In a previous post I wrote an open letter to Microsoft, criticizing its strategy of trying to force Windows 10 on everyone. I didn’t really expect much, but since then I’ve thought more about the situation.
Microsoft has a long history of abusing its dominant position in the desktop operating system market with Windows. So much so that it’s been the subject of numerous investigations and regulatory actions by various governments over the years. Many in the technology community distrust their motives and with good reason.
So has the release of the wonderful, shiny new Windows 10 made any of us change our minds? Let’s see.
First of all, Windows 10 is a “free” update for all those running versions 7 and 8 of the operating system. This in itself has sparked suspicion among many people, myself included. We’ve seen Microsoft recently move towards pay-to-play subscription delivery, like many companies. The promise is that you, the customer, get full access to all their applications and automatic delivery of new updates more quickly. But the truth is that this is just a way of maximizing the company’s revenue stream at the customer’s expense.
And the fear is that Windows is going the same way. Microsoft doesn’t make much money on direct upgrade sales, so they can afford to forgo that extra income in exchange for dominating market share. With a number of other “free” options (ChromeOS/Android) Microsoft is simply reacting to the competition. So far there has been no sign of a switch to fee-based access to Windows–but that doesn’t mean it isn’t coming.
Windows 10 OS takes away fundamental choices from the customer. No longer can you decide if your computer gets updated. Now you simply have no choice-something technology professionals everywhere know is fraught with danger. So when the fee-based Windows comes around, you won’t have any choice whether you want it or not. It will simply be delivered, entirely for Microsoft’s benefit, to your computer. Your only choice will be to pay.
In fact the very idea of “your computer” has no meaning under Windows 10’s new regime. Your computer belongs to Microsoft. It is managed and updated entirely for the benefit of the company. Your preferences or wants are entirely subsumed in favor of whatever is best for Microsoft. You can’t stop updates, you have no control over the hardware that you paid for and own. There have been numerous reports of the Windows 10 “update” causing problems and effectively trashing people’s computers. What’s more, if you previously paid for Windows, even Professional and Enterprise versions, you are now downgraded to this same “free” version.
One of the characters in my story Dead Reckoning said “if you’re not the one paying, you’re the one being sold” and here is a perfect example of this. Microsoft has already “updated” Windows 10 to start showing ads on computers, irrespective of whether the computer’s owner actually wants that. Yes, you can switch these off –for now–but let’s not kid ourselves that the day won’t come pretty soon when you can’t. Then your computer is nothing but another dumping ground to bombard you with even more ads.
No doubt a lot of people will think, well so what, the internet is full of ads, my phone is full of ads, what difference does it make? All that is true, and all of that is wrong too. We’ve been collectively brainwashed into thinking that electronic spying and advertising is somehow “okay.” It needs to be stopped.
There’s something else that’s even more insidious here. Along with all these changes, Microsoft has increased the amount of “telemetry” it collects. Despite the vagueness of the technical term this is spying pure and simple. And like the rest of the Windows 10 “features” you have no choice in this. Microsoft doesn’t want to tell you how to disable this. In fact Microsoft doesn’t even want to tell you what it’s collecting.
Even more shocking is the complete absence of any authority challenging this. The U.S. government, the European Union, both previous challengers of Microsoft’s abuses of power have been unanimously silent on this topic. Not a peep. Which leads to the question–why? Have they suddenly forgotten their concerns for people’s rights?
I think the answer is very simple. It explains Microsoft’s rabid push of this technology and its complete lack of concern at any criticism of its approach. In exchange for adding all of its spy technology, in exchange for being able to trample on people’s freedom and privacy rights, I believe Microsoft has made a secret deal with government agencies around the world that it’ll use this spy technology to provide authorities with any information they want. It even says as much in the EULA (End User License Agreement). Here are just some of the items mentioned:
Microsoft now receives “worldwide royalty free intellectual property of the user content”–yes, your files and content now belong to Microsoft.
We share your personal data “when required by law or to respond to legal process; to protect our customers; to protect lives; to maintain the security of our services; and to protect the rights or property of Microsoft.”–pretty clear. They’re planning to share everything you do on your computer with anyone in “law enforcement” or anything that some anonymous someone determines is a “security problem.”
Or how about this from a CNN feature–“Windows sends Microsoft everything you say to Cortana. It also collects your name and nickname, your recent calendar events, the names of the people in your appointments, and information about your contacts–including their names and nicknames. ” Yes, you read that correctly, everything you say.
Again from the EULA-““Microsoft collects information about you, your devices, applications and networks, and your use of those devices, applications and networks. 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.” Name, nickname, phone calls?
You don’t need to worry about your government spying on you, Windows will do it all for them, and for anyone else who pays them to hand over your personal information. Oh and guess what? You can’t turn off this collection either. Microsoft provides functions to supposedly prevent this collection, but even when everything is switched off, Windows 10 still sends information–and no, Microsoft, won’t tell you what that is.
Want more support for this theory? Well, recently Microsoft has been supporting the FBI’s calls for Apple to unlock its iPhone. Coincidence? Maybe. As Garak from Star Trek – Deep Space Nine says “I believe in coincidences. Coincidences happen every day. But I don’t trust coincidences. ” Or how about this? Microsoft is now hiding “Get Windows 10” ads inside so-called “security updates” for Windows 7 and 8–commandeering your browser to push you to Windows 10!
Microsoft, like many other companies and groups, believe that if they wave the “free” flag fast enough in front of your eyes, you won’t see just how much they’re abusing their position.