Why You Must Dump Microsoft NOW

MicrosoftI’ve written about dumping Microsoft before – and I stand by those comments – but the newest outrage from Redmond forces me to it again. I don’t care how “inconvenient” you think it may be, you have to stop enriching Microsoft. NOW.

Yes, I have serious issues with Apple too, but at least Wozniak and Jobs started out as real hackers. Gates was a political monopolist, and it still shows.

What’s Happening Now

As of August 1, 2015 (that is, a few days ago), Microsoft announced a new privacy policy and a new services agreement. In the words of one network professional, “Basically, they redefined their operating system to be spyware.”

The European Digital Rights organization examined these new policies in depth and concluded this:

Summing up these 45 pages, one can say that Microsoft basically grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say, and write with and on your devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties. The company appears to be granting itself the right to share your data either with your consent “or as necessary.”

If you’d like to verify anything, you can find the privacy statement here and the services agreement here.

The Ugly Details

The first detail to mention is that this applies to “Bing, Cortana, MSN, Office, OneDrive, Outlook.com, Skype, Windows, Xbox, and other Microsoft services… Microsoft websites, apps, software, and devices.” So, more or less anything of theirs that you touch.

And of course, they are doing all of this for you! Or at least they say so.

They collect… in their own words:

[Y]our first and last name, email address, postal address, phone number, … passwords, password hints, and similar security information, … your age, gender, country and preferred language, … your location, … the teams you follow, … the stocks you track, … favorite cities, … credit card number and the security code, … items you purchase, the web pages you visit, and the search terms you enter, … IP address, device identifiers, … your contacts and relationships, … your documents, photos, music or video you upload, … subject line and body of email, text or other content of an instant message, audio and video recording of a video message.

And so on.

Now, if you are prepared to jump through a lot of hoops, they say you can opt out of some of this… not that many people will ever do it.

I’m not going to bore you with everything, but I will add just a few more tidbits:

  • Windows now has a device encryption feature, but they keep a copy of your recovery key, stored in their (very secure, trust us) “cloud.”

  • The also grab “data about the networks you connect to.” I interpret that as, “All your networks are belong to us too.”

  • “[W]e will access, disclose, and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications, or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary.” (Their own words!) What that really means is, “We’ll listen in, record what you type, then store it or sell it as we see fit.”

Why Do They Do This?

Fundamentally, there are three reasons they do this:

People are suckers for ‘free.’ For reasons that I won’t go through here, the Internet has been overrun with an expectation that services should be free. That’s impossible, of course, but people want it all the same. So, clever people learned how to do make it possible: by trading in personal information.

And so, being an amoral, money-centric operation, Microsoft is running after the new model. Anything for a buck.

Keeping up with the Zuckerbergs. Google and Facebook became famous, sexy, and powerful playing the “own their private data” game, and Microsoft doesn’t want to be an also-ran. They want to be and remain the big dog. They want their status.

To service their masters. As best I can tell, Microsoft has sucked up to spy agencies and governments from the beginning, and this is just more of the same. A year or so ago, the FBI was complaining about encryption, moaning that it would enable people to “go dark.” These new policies will ensure that it never happens to anyone who uses a Microsoft product. I’m sure the watchers are appreciative.

What Should I do?

Move to Linux. Now.

And no, it’s not too hard. Millions of people use Linux every day, including housewives, children, and grandparents.

The version of Linux I like best is Linux Mint. With it, you can run OpenOffice (also called LibreOffice), which does everything essential that MS Office does. Then get Firefox for a browser and Thunderbird for email, and you’re in business.

A Final Warning

The stealing of your personal data is a much bigger deal than you probably think it is. I devoted an entire issue of my subscription newsletter to this (FMP #59), and I won’t be able to cover it today, but it is a major threat to the future… and the near future.


If you’re even thinking about getting Windows 10, please take a look at these annotated pages of Win 10 documentation. You can enlarge them.

