When Microsoft launched Windows 10, one of the major flashpoints of disagreement between the company and its users were Microsoft’s Windows 10 data collection practices. The French data privacy watchdog CNIL (Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés) later announced that it had begun an investigation into Microsoft’s data collection practices and found them to be in violation of French law.
At the time, CNIL noted: “Seven online observations have been carried out between April and June 2016. On this occasion, several violations have been found and in particular: excessive collection of personal data, track of users’ web-browsing without their consent and a lack of security and confidentiality of users’ data.”
CNIL has now closed its investigation into Microsoft’s activity after updates to the Windows 10 operating system made major changes to how telemetry is collected at the “Basic” setting. Specifically:
The company has nearly reduced by half the volume of collected data within the “basic” level of its telemetry service which is capable of identifying the system’s functional issues and solving them. It has restricted its collection to the sole data strictly necessary for maintaining the proper functioning of its operating system and applications, and for ensuring their security.
Users are now informed, through a clear and precise information, that an advertising ID is intended to track their web-browsing in order to offer them personalized advertising. Furthermore, the installation procedure of Windows 10 has been modified: users cannot complete this installation unless they have expressed their choice regarding activation or deactivation of the advertising ID. Moreover, they can reverse this choice at any time.
Microsoft has made other changes to its practices to bring Windows 10’s overall level of data protection and user privacy practices in line with French law, and improved how it handles repeated attempts to log in with an incorrect PIN or multiple incorrect logins. It’s not clear if every change CNIL documents was made to every version of Windows 10, but some of the noted updates are definitely in line with what Microsoft has said about its new telemetry collection practices.
Getting independent confirmation that the company now only collects the data it needs to solve specific problems is welcome. There are still going to be users with concerns on this topic, but Microsoft’s more recent updates appear to significantly improve user privacy.
Microsoft is planning to add some significant GPU monitoring capability to the Fall Creators Update later this year, and the recent Creators Update improved the OS in some non-trivial ways as well.
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