Microsoft exec responds to Windows 10 privacy backlash
NEW YORK — At long last, Microsoft is trying to set the record straight on the information that Windows 10 collects about you.
Ever since Windows 10 debuted in July, there have been nonstop reports about how Microsoft is using its new operating system to covertly collect data about its customers.
Microsoft has been accused of lacking transparency in how it logs your keystrokes, shares access to your Wi-Fi network, uses your Internet connection to help other Windows 10 customers download updates, and forbids you from turning off all information sharing.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has remained mostly tight lipped, generally denying it was doing anything nefarious while referring people to its convoluted privacy statement.
On Monday, Microsoft delivered its first comprehensive response.
In a blog post, Windows chief Terry Myerson acknowledged that Windows 10 is collecting personal information about its customers to enable some of its best features, including the Cortana virtual assistant. It also collects information about your computer’s performance to detect and correct potential bugs.
But he said Windows 10 users have the ability to control what information they share with Microsoft.
“We’re learning how to explain all this to customers,” Myerson told CNNMoney in an exclusive interview. “Our privacy principles are good … now we need to keep listening and learning.”
Microsoft: We need info to make Windows 10 run better
In an attempt to win back customers’ trust, Microsoft provided examples of the kind of information Windows 10 sends back to Microsoft’s servers. It also detailed why it uses that information.
Microsoft said it collects some of what you type so it can provide personalized autocorrect. And it shares access to your Wi-Fi network (only if you click a button) to help automatically log your friends into your network (or you into theirs).
Microsoft also explained how to shut those features off — and how to avoid turning them on in the first place when you set up your computer.
Myerson confirmed to CNNMoney, however, that consumers will not be able to turn off Windows 10’s “safety and reliability” data sharing. That sends anonymous information about how your PC responds to Windows 10. Microsoft needs that information to fix problems with Windows 10, he said.
‘We’re not reading your emails’
Much of the angst over Windows 10 privacy started because the new operating system uses many more cloud services than previous versions of Windows. By holding your data on its servers, Microsoft requires more permissions than in the past.
But privacy is also inherently confusing. Windows 10’s privacy statement says Microsoft needs to have access to your emails so it can deliver them to you — but Myerson denied that anyone at Microsoft has the ability to read your emails.
“We’re not reading your email, but we have custody of your email,” he said. “How do you distill those two things?”
The company says it hears what customers are saying. One change that’s coming soon to Windows 10 is a family privacy setting built with teenagers in mind, rather than just one setting for younger children.
Privacy concerns are not stopping people from upgrading to Windows 10, mind you. Windows 10 was downloaded 75 million times in its first month, which is the fastest upgrade rate in Windows history. Myerson said customers are overwhelmingly pleased with their Windows 10 experiences.
Acknowledging that the privacy conversation is not over, Myerson wrote that he and his team “look forward to the next round of questions and feedback on these new posts.”
“Trust is a core pillar of our ‘More Personal Computing’ vision, and we know we have to earn it,” Myerson wrote. “I assure you that no other company is more committed, more transparent and listening harder to customers on this important topic than we are.”