The level of Windows 10 paranoia reached new heights this week when reports suggested that Microsoft would wipe torrents and pirated software from people's hard drives. Nonsense, of course, but all the recent privacy concerns were enough to have the operating system banned from several torrent trackers.
Since the release of Windows 10 last month many media reports have focused on various privacy intrusions.
The WiFi password sharing feature, for example, or the extensive sharing of personal data and information back to Microsoft’s servers. The list goes on and on.
While we’re the last ones to defend these policies, it is worth pointing out that many other large tech companies have similar privacy violating policies. Reading rants about Windows 10 privacy on Facebook is particularly ironic.
This week things took a turn for the worse. Slowly but steadily reports started pouring in that Windows 10 has a built-in piracy kill switch. If we were to believe some of the reports, Microsoft would nuke all torrents downloaded from The Pirate Bay.
The truth is nowhere near as dystopian though. The controversy originates from a single line in Microsoft’s Service Agreement which allows the company to download software updates and configuration changes that may prevent people from “playing counterfeit games.”
This change isn’t limited to Windows 10 but covers many services. Also, there is no indication that this will ever be used to target third-party games, which is highly unlikely.
Still, the recent privacy concerns have some torrent tracker staffers worried. During the week TF received reports informing us that several private trackers have banned Windows 10, or are considering doing so.
The staffers at iTS explain that Windows 10 is off-limits now because of the extensive amount of data it shares. This includes connections to MarkMonitor, the brand protection company which is also involved in the U.S. Copyright Alert System.
“Unfortunately Microsoft decided to revoke any kind of data protection and submit whatever they can gather to not only themselves but also others. One of those is one of the largest anti-piracy company called MarkMonitor,” iTS staff note.
“Amongst other things Windows 10 sends the contents of your local disks directly to one of their servers. Obviously this goes way too far and is a serious threat to sites like ours which is why we had to take measures,” they add.
While this may sound scary, Microsoft has been working with MarkMonitor for years already. Among other things, the company helps to keep scammers at bay.
There is no evidence that any piracy related info is being shared. Still, the connection is raising red flags with other tracker operators as well. More trackers reportedly ban Windows 10 and others including BB and FSC are consider to follow suit.
“We have also found [Windows 10] will be gathering information on users’ P2P use to be shared with anti piracy group,” BB staff writes to its users.
“What’s particularly nasty is that apparently it sends the results of local(!!) searches to a well known anti piracy company directly so as soon as you have one known p2p or scene release on your local disk … BAM!”
The same sentiment is shared at FSC where staff also informed users about the threat.
“As we all know, Microsoft recently released Windows 10. You as a member should know, that we as a site are thinking about banning the OS from FSC. That would mean you cannot use the site with the OS installed,” FSC staff writes.
While a paranoid mindset is definitely not a bad thing for people in the business of managing a torrent community, banning an operating system over privacy concerns is a bit much for most. Especially since many of the same issues also affect earlier versions of Windows.
Luckily, the most invasive privacy concerns can be dealt with by configuring Windows properly. Or any other operating system, application or social network for that matter.
Instead of banning something outright, it may be a good idea to inform the public on specific dangers and educate them how they can be alleviated.