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Windows 10 PrivacyWindows 10, the new operating system from Microsoft is causing some waves. Sure, it follows the typical MS development or the rule of three. Only the third version is OK. We have had Windows 8, 8.1 (which they packaged as a "minor" upgrade…whatever) and now 10. Thus, this one should be OK. And it seems to be… if one holds one's nose and ignores the "invasion of privacy" stench.

Come again?

THE SITUATION AS WE ALL SEE IT

Windows 10 is your typical Microsoft operating system. From a tech perspective it offers something new (Metro interfaces, Apps, Cortana, and a few other goodies) and something old (the Windows 7 menu, Desktop and so on). But what is relatively new is the unabashed and unrelenting ram against privacy that W10 unveils. This push has now reached epidemic proportions.

True, Microsoft always pushed the limits of what is legal, ethical and/or moral; depending on your views. This we can relate to previous experiences going back to the venerable DOS (Disk Operating System) with the now famous FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) and later on with the GUI version into the "recipe for the secret sauce" (Google it if you don't believe us) or the ongoing TPM (or Trusted Platform Module). If all these names sound ominous is because they…well… are.

In following with this line of thought, everybody is quite familiar with the legendary propensity of MS OSs to be…well… less than stable… to put it in politically correct terms. Unless you are a techie that needs to support MS products on a daily basis, in which case you will overhear appellations such as "piece of sh**", "this is cra*" and some other descriptions not suitable to be muttered in polite company.

As if this would not be enough, we are all well familiar with the ridiculous prices that MS charges for its products and all the… tactical… and …. strategic… ejem! decisions that had taken over the years to "increase its market share"… some of which are now famous because they ended in front of judicial or legislative bodies.

The latest iteration of these cycles is Windows 10. Which was suspiciously given away as a "free" upgrade if you have Windows 7. But why would Microsoft do so? What's in it for Microsoft?

Simple, money. And a lots of it.

From our perspective Windows 10 is not a new version of an operating system but a platform for selling products. Microsoft products and other peoples' products. You see, the holy grail of marketing has always been targeted advertisement. If you understand your potential client, you can offer them what they are prone to buy.

Microsoft did just that with Windows 10.

Look at it from MS's perspective. Windows 8 was terrible and it had to be re-written at a gigantic cost. This gave rise to Windows 8.1 which had to be released as a service pack not to irate the customers who bought into Windows 8. But even this wasn't enough. So, Windows 8.1 had to be re-written and it had to be released as a service pack for users of Windows 8.1.

But what if?

What if W8.2 (aka W10) would be re-labeled with a little something extra added to the mix. What is that extra?

Pervasive "monitoring". The current count of the different W10 applications (or apps) and OS "functions" that spy out-of-the-box on what a customer is doing is in the neighbourhood of about 30…after you disable all the obvious ones. That we know of. How many apps are there watching over everything you do, type, visit and say? Who knows. This is proprietary Microsoft information. What information are they collecting? Exactly? And more importantly, for what purposes? And resold or shared with whom? Who knows. The roughly 5000 words from the EULA which leads to the roughly 17000 words of their Microsoft Privacy Statement which in term leads to other countless legal web pages from Microsoft and third party providers themselves is not sufficiently specific. All those documents seem to be technically and legally correct, but what they don't tell us is how is that going to affect our lives. Who will target us and/or for what purpose? What are the problems with this practice? How can (and probably will be) abused. All this falls within what many people call "privacy concerns" and what other people have described as "intolerable interference in our lives". Make no mistake; W10 is designed to be a selling platform. Period. Oh, yes, and it does provide a few other benefits.

They know this.

We know this.

Everybody knows this. Yet…

THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE

Yet people keep buying and/or upgrading MS products. Even though Microsoft was compared many time with the "Evil Empire" and Bill Gates was even portrayed a Dart Vader. Even though you can get far more powerful operating systems for free, open source, based on flavours of Unix-like operating systems and supported by and army of volunteers throughout the world.

Yet, people keep buying and/or upgrading to MS products. Why?

An explanation could be provided in terms of psychology, marketing, "dirty tricks", and so on. But in ultimate analysis and from a commercial perspective it all comes down to what Bill Gates once said: "it is good enough". And that's it.

For the paid price, for regular people, it is good enough. That's all they need. That's all they want. People are not interested in the intricacies of Unix-like OSs and their technological wizardry. People are interested in what they are interested into and Microsoft is the master of deliverance. Microsoft delivers what people want. And this is the secret of their success. And this is exactly what Austrian Economics has been telling us for a very long time.

CHOICES ARE SUBJECTIVE

We know that the reasons why we assign value to a good or service are purely subjective. We want what we want for personal reasons. In the case of W10 we want it because it is free but also because it is new, and slick and cool and it has some new toys and so on. We, those who upgraded to it, made the comparison between all the negatives (particularly privacy) versus all the positives and determined that W10 was indeed a good deal.

We exercised our free right to choose and we did it through economic calculations and subjective preferences and observations. The choices we made when we selected W10 diminished our uneasiness beyond the uneasiness that W10 introduced. It is a trade-off. It always is. We consciously accepted Microsoft spying on what we do for the benefit of having W10. That is the price we chose to pay to get W10.

This choice is purely a free one. We made it for our own benefit. But what about "abuse" and "exploitation" of our private information?

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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