Paul Rosenberg

26 thoughts on “Why You Must Dump Microsoft NOW”

  1. EH. My apologies but I must post some facts since I am a Microsoft Engineer. First off, Microsoft has been collecting this sort of data, opt-in-at-install, since Windows XP.
    A great deal of the decisions made with Windows 10 are of the ‘damned if you do’ and ‘damned if you don’t’ variety. When we made Windows Update optional for home users — users went years without updating their machines. As a result, an entire culture of remote exploitation, hacking, and bot-nets emerged. In Windows 10 (Home Edition only), updates are automatic. This is actually in line with nearly every other piece of software out there nowadays that auto-updates on launch.
    When you encrypt people’s cloud storage (remember, this is the free storage not the business storage) people have this great habit of losing their encryption keys and then calling up Microsoft expecting us to somehow let them in to their personal photos, data, etc, which are now gone forever. We decided to do what every other Cloud provider does and safeguard this. You can STILL encrypt your files and information using any other form of encryption — and obviously if you lose THAT key — you’re on your own. Again, these are decisions made to service the 80% majority of home users. Apple/Google does the same thing.
    What you call a key-logger (or the link does) — is the same telemetry data that’s been collected for at least 2 generations of operating systems and about 20+ versions of browsers. When you type a term into the browser bar, address bar, search bar or anything that requires a ‘search and result’, that information is sent to our servers in an anonymized fashion and used to improve our search algorithms. Google does this, Apple does this, everyone providing instantaneous search results does it. It is also Opt-out.
    Real-Time Protection is turned on — this is Microsoft’s virus scanner. What happens when you allow grandpa, grandma, and everyone else to turn it off? They surf the web, get a virus, and then blame it on Microsoft. Their computer gets hijacked and now it’s a bot-net — or their personal information gets stolen and now they’re on the 6 o’clock news. Again, damned if you do, damned if you don’t. As a company, we decided that we’d go in the direction of greater, and transparent security (transparent as in – it doesn’t get in your way). People used to turn off virus scanning because they thought it slowed their computer down. Our built in scanner is the best performing scanner ever designed (really, look it up), and has a minimal footprint. On modern, multi-core machines where Windows 10 will be deployed — it’s a less than negligible performance impact in exchange for a DRAMATIC boost in GLOBAL computer safety.
    The Wifi password share feature that is getting all the fear mongering is nonsense. The feature has been out since 2012. It only shares with windows devices and it only shares encrypted tokens. Basically, other machines which are windows devices, which you CHOOSE to share with, can share on your network without having to be given the password explicitly. At no point is the password in clear-text. It’s a convenience feature, and it can be turned off entirely. The other thing that is a convenience factor is the ability to share those wifi passwords with your friends on facebook/skype. The idea being that if you and your friends work/live/play together you can get on wifi without having to constantly ask the password. You also get around having to share any password — the system encrypts and shares the token. For god’s sake it’s a MORE SECURE way to share wifi information since you don’t have to give out your passwords! It’s also opt-out.
    Finally, like any other company which operates in the United States — we have a disclaimer about information and data storage. IF YOU CHOOSE to put your information in the cloud AND you choose not to use personal encryption — we can’t help you if the gov’t comes knocking with a warrant for a information.
    It’s really — the same Windows it’s always been — except this time it’s more reliable, less likely to leave people exposed to vulnerabilities and viruses — and integrated with the cloud so that your photos/music/documents aren’t lost if your drive crashes.
    Are all these things that an individual could be responsible for themselves? Yes. In an age of APPLE phones that do everything for you though — people expect things to ‘just work’. They expect that the software is smart enough to back up their stuff AND be able to recover it when they forget their encryption key. They expect that the software will just update without having to be asked — and protect them from viruses.
    My 2 cents…

    1. I appreciate your perspective, Jonathan, but I see you saying two primary things:
      1. We’ve done it before.
      2. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
      I find #1 to be far less than compelling. Is it any comfort to the man whose house was robbed that he was robbed last year as well? I don’t know your intent, but I’ve seen that same argument come from intentional deceivers, saying, “old news, doesn’t matter now,” whose real intent was to shut down outrage and thought with a ‘Jedi Mind Trick.’
      #2, likewise, fails to convince me. I manage a privacy company, and there are areas of operation that would be easier for us if we read through customer data… but we don’t. If it makes more work for us, we do the extra work. Or, if we have to, we raise our price to compensate. But we do not sell out our customers because of inconvenience. Microsoft should have done likewise. They have the luxury of far more people and money than we do. If we can do it, they can do it.

