Monday, November 30, 2015

Upgrading to Windows 10? Microsoft's Privacy Policies Now Make More Sense

Shortly after Microsoft released Windows 10 to the masses questions began to arise regarding several of Microsoft's new privacy policies and forced upgrade tactics. Many of these changes brought about some serious concerns for users worried that they would lose control over the data collected by Microsoft and lose even more control over what updates were and weren't installed on their machines.

Thankfully this past few weeks Microsoft has been working to alleviate some of these concerns and address many of the questions Windows 10 users have had. They have just released a new more simplified privacy policy that address concerns over their access to your encryption keys and makes it much more clear as to what data is collected and how it is used. On top of that, they have also made good on a promise for business users and released a new tool-set allowing the delay of Windows 10 updates (sorry home users nothing for us yet).

Microsoft's New Simplified Privacy Policy

ZDNet's Ed Bott spotted several recent updates to Microsoft's privacy statement, the lengthy document covering all of Microsoft's major online services, including Windows 10, OneDrive and others. The most recent update, dated October 2015, addresses concerns over how Microsoft handles your BitLocker drive encryption key as well as how they access your user generated content in response to law enforcement demands, to ensure safe operation of its services, and a few other situations. It also addresses the mandatory collection of telemetry data which can be a concern with many businesses operating under regulations that strictly prohibit dissemination of personal information.

First and foremost, and for us the most important, is how Microsoft will handle and use your encryption data. BitLocker drive encryption by default is backed up to OneDrive online, this is primarily to enable data recovery in certain situations. The previous description of  how and when Microsoft would access those keys was pretty vague. However, they have updated the new statement to note that "Microsoft doesn't use your individual recovery keys for any purpose" making clear that while the keys may be stored on OneDrive, Microsoft will not use them and is not interested in decrypting your disk.

The second major area of concern was how Microsoft would access your user generated content within Windows 10 and on your hard drive. Previously the scope of what they had access to and would share with law enforcement (should the need arise) was unclear. The new text makes it explicit that only files stored on OneDrive and e-mails stored in are covered by the Privacy Policy.

As for other changes they do address a few areas related to improvement of services, data collected for support and other things collected when using Cortana. For those changes I'd suggest reading Ed's full story as he covers it really well.

Gain Control of Windows 10 Updates

Thanks to a new feature in Windows 10 version 1511, you can now postpone or pause Windows 10 upgrades and updates, you don't need to be an expert to do so but you'll need a business edition of Windows 10.

Windows Update for Business (WUB) is essentially an overlay atop Windows Update. It is not a new service, nor a new product, but a new set of controls for managing the timing of how Windows Update delivers upgrades and updates to business editions of Windows 10.

Unfortunately for us Windows 10 Home users to use it you need Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education. The device also needs to be configured for the Current Branch for Business. Neither option is available for PCs running Windows 10 Home, where all updates are automatic. Using WUB, individuals and IT administrators can defer the two-to-three-times-a-year upgrades to devices on the "Current Branch for Business" (CBB), one of the three mainstream upgrade tracks and the one most Windows 10 enterprise machines will adopt.

Setting up WUB is a bit involved and unfortunately since it is relatively new there are few quick walkthroughs available. ZDnet does have a some of the details listed but the best option is likely going to be going through the documentation at TechNet.

Our thoughts on Windows 10

So far we've added Windows 10 to all of our devices including our Dell Intel 2in1, ASUS ROG Gaming laptop (which we just got) and all of our desktops (except one). Using Windows 10 on our Dell Venue Pro is a breeze thanks to the option of quickly changing between tablet and laptop mode. You can disconnect the keyboard and immediately be running in tablet mode for more fluid touchscreen support. One our older desktops machines we've noticed some minor improvements in speed and a slight performance boost.

In the end though we love the unified support structure. We have multiple users, all with their own accounts, that all sync across multiple devices. Additionally of our Windows 10 devices are deployed with the same basic setups so there isn't much need to hunt for files, folders or apps that you might have been using on other machine. It just makes life that much easier when swapping devices.

These new privacy policy changes were a bit concerning for us at first, especially given the nature of some of the things we deal with. Keeping user content safe and protected is always a concern and should be for anyone! The newest changes though really seem to help alleviate most of those concerns. So for anyone out there that has been holding off for the upgrade, I say go for it! But we'd like to hear your thoughts.

Do you think these new privacy policy changes go far enough to cover your concerns? or where you even concerned to begin with? Have you upgraded to Windows 10 yet? Will you now? Shoot us a comment below and share your thoughts.

#spon: I'm required to disclose a relationship between our site and Intel This could include Intel providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

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