Too often when we think of digital security and privacy we focus on our online accounts or what software we choose to install, however it's easy to forget that none of that matters if your operating system is compromised.
In the case of Windows 10, your system is compromised out of the box! This means that a substantial amount of personal information is being collected about you and sent to Microsoft by default and for the most part there isn't much you can do about it. Sure you can extensively go through the privacy settings and turn everything off however even still Microsoft will continue to transmit information about you. It is not uncommon for windows updates, which are now compulsory, to revert privacy settings back to their evil defaults, undermining your efforts. With this said it is hard to trust an OS that goes behind your back and does this to you, to my knowledge even Mac OS doesn't do this!
How can I use Windows 10 and remain private?
Unless you are an expert software engineer with an immense amount of programming and reverse engineering experience as well as a substantial amount of time on your hands, the answer is a resounding and absolute NO, you can not use Windows 10 privately! This is because Windows 10 is a hostile piece of software that has been designed from the beginning to spy on it's users. Not to say previous versions of windows don't do this, however Windows 10 takes it to a whole new level. Only a substantial amount of reverse engineering of Windows 10 would transform it into a state where is is less invasive to peoples privacy. Even if you could say yes to everything above, you would still need a large team of people since the source code for Windows 10 numbers in the tens of millions of lines of code. In addition to this reverse engineering of Windows 10 is not permitted by Microsoft so you would need to be OK with your modified creation NOT being legal.
What about malware?
When we think of malware or viruses we often think of software that cripples our system in some way shape or form. We are often so concerned about malware that we go out and buy special pieces of software called anti virus programs whose sole task is to defend our system from these threats, meanwhile never acknowledging the elephant in the room.
Some of the things that Windows 10 does include:
- Upload almost any personal data it can find or derive about you to Microsoft servers.
- Force updates on you when you don't want them.
- Change your privacy settings back to their evil defaults even if you previously chose to turn off the malicious features via updates.
- Harass you to sign in with a Microsoft account so all your online activities with Microsoft services can be tied to your offline activity on your computer.
- Use your bandwidth to update other peoples machines via a P2P network. While this is an interesting idea, your consent should be required first.
This is only a small list, there are many more privacy issues with Windows 10 however I will only list the main issues to keep this post shorter. While we often don't think of Windows 10 being malware it is important to understand that many of the things that it does make it similar in behaviour to a real piece of malware. The only real difference between Windows 10 and what most people would consider real malware is that real malware doesn't wait for you to hit accept on the licence agreement before it starts it malicious activities.
The privacy problem in Windows 10 is systemic, infectious and has infested every aspect of the OS from the start menu to the edge browser. The only refuge from this diabolical OS is to get another OS that takes privacy and security more seriously. One good example is Ubuntu however most Linux distributions are privacy friendly by default. My advice to anyone wanting to escape the clutches of Windows 10 would be to live boot Ubuntu on their computer and try it out. It will take probably minimum one day and maximum one week to get used to the main differences between the two systems, however if you value the privacy of your personal information ( you should! ), then it will be worth the change.