Last year, Microsoft did something strange–they started giving away their latest Operating System. This raised a lot of warning alarms for people like me. “Why would Microsoft, who has always earned most of their money through sales of Windows, suddenly be giving away their breadmaker?”
It didn’t take long to figure out why, though–Microsoft saw it as an opportunity to basically become one of the free apps on the Google Play Store, or to become like the many websites on the Internet who use trackers to collect pseudonymous data about you and sell that information to advertisers. Microsoft is no longer selling an Operating System. They are selling you. You are their new product, not Windows 10.
This is one of the few places where I adamantly disagree with Jim Sterling, whose primary rise to fame appears to have been on YouTube with the Escapist, where he needed the ad revenue in order to be paid. He even made a video respectfully asking people to disable Adblock so that they could be paid, and I refused to do it. Because I’m not a commodity.
I long ago abandoned Google Chrome, because it became the same thing. It is infested with trackers and aggregators that collect pseudonymous information about you, and then sells that information to advertisers. You and your behavior become the product, the commodity; it’s no wonder they are giving the browser away! The more people who take it, the more information Google gets, and the more money they make by selling that info to advertisers. This is how the Internet works now. This is not a conspiracy theory or a tinfoil hat rant–this is real life, and really how it works.
Microsoft has now done the same thing, but they have even more clout, even more potential to collect information, because they hold the Operating System itself. Google has not stooped this low. If Android was doing this, the Android power users would abandon it in a heartbeat, but I still use Android. Trust me. For the time being, Android isn’t aggregating information on you. Samsung and your carrier might be, but Android itself is not.
It’s not because I’m doing anything shady or illegal that I don’t want to be tracked. It’s just that… I don’t want to be tracked. Why would I be okay with someone constantly looking over my shoulder to see what I’m typing, what my interests are? It’s like being followed by a private investigator 24/7. Fuck that.
It’s even more insidious than that, though. It’s like one company hired the private investigator to find out everything about you so that the private investigator could sell that information to advertisers. They hide under the guise of “improving your experience.”
Like Microsoft 10’s Cortana, a digital assistant that, allegedly, would make things easy for the end user. But it won’t. Like Apple’s own Siri, the information isn’t processed locally; it sends the request to Microsoft’s servers, which process the request and send the results back to you. Just like that, “what you’re searching for” is in Microsoft’s hands, and you no longer have any control over what happens to that information. It doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to see a problem with this, not when Microsoft has rejected your privacy rights in the past.
I really like some of the features of Windows 10. The multiple desktops? Beautiful. I’m going to get tons of use out of that, and the same is true of Task View. Being able to right-click the Start Button to get access to all the admin/power user tools is beautiful and long overdue. No more clicking Start > Control Panel > Network & Sharing Center > Network Adapter Settings. Now it’s just right-click, Network Connections. Awesome. All of the features I need on a typical day to fix people’s computers–they’re all right there, simply by right-clicking.
I actually like the way that Metro was implemented, as well. Being able to use the categories to separate my games by type will be nice, though it will take me a while to dive into and configure that. And it’s unnecessary, since I launch most of my games through Steam anyway.
I hate that I still can’t create a shortcut to a particular folder on the taskbar, and I don’t understand why that’s such a complex thing to want. Vista allowed it, and it’s why Vista continues to be my favorite version of Windows. It started badly, primarily because it was being released on Windows XP hardware–512 MB of RAM and single-core CPUs that could never have handled it; Vista wasn’t to blame for that. Computer manufacturers were. And Microsoft, for underestimating how resource heavy Vista was.
All I want to be able to do is create a “Games” folder that contains about 20 other folders like “RPGs” and “FPSs” and “RTSs” and drag-and-drop the Games folder onto the taskbar. Then, when I want to play a game, I just have to click the icon, and it will take me right to the Games folder. But that’s impossible in Windows 7, 8, and 10. 7 used Libraries, and I had to make the Games folder a Library, and even then clicking the icon wouldn’t take me to a particular Library–it would take me to all the Libraries. 10 is about the same, except that whatever shortcut gets put there simply opens the File Explorer. Why is this simple thing impossible to accomplish now?
