The recent debate over privacy in Windows now has an added component. Originally, privacy concerns were raised about new system reporting services that are defaults in Windows 10. However, it seems that recent patches by Microsoft to Windows 7 and 8.1 also involve the type of monitoring that many consider intrusive. Here is a quick survey of the new controversy.
Microsoft has apparently decided to add telemetry and data collection features to all its current operating systems from Windows 7 on up. These monitoring services have been implemented by recent updates to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. These developments have been pointed out and discussed at forums like WinAero and Wilders Security.
Recent updates from Microsoft that are involved with adding monitoring are as follows:
- KB3021917 Update to Windows 7 SP1 for performance improvements
- KB3022345 Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry
- KB3068708 (replaces KB3022345) Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry
- KB3075249 Update that adds telemetry points to consent.exe in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7
- KB3080149 Update for customer experience and diagnostic telemetry
These updates enable the sending of system data and activities to Microsoft servers on a regular basis.
Also possibly involved are these updates involving upgrading to Windows 10:
- KB2952664 Compatibility update for upgrading Windows 7
- KB2990214 Update that enables you to upgrade from Windows 7 to a later version of Windows
- KB3035583 Update installs get Windows 10 app in Windows 8.1 and Windows 7 SP1
At this point, no one outside of Microsoft can be sure that the eight updates listed above are the only ones that institute some kind of monitoring. These updates can be uninstalled from Control Panel. Scripts for removing them are discussed at the Wilders forum and at gHacks. Once uninstalled, the updates have to be marked as hidden or Windows will try to install them again. As of this writing, it is unknown if any unwanted consequences may result from removing any of these updates. Always back up first.
Although one body of opinion feels that the type of data monitoring that is occurring is standard operating procedure on the Internet nowadays and is something to be lived with, others feel quite the opposite. Wherever you stand, you will want to stay up to date about privacy issues and we will continue to follow developments and provide the facts you need to make informed choices.
Update 31 August - An article at Ars Technica by Peter Bright has helped clarify what kind of telemetry is going on. The monitoring does not seem to be all that intrusive but Bright makes the important point:
But we continue to believe that people who do not wish to be a part of such data collection should have a clear and unambiguous way of opting out, and these opt-outs should be rigorous. Disabling CEIP, for example, should not only prevent systems from sending CEIP data, but it should also prevent systems from retrieving even configuration data from Microsoft's own systems.
Update 9 September - Woody Leonhard has now published an article that adds further clarification.
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