Software

Windows 10 now lets you turn off tracking - but only if you're a business

A massive update to Windows 10 will allow users of the Enterprise version to block all monitoring but Microsoft faces criticism for not allowing Home and Pro users to do the same.

Following pressure from businesses Microsoft has changed Windows 10 to allow firms to turn off all data collection.

From today, organisations running the Enterprise version of Windows 10 will be able to disable all tracking by Microsoft.

The change, introduced in a massive update, will not be extended to users running Pro and Home versions of Windows 10.

The move follows repeated requests from companies for the ability to remove monitoring, according to Jeremy Korst, general manager of the Windows and Devices team at Microsoft.

"We have heard feedback, particularly from our business and government customers, and so enterprise customers will be able to completely turn off telemetry if they choose," he said.

When asked why home users aren't being given the same option, Korst simply said Microsoft makes these decisions based on feedback from customers.

"This is a capability where we're responding to customer feedback and we will continue to take other feedback as well."

By default Windows 10 collects data about how Windows and Windows apps are used, how they perform and "additional details necessary to identify and help to fix problems".

Users of Home and Pro versions of Windows 10 can only reduce this data collection to the "Basic" level. On this setting, Windows 10 collects information about security settings, quality-related info (such as crashes and hangs), and application compatibility. Microsoft describes this information as being essential for maintaining and improving the quality of Windows 10 and says that only "anonymous identifiers" are transmitted.

Richard Tynan, technologist with campaign group Privacy International, accused Microsoft of double standards when it comes to its customers.

"It is welcome news that Microsoft is taking user privacy and security seriously. However, limiting this improvement to corporate customers only is extremely worrying and demonstrates a hypocritical approach to privacy and security.

"We look forward to clarification from Microsoft as to why other users are not afforded the same control over their data."

Microsoft does not recommend that any users disable all data collection, according to Korst, who claimed it provides a useful source of information for improving the OS.

"The information we get back we're using to improve the customer experience and make it even more stable and secure."

Beyond this mandatory data collection, Windows 10 also collects a lot of information by default while still allowing users to opt-out. This data is designed to personalise content and services to you and includes information relating to what say when using voice control or type, to where you are and that tells advertisers what apps you use you use.

Users can also choose to enable Cortana, Windows 10's built-in virtual assistant, which, if you let it, will collect additional data about you, for example watching your email for flight bookings and then setting a reminder for the data.

Korst described enterprise adoption of Windows 10 as "unprecedented", with "50 percent of our managed enterprise customers already testing Windows 10".

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Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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