(Free)dom from Privacy

I lecture college students on the hidden costs of free software services like Google and Facebook.  If you weren’t aware, services like these make over $500/yr (per user) selling personal data.  They may be free to use, but the hidden costs to privacy are immense.

Of course, it’s easy enough to quit a service like Facebook.  You can erase your profile or just stop using it.  Same with Google Maps and Yahoo Mail and a host of other “free” services that track you.  But what happens when you’re being tracked by something you can’t stop using?

Microsoft just released a fantastic update to its Windows O.S. for free.  What’s the catch?  In the license agreement for Windows 10, you give Microsoft the right to compile and use any information on your computer.  The tracking includes capture of any audio (your Windows microphone is always on).  Keylogging (recording every key typed on your keyboard).  Web history.  Private emails.  You even grant them access to your personal WiFi and bandwidth.  And since your constitutional right to privacy doesn’t extend to private information you give away, the government doesn’t need a warrant to obtain this data.  You’ve essentially consented to making it public.

All to avoid paying $99 for a copy of Windows 10.

Not that paying for a copy gets rid of the tracking problems.  It’s baked into the operating system.  If Microsoft learned one thing from Google and Facebook, it’s that it stands to make a lot more money selling your private information than computer software.

fremium-model2Sure, a computer savvy person can find the menus to disable many (but not all) of these privacy destroying settings, but the average user can’t and won’t.  And just like Facebook, constant updates and “privacy setting” revisions will require you to go back and disable these features again and again.  Google and Facebook slowly got users to accept Orwellian tracking with small incremental updates and resets to their privacy policies and settings, why should Microsoft miss out on the cash grab?

If you’re in a situation where you have to use Windows 10, know that everything done on that machine is not private.  If you don’t have to use Windows 10, don’t.  Stick with an old version of Windows or make the move to Apple, a company that has taken a public stand against these business practices.  If you’re not the customer, you’re the product.  Microsoft is ready to sell everything about you.  All you have to do is download their shiny new operating system.

Written by Jerry Gordon