      1. Thanks for your response Paul. I agree with you on those points as well (point 2 anyway). It’s unfortunately nearly impossible to avoid collecting data and yet at the same time deliver everything that current and future customers want (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook customers that is). With this generation (and to some degree even my generation) having grown up on instantaneous access to data and a ‘just make it work’ mentality — “manage all your own stuff” doesn’t work.
        Obviously, you’re not entirely wrong in your assessment and I wouldn’t be a reader of your site if I didn’t value your perspective — but I also don’t think that Microsoft is this big scary company out to steal your data and spy on you. Nearly every piece of data is opt-in/out and nearly every piece is scrubbed to be anonymous. It’s certainly not perfect though.
        My intent isn’t to excuse Microsoft but more to try to be objectively correct in my statements. That is to say — things like “it’s stealing your wifi passwords” are simply not true. Do we store an encrypted form of your wifi password? Yes. Does give us any special access? No. Well, not unless Microsoft were to drive up to your home and attempt to connect to your wifi with the password (it serve no purpose outside physically connecting to the wifi when in range). So I’m just trying to clarify the misconceptions.
        Are you objectively safer on LINUX MINT? Maybe, if you take the time to secure the system and stay on top of it. Would the average user’s personal information be safer on Windows 10? I think so, because our research has shown that the average user isn’t paying attention to their updates, and isn’t following best practices while on the internet. Is it the best option for everyone? No. In particular for individuals who are tech savvy or willing to explore.

        1. Maybe Microsoft is not using the personal data it collects in a bad way, but don’t forget that this company, as well as almost all the other tech companies, is in bed with the NSA and who knows which other agency.
          It is probably for this reason that Mr Dogooder Gates considers Snowden as a traitor…

          1. Don’t forget the awesome Google data center rape by the NSA. That was not even a consensual act in bed between Google and NSA. Probably a lot of the same going on between Microsoft and NSA …

        2. Actually, I blame most of the situation that we’re in on the cheap all in the box 286 and 386 systems, that were available back in the late ’80s, where you could buy a whole “computer system” in one package. Before that, most people had to build their own systems and for the most part, had some knowledge of how DOS and other programs worked. But once the “bundle” came out, just anyone could buy and install their own computer system and from then on, we raised a couple of generations that want their stull to “just work”.

          1. and just a hundred years ago, you risked life, limb and wrist to set the timing, mixture AND hand-crank the engine of your car Just To Start It….
            Today, you don’t even turn a key… you push a button.
            Simpler? Easier? Safer? Yes, Yes, Yes, from the user’s point of view and No, No, Maybe from the designer/manufacturer’s point of view.
            Do you understand the concepts of Tradeoffs?

          2. I’m not disputing that there aren’t tradeoffs….. What I’m saying is that in the early days of computing, we troubleshot and fixed our own computers. Now, most people have to take them in because they are just computer users not computer operators. Just like most people can’t change the oil in their own cars.. They’ve divorced themselves from the operation of what they own.

        3. I think you’re missing the most important point here, Jonathan.
          Microsoft is essentially and immorally exposing its customers to severe risks by exploiting their “Tech Ignorance” while simultaneously granting itself immunity for doing so, all-the-while deceiving them through the veil of Omission.
          It use to be, that Pharmaceutical Companies were allowed to market their products WITHOUT disclosing potential or common side affects. That has changed because of Consumer Protection Laws. Micro$oft is trying to circumvent Liability Issues by granting itself Immunity, or so they think.
          I beg to differ on your claim that ” It’s unfortunately nearly impossible to avoid collecting data and yet
          at the same time deliver everything that current and future customers
          want . . .”, in fact I do it easily and “at will”. While it does Slightly increase access times to web-sites anonymity is NOT an Issue and the cost is ,in reality, nominal especially when risk assessment is factored in. To me, it appears that you have been Conned by ignorant but well trained / programmed deceivers.
          Don’t take that as an insult cause it wasn’t intended to be. It’s merely a challenge to expand your awareness and seek alternatives which expose “the Conn” so that you too can protect yourself. Micro$oft doesn’t, per se’ , have to be the hacker that exploits what Micro$oft Policies, Practices, and Products ENABLES someone else to exploit. None-the-less they are OR should be Ultimately Responsible for losses due to their negligence and Intentional deception.
          I use the word “Intentional” purposely here because it, Micro$oft, is wise enough to protect itself (a 34 pg. EULA is proof) but if / when litigation is initiated for damage claims INTENT will be just another Flaw it tries to exploit in the court proceedings. Another legal concept comes to mind here. The concept of “Reasonable Expectation” which should nullify any defensive approach The Micro$oft Legal Staff claims as applicable. But that won’t help their abused customers regain lost privileged data. Hopefully you won’t be victimized.

    2. Glad to see your well thought explanation. While I am computer adept, I recognize the validity that most people fail to secure their computers and data.
      It’s difficult for people to be capable in all the arenas of complex society. Whether it’s technology, finance, health, etc., at some point dependence on others is required. The problem of course is the motivation of those who are entrusted with care, counseling, services or product.
      I believe a vanguard of moral and ethical thinkers and doers with altruistic motives will in time be the lever to uplift society from its current greed-madness and self-lust. This becomes particularly potent if values of spirit accompany meanings of mind. Meanwhile, it behooves us all to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

    3. Those wonderful “Auto Updates” last week disabled many customers who had nvidia video cards.. Nvidia cards aren’t some weird configuration.. They are vanilla and installed in many, many desktops! And You wonder why We don’t want auto updates?

