Thursday, July 13, 2017

Microsoft Still Sucks (Worse Than Ever)

So windows still, after all these years, chooses when I can use the computer I supposedly bought and own. For the past few weeks Windows has been blocking me from using the computer by opening a window that I can not close without accepting something but it is not clear exactly what I am accepting. Subservience. Submission. Again and again it does it telling me it cannot upgrade without me checking my privacy settings and more than once I set the settings and it apparently does not like my choosing to share nothing with Microsoft for even after I click accept it lets me use the computer for a little while and repeats the same process. hen it asks again it reset my privacy settings to share my information with MS in spite of my turning off any sharing with MS. Tonight it asked me to restart. For forty minutes it has been spinning it's wheels with

"Getting Windows ready.
Don't turn off your computer.

It should read

We have taken over your computer again,
Do something else or buy a MAC.
You can use your computer again when we tell you.
Go away.

Then, when Windows finally let me enter my password and get back into my computer and what do I see but a damned advertisement Windows SPAM. As if that is not bad enough, about an hour later the same window opened as I was typing (preventing me from saving my writing or doing anything else with the computer) showing the same message and with the same reset privacy settings that Microsoft seems to want. Again I turned off sharing with them and clicked accept and then clicked OK. I am not sure what I was accepting again and I hope the turned-off setting I chose does not get turned back on again by MS. This should be an illegal invasion of privacy.

This is the message I left on the MS webpage that they put up to explain what they are doing, but they don't care.

You are lying. I have set my privacy settings several times and clicked Accept and then OK and all I get are advertisements - SPAM - but no update. Each time the request to set my Privacy Settings window opens again, I find Windows reset my choices to your choices. The window blocks me from using my computer. Windows is losing me on this one. Mac does not do this. Give me my computer back and stop SPAMMing me on my own computer or I leave Windows for good.

Here is some information about what they have been up to.

Here are some suggestions about what we can do.

1. Go to Settings – Privacy and go through the 13 different screens there and turn anything which concerns you to off. The biggest, most universal settings are under ‘General’, while the other screens let you choose which apps can and can’t access your calendar, messages, camera, mic, etcetera. There may well be stuff you want to leave on – for instance, I do actually want Windows’ Calendar app to access my calendar data (obv), I just don’t want it to sell that data on because I don’t want to be bombarded with flower ads when it’s my mum’s birthday.

2. Depending on whether you’ve been finding it useful or not, you may want to go to Cortana’s settings and turn off everything there. It’s just working as a basic file search for me now, as I didn’t want its ‘suggestions’, I didn’t want it to lock me into Bing and I didn’t want a tiny part of my processor to be forever dedicated to listening out for voice commands I will never use.

3. This is the crucial one, and so fundamental to Windows 10’s tracking that Microsoft have stuck the setting on an external website, which they say is so that it’s on one easy dashboard, but I find it hard not to wonder if it’s in the hope that we don’t easily stumble across it while browsing Windows 10’s own Privacy menus. Said website is colourful and cheerful and can play a video at you talking about how wonderful targeted advertising is. Ignore the bumf and instead go directly here and set both options to Off. It’s the innocuous-sounding “Personalised ads wherever I use my Microsoft account” which is the likely root of all this, because having that on means Windows 10 itself becomes a hub for targeted ads. You’ll probably have set up Windows 10 with a Microsoft account, because it heavily encourages you to do so with talk of synchronised files and settings and a OneDrive cloud account during installation, but this means the OS is signed into that account all the time. As a result, Windows 10 itself has it spyglasses on, not just apps or pages that you’re signed into with your MS account.

I notice that every time I go back to that page, the “Personalised ads in this browser” setting has silently turned itself back on again. This is concerning, but I’m not yet sure if it’s a bug or if it’s exploiting sessions as an excuse to reset regularly. Judicious ad and cookie control with your plugins and browser options of choice can change this, however. Again, do remember that many websites are dependent on advertising revenue to survive, but opting out of targeted advertising – and having that opt out be respected – is another matter entirely.

4. You may also wish to remove your Microsoft account from Windows 10 and use a local account instead. This will double-down on restricting what’s harvested, though you’ll lose out on features such as settings synchronisation across all your PCs and will suffer more nagging from stuff like the Windows Store and OneDrive. Probably not a big deal for many people, I suspect. Go to Settings – Accounts – Your Account within Windows 10 (or just type ‘Accounts’ into haha Cortana) to get to the relevant options.

If you have multiple PCs already running Windows 10 you’ll need to do all of this on each of them, although your Microsoft account opt-out should be universal.

None of these options mean you’ll see fewer ads, but they do mean that not quite so much information about you will be gathered and sold, and also that the ads you do see won’t be ‘relevant’ to what algorithms have decided your interests are. It is worth noting that some folk find the latter to be preferable to entirely irrelevant ads, and in some cases even useful – but certainly not everyone. Hopefully you can use the information here to make an informed choice about what happens. Again, in many respects it’s not wildly different from what already happens on your smart phone or your browser, but it’s important that you should know about it, and that Windows now has something of an ulterior motive.

More options, or clearer options, may become available in time, depending on how much of the world frowns at Microsoft about this. I’ll let you know if I hear of anything else that needs doing in order to have Windows 10 respect your privacy.

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