Vista Users Beware: Big Brother is Watching

Dennis Faas's picture released a nice article regarding the plethora of Windows Vista "features and services" that collect, maintain and transmit your personal data to Microsoft and/or their "controlled subsidiaries and affiliates."

If you're going to use Vista, you really don't have much say in the matter. Microsoft makes it crystal-clear that they're gathering information.

The Vista Privacy Statement and the End User License Agreement (EULA) references most of these "features and services", but not all of them.

"This disclosure focuses on features that communicate with the Internet and is not intended to be an exhaustive list. It does not apply to other Microsoft sites, services and products."

Microsoft also makes it perfectly clear in the EULA that you are licensing it, not owning it. The Vista EULA is bad news for consumers.

With Vista, Microsoft provides a set of Internet-based services, which gives them full control of you and your data, including alteration and cancellation powers. Some of these "services" notify you that data is being collected and shared and some of them don't. The only way to stop this data mining is to know which services and features collect the data and turn them off or to not use them. Vista doesn't play nicely with third party freeware that performs some functions just as well as or better than the ones built into Windows.

Here are just a few of the services that collect and send data to Microsoft:

Auto Root Update, Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP), Device Manager Digital Certificates, Driver Protection, Dynamic Update, File Association Web Service, Games Folder, Input Method Editor (IME), Installation Improvement Program, Internet Explorer 7, IPv6 Network Address Translation (NAT) Traversal Service (Teredo), Network Awareness, Network Connectivity Status Icon, Parental Controls, Peer Name Resolution Service, Plug and Play, Plug and Play Extensions, Program Compatibility Assistant, Rights Management Services (RMS) Client, Update Root Certificates, Windows Control Panel, Windows Mail (Windows Live Mail, Hotmail, or MSN Mail), Windows Media Digital Rights Management and Windows Media Player.

There are several more listed on the Vista Privacy Statement site with explanations of what they do. We won't even go into detail about the nightmare or ineptitude of Windows Genuine Advantage.

With all these services running, it's no wonder Vista requires special hardware. Forcing everyone to buy a new computer helps a lot of the Microsoft "controlled subsidiaries and affiliates" sell their expensive hardware. Vista requires heftier hardware so Microsoft can gain full control of you and your system. There are more than enough issues here to raise several red flags regarding user privacy.

Microsoft tells you that you can disable these "features and services' or not use them. If previous history holds true though, turning off or disabling some of these services may cause glitches or potentially harm your system.

The two paragraphs below are part of the Windows Vista Privacy Statement:

"The personal information we collect from you will be used by Microsoft and its controlled subsidiaries and affiliates to provide the service(s) or carry out the transaction(s) you have requested or authorized, and may also be used to request additional information on feedback that you provide about the product or service that you are using; to provide important notifications regarding the software; to improve the product or service, for example bug and survey form inquiries; or to provide you with advance notice of events or to tell you about new product releases".

"Microsoft may disclose personal information about you if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to: (a) comply with the law or legal process served on Microsoft; (b) protect and defend the rights of Microsoft (including enforcement of our agreements); or (c) act in urgent circumstances to protect the personal safety of Microsoft employees, users of Microsoft software or services, or members of the public."

For more insight and information, see the Windows Vista privacy statement and the EULA (PDF) for Vista Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate.

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