MSFT tries to clear the air on Windows 10 privacy furor

Executives in Redmond were caught flat-footed after this summer’s Windows 10 launch by charges that the new operating system is spying on customers. Several new statements for consumers and IT pros today aim to explain why those accusations are unfounded.

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Microsoft has a privacy problem.   It’s not the one you’ve read about lately, though. Instead, Microsoft’s biggest problem is that its customers don’t understand its privacy policies, and a sensational press is all too eager to manufacture outrage over policies that don’t exist.   In reality, Microsoft has been building privacy protections into its software products for years. Apple sparked a furor over ad blockers with the recent release of iOS 9, for example, but Microsoft built nearly identical tracking protection features into Internet Explorer 9 nearly five years ago.  The company felt confident enough in its privacy practices several years ago to launch an aggressive campaign against Google; the “Scroogled” campaign was widely considered a flop and quietly ended last year.   Given the long awareness of privacy in Redmond, then, the virulent attacks against Windows 10 this summer came as an unwelcome surprise. Critics have accused Windows 10 of spying on customers and collecting data for nefarious purposes, and those criticisms, despite a lack of supporting evidence, have persisted.   The trouble for Microsoft is that its only communication on Windows 10 privacy features so far has been its privacy policy, a long document written by lawyers and designed to cover a broad range of legal situations across hundreds of jurisdictions worldwide. And that is Microsoft’s problem to fix.

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