Microsoft Windows 10 Violates Our Data Privacy Laws: Dutch Agency

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Since its launch, Microsoft Windows 10 has been able to get itself into one or another type of controversy, be it downplaying other browsers, or the way updates are sent. Now again, one more controversy has been able to find the Microsoft OS, after the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) on Friday said the OS breaches their data protection laws with the way it gets telemetry metadata in the Windows 10.

On Friday, DPA said that they conducted a thorough investigation of Microsoft Windows 10 Home and Pro operating systems, and found that the users are not clearly informed “about the type of data it uses, and for which purpose.” Further, the agency claims that Microsoft makes it very difficult for the users to approve their personal data for processing. There are about 4 million devices using Windows 10 Home and Pro in the Netherlands.

According to the agency, the U.S. firm offers two tiers of telemetry – basic and full. Limited data about the device usage is processed at the basic level. At full telemetry, detailed data on the app usage is processed along with the info gathered from web surfing via Edge. Though Microsoft did give users an overview of the categories of data collected via basic telemetry, for the full telemetry it informs users in a general way, the Dutch agency claimed.

According to DPA, “The company does not clearly inform users that it continuously collects personal data about the usage of apps and web surfing behavior through its web browser Edge, when the default settings are used.”

Personal data collected by Microsoft Windows 10 include data on the usage of installed apps including frequency of use, URL of the website visited, and the use of the mouse, keyboard, pen or touchscreen. If users have not opted out, the company also targets users with personalized advertisements in browsers and apps as well.  Microsoft has been saying that it collects and processes the data from the Windows 10 to secure and improve its products and services, fix issues and keep the devices up-to-date.

“It turns out that Microsoft’s operating system follows about every step you take on your computer. That results in an intrusive profile of yourself,” said DPA’s vice-chairman, Wilbert Tomesen. The agency says that if Microsoft does not address the issues, then it can impose a sanction on the company, likely a financial penalty.

Replying to the concerns raised by the Dutch agency, Microsoft said it is working to comply with the Dutch data protection law. Microsoft, however, has also raised some concerns with the Dutch agency “about the accuracy of some of its findings and conclusions.” Further, the company said that the Creators Update and upcoming Fall Creators Update will make it easier for the users to control their privacy options.

“We welcome the opportunity to continue to work with the Dutch DPA on their comments related to Windows 10 Home and Pro, and we will continue to cooperate with the DPA to find appropriate solutions,” the Windows maker said in a blog post.

At 11.18 a.m. Eastern Time, Microsoft shares were up 0.40% at $77.43. Year to date, the stock is up almost 25%, while in the last three-months, it is up almost 8%.

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