Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
Ah! Key-loggers… a beginner hacker’s “Hello world” equivalent. It takes less than 20 lines of python to code one, throw it on a pen drive, install it on your classmate’s laptop and BAM! now you have access to his Twitter account. Of course, this being a particularly illegal thing for anyone to do, you wouldn’t expect a well-respected company like Microsoft to pull off something like it.
And you’d be horribly wrong.
Windows 10 is basically on everybody’s PC by now following the aggressive campaign by Microsoft to upgrade everybody’s Windows version for free (and for the last time), and with it came a slew of privacy issues. But the worst offender is a logger that’s installed and enabled by default that tracks every word you type, every document you open and every voice command you give Cortana.
Don’t believe me? Well, I don’t blame you, which is why I’m gonna let Microsoft do the talking instead.
IN CASE YOU DIDN’T READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Nobody reads these. Of course they don’t. Not unless someone love reading pages upon pages of useless legalese. Yet, buried deep inside Window’s 10’s privacy policies and terms and conditions there’s this little nugget of gold (bolding mine):
when you use voice input features like speech-to-text, we may collect voice information and use it for purposes such as improving speech processing (e.g., to help the service better translate speech into text),
when you open a file, we may collect information about the file, the application used to open the file and how long it takes to use it for purposes such as improving performance (e.g., to help retrieve documents more quickly), or
when you input text, handwrite notes or ink comments, we may collect samples of your input to improve these input features, (e.g., to help improve the accuracy of auto-complete and spellcheck).
All of these are taken “as-is” from Microsoft’s official Windows policy document.
Now correct me if I’m wrong, but does that not sound like someone taking your privacy behind the shed to shoot it in the face with a shotgun? Because it sure sounds like it to me. You can’t even just call it a keylogger, because it’s not only recording what you type, but also what you say and what files you’re opening. Your handwriting.
Dick move, Microsoft. Dick move.
SO HOW CAN WE FIX THIS?
Well, you’re in luck because you can turn off these features via the Windows settings themselves. Here’s how.
- Open Start Menu and click Settings
- From the selection provided, open the Privacy settings
- In the General section, turn off “Send Microsoft info about how I write to help us improve typing and writing in the future“. For good measure, just go ahead and turn everything off on this screen. See figure 1 below.
- Finally, in the Speech, inking, & typing section, click the “Stop getting to know me” button and confirm the change when the inevitable popup shows up. Thanks, Microsoft, but I’d rather you not get to know me at all. See figure 2 below.
That should be it. This should disable all the key, voice, ink, handwriting, and file logging (provided Windows actually obeys the rules set in the settings by their users… but that’s a conversation for another day).
Until next time, stay safe.