However, functionally, Windows 10 appears to do everything else right–I don’t have any other problems with it, and the multiple desktops (and excellent Task View) are clear improvements. The only issue is that Windows 10 doesn’t give a shit about your privacy. Because Microsoft can’t afford to care about your privacy.
Follow these guides to protect your privacy, and to tell Microsoft “I am not a commodity.”
http://winaero.com/blog/how-to-disable-telemetry-and-data-collection-in-windows-10/ — especially this one. Be sure to restart your computer after changing the registry.
You can use Windows 10 and still protect your privacy; you can use Windows 10 while still refusing to be a commodity. I strongly suggest you do it, because the world has changed. We are now being bought and sold on a daily basis; we are the commodities of the future.
Ask yourself this question: Why would Microsoft give away an Operating System? PC users have long been accustomed to buying OSs; this isn’t mobile, where Operating Systems are expected to be free. Beyond that, what use could Windows possibly have for using geolocation? For one example, it would use that information with Microsoft’s Weather app to tell you the weather in your area. But wouldn’t someone who wants the weather use the awful, used-to-be-everywhere WeatherBug utility? Or simply google “weather <zip code>”?
Why has Microsoft, who has a long history of charging top dollar for its programs, suddenly included Mail, Calendar, People, Maps, Weather, Sports, News, TV, and all these other built-in apps that you canremove using Cccleaner, and given them away for free? Sure, there have always been a few bare essential tools–Calculator, Solitaire (which, as I hear, is no longer free), and even Outlook Express back in the day. But why these robust, seemingly-useful applications?
Because they provide an excuse to collect information about you, to sell to advertisers. And none of this data is anonymous, which is why we have the word pseudonymous now. You can be identified from this data. Researchers at MIT have proven it, and have done it. But even if you couldn’t be identified by it, why would someone be okay with having someone constantly looking over their shoulders saying, “Oh, you like football…?”
Do you really want your ads to be confined solely to things you’re interested in? Do you realize how difficult it makes it to try something new? If you’re interested in football, archery, and Game of Thrones, then you’ll see ads only related to these things (ideally–the technology isn’t that refined yet, but it will be). Maybe you’d like tennis, if only you were exposed to it. But in the future, you won’t be exposed to it unless you’ve already expressed an interest in it. Do you see how this could be a problem for society? For freedom and justice?
If you’re not interested in political matters, why would Google News suggest to you an article about how the NSA is illegally spying on us en masse? It wouldn’t. If you haven’t shown an interest in politics, then why would Google News suggest an article about Hillary and her private email server that unequivocally violated Federal Law and common sense? It wouldn’t. The information you receive becomes controlled, dictated not by the state, but by yourself. The state doesn’t have to control the media; you will bury your own head in the sand without even knowing it.
Fast forward fifty years, and you have a population that is the most ignorant to ever walk the Earth, and this is happening during the Age of Information. The sum of human knowledge is literally at our fingertips, and yet the average person is less educated than ever, compared to what is known. Facebook controls what you see–if you don’t like politics, Facebook won’t show you when your friends discuss the very important elections. Neither will Google, Microsoft, or Apple. You won’t know that we recently proved the existence of the Higgs Boson, or that we recently proved the existence of gravity waves, because you’ll never have shown an interest in learning about these things–because you never knew these things existed to be learned about, thanks to targeted advertising and these trackers.
We are blindly rushing toward this future. Despite all the connectivity we’ve invented, despite the wealth of information in the palms of our hands, and despite the countless ways we have to bring one another into our lives, we are wrapping ourselves in protective cocoons of ignorance, shutting out everyone else, and Keeping Up With the Kardashians while the world burns around us.
We must change. This is our world. This is OUR world. It’s time we took it back.
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