TORRENT USERS VS. WINDOWS 10 AND PRIVACY CONCERNS


Fears surrounding Windows 10's online connectivity and data collection are continuing to run rampant.  BitTorrent trackers that trade entirely in pirated media appear to have banned the use of Microsoft's operating system.

According to a post on Reddit, the iTS tracker has banned the use of Windows 10. The reason? "Amongst other things Windows 10 sends the contents of your local disks directly to one of their servers."

Microsoft reserves the right to share some data collected by Windows 10 with certain third parties. This particularly alarms iTS because of an existing Microsoft partnership with a company called MarkMonitor. iTS describes MarkMonitor as an "anti-piracy company."  which helps brands stop things like the sale of counterfeits, domain squatting, and fraud.

TorrentFreak reports that other private trackers are considering copying iTS' move. It writes that the BB tracker told its users that Windows 10 "will be gathering information on users' P2P use to be shared with anti piracy groups." It is not clear what Windows 10 feature is believed to be responsible for this behavior.

Again, the concerns around Windows 10's privacy impact appear to be tremendously overblown. There is the kernel of legitimate concern: Windows 10 collects a lot of data, and it's not as easy as we'd like to disable this collection. Windows 10 also seems to communicate with Microsoft even when configured for maximum privacy and minimal online integration. There are also reasonable concerns about what precisely is sent to Microsoft.

But these concerns are not "Microsoft is capturing the contents of your disks." They're more subtle; they're things like, "some requests are sent with a unique identifier, which would allow some searches and other online activity to be correlated." The inferences that can be drawn are not entirely precise, and there are concerns that they might be used for things such as targeted advertising—with, for example, the operating system using local search terms to influence Web ads—blurring the lines between "local" and "online" in a way that leaves some people uncomfortable.

Cloud storage services, including Microsoft's OneDrive and Google's Drive, raise the prospect of automated (or other) analysis of files stored online. Both of those services, for example, will attempt to detect child pornography. E-mails stored in Gmail, Office 365, Outlook.com, or any other online mail provider are also susceptible to inspection by service providers (something that Google does but that Microsoft doesn't) or government seizure.

Concern over these things is reasonable; while many will decide that the trade-offs are fair, some may feel that they go beyond what an operating system should do. The ability to opt out is important, and we feel that Windows 10 would be improved by making this opt-out simpler (for example, in addition to the piecemeal controls, offer a single switch between "fully cloud-connected and online" and "no cloud connectivity, go online only for updates") and stricter (turning off cloud connectivity should really turn itoff, no exceptions).

But the notion that Microsoft gives a damn about some bootleg copy of a movie that you downloaded with BitTorrent and wants to report you to an anti-piracy organization? It's absurd. The company has literally nothing to gain from the backlash that this kind of intrusion would provoke.