Microsoft vs. Privacy: Windows 10's Controversial Tracking Tools Hitting Windows 7, 8


The data-mining tools that concerned Windows 10 users are now hitting Windows 7 and 8 as well, with a trio of updates bringing more tracking than before.

For those unfamiliar with the situation, here's the deal: one of the most controversial and criticized aspects of the latest Windows 10 operating system from Microsoft was the way the OS tracks users. Many who saw the extensive tracking Windows 10 employed have decided to stay on Windows 7 or Windows 8, but there's no escape from those tracking tools now.

Just as August was wrapping up, updates KB3068708, KB3022345, KB3075249 and KB3080149 rolled out and software specialist website gHacks warned that they were bringing new features for data collection and tracking users' behavior.

Now, a little more than week after that warning, the rollout has officially kicked off and the features are indeed making themselves at home with Windows 7 and Windows 8, with KB3068708 replacing the KB3022345 and the other two—KB3075249, KB3080149—remaining as they were. In other words, last week's rollout was just the warning and the final preparation, now it's the real deal.

All three new updates equip Windows 7 and Windows 8 with "customer experience and diagnostic telemetry" (see image above), which basically means they keep an eye on how consumers use Windows and send that information to Microsoft.

On the bright side, KB3080149 and KB3075249 appear in Windows Update as "Optional," which means that Windows 8 and Windows 7 users will have to give them express permission to install. KB3068708, meanwhile, ranks as "Recommended" rather than "Optional," which means that Windows 7 and 8 PCs with Automatic Update turned on will automatically install the update by default.

It's worth pointing out that the update should apply to those in Microsoft's Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP), which is an opt-in program that gets user to agree to send data to Microsoft. Based on user comments to gHacks' report, however, it seems the updates may not be so optional after all.

One user, "dusanmal," reports explicitly opting out from CEP when installing, but the PC still installed these updates.

"Hence, maybe these are additional parts of CEIP in some manner but they also operate on their own and will be installed on CEIP-opted-out machines," speculated the user in question.

Another user notes that uninstalling these updates, defragmenting and hiding them didn't do much good, as they came up again.

This whole update scheme may be a ploy to get more Windows 7 and Windows 8 users to upgrade to the latest Windows 10, now that the dreaded tracking features no longer plague just the new OS.

Either way, one thing's for sure: Windows is now collecting more data from its users, regardless of whether they use the latest OS version or an older one.

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