itself as the ethical alternative; the occupier of the moral high ground.

    For a while, it was. But Windows 10 is bad for your privacy, and it is damaging Microsoft’s reputation as a trusted consumer brand.

    The face of Windows, Joe Belfiore, is now on a world cruise, taking a 12 month break. Who can blame him? Nobody seems to be in charge.


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    Last edited: Nov 26, 2015

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