Microsoft details Creators Update privacy changes


— 1:30 PM on April 5, 2017

Since Windows 10 was released, its telemetry functionality has ruffled more than a few feathers—mainly because it's never been clear exactly what data the operating system is collecting. In a new blog post over at the Windows Experience blog, Microsoft's Marisa Rogers and Terry Myerson try to assuage users' concerns by clarifying Microsoft's stance on user privacy and data gathering.

Starting with the upcoming Creators Update, Microsoft will be adding descriptive text and a "learn more" button to each option in the privacy settings screen. The company will also be adding an easier-to-find option to let users tell Microsoft that they only want to send "basic" diagnostic data. Addressing some folks' accusations that Windows doesn't respect user settings, the Creators Update will at be asking users before it resets privacy options.

Along with the changes in Windows, Microsoft is publishing a summary of the diagnostic data that it collects over on TechNet. That summary is a fairly high-level overview, but there's a more technical description of the specific telemetry data collection that will probably be of interest to system administrators and programmers. The list of data collected is long, but having looked through it this morning, nothing in it strikes me as extraordinary.

With that said, it seems unlikely that these changes will calm Windows 10's loudest critics. There's still no way to fully disable the built-in telemetry in non-Enterprise versions of Windows 10, for example. Microsoft also isn't letting users control the installation of possibly-unwanted apps without diving into a morass of configuration options. As the company itself all but admits, the privacy panel revamp seems to be primarily intended to bring the operating system into compliance with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation.

In any case, these changes are a step in the right direction for an operating system hounded by its predecessors. NetMarketShare reports that nearly half of all desktop web traffic still comes from Windows 7. That's almost twice Windows 10's current market share. While privacy concerns probably aren't high on the list of the average user's concerns, the OS's adoption rate might have still suffered on that account.

For its part, Microsoft says it is "fully committed to putting [users] in control and providing the information [they] need." We hope that Ms. Rogers, who is the Privacy Officer for Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, can keep the company moving on the right track.

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