    4. Very nice tech perspective Jonathan, all well a good. But you totally dodged the business practice angle that has everyone up in arms about. Just because ‘everyone else in the tech industry does it’ does not make it moral or right. Microsoft just decided to take the easy road, and copy the rest of the slime in the IT world.
      I worked in the IT industry for 40 years and I am damn ashamed of what that business has become. Most would sell their own mothers to ISIS for an extra million clicks.

    5. I recently allowed my computer to update for the first time in months. What happened was during the (overnight-long) update, both I-tunes and the VLC music player disappeared along with my thousands of songs. (Loaded on from my CDs). Luckily, I had backups. NO MORE UPDATES EVER ! Or wire hangars either !
      I will be switching to Linux soon. Thanks for the timely article.

  2. Avoiding Microsoft, and basically almost every tech company because they all spy on you, is useless.
    I thing the best is to use internet while keeping in mind that everything you do, watch, write, will somehow be known.
    If you want to keep something away from prying eyes, then do it outside of the net…after all it was possible to do it less than 20 years ago, so it probably still is.
    For example, if you don’t want other people to know what you read, go to the bookstore instead of throwing money into the Amazon sinkhole…

    1. “Avoiding Microsoft, and basically almost every tech company because they all spy on you, is useless.”
      This sounds like you are making excuses not to do it. The funny thing is, you no longer need any excuses. Linux is a very easy alternative, unlike a few years ago. You don’t have to be a super nerd any more.
      No doubt people are stuck on Windows for good reasons (not that their product is better, but more like because it is inconvenient to make a move). But linux applications handle windows files and file systems just fine.
      While it might be hard to have security so good that the nosy bastards can never break it, even with linux, this is more like securing your home from burglary. You cannot do a perfect job at that either, but you can make it good enough that the burglar moves on to another victim. Windows is like putting a welcome mat out for burglars.

      1. I don’t use Windows, I have a tablet with Android, that is to say Google, who is behind Android.
        And I know that they “spy” on me simply because the advertisement banners they cover my screen with are so well targeted that they have to read my emails to get such results.
        For example, I get ads in French, even though I NEVER visit a French website…only in some emails do I write in French…

    2. If your device is ‘infected’ then no amount of security can help you, except for not using the said device. Windows 10 is a infection, don’t use it if you care at all about your, your family, and friend’s privacy.
      If privacy is super important to you, don’t use any USA hosted cloud services, like Outlook .com, Office Live, Gmail, Gdrive, Yahoo mail, etc. All services hosted in USA are being monitored by NSA.

  3. I gotta tell you, windows 10 is a lot more fun to use than Ubuntu. Specifically cortana and the touch feature. On Ubuntu, touch lags about a fraction of a second and the is no pinch in and out. I disabled much of the spy features but i really like 10. Still i wish Ubuntu would incorporate many of the touch and tile features 10 has.

    1. Microsoft has never gotten the idea that when someone buys their product, that the buyer owns it now; Microsoft has no further interest, other than implied warranty. That is what updates are about – the product was buggy to begin with.
      Mickysoft has another conceptual problem: because some of their customers make bad decisions, is no reason that they should make bad decisions. A lot of geeky people have made a good living cleaning up spyware, viruses, and scrambled registries, because of lack of backups/updates – and that is precisely what is wrong. People have the right to mess up – whether with their computer (after all, it is theirs), their car , love life, or whatever. It is not the responsibility of MS to make computer life painless for the stupid at the expense of the responsible. Passing thought: MS should refund the purchase price of their product when a user can’t install the MS product he paid for without having to agree to the user agreement, and the privacy agreement.

  4. The biggest hurdle is marketing. Getting away from Windows is easy, it’s the marketing department that makes it seem hard.

  5. Any OS that has something called “deamons” in it is scary. Add to that the devil imagery on the cover of the user manual for the VI editor. WTF are the Unix people into??? Devil cr@p? I want no part of that stuff!!!! I appreciate the warning, there are a lot of tutorials on how to opt out of the Micro$oft privacy problems. I’m not in love with Bill Gate’s philanthropic causes, but they are a heck of a lot better than dealing with devil stuff.

  6. Hi Paul,
    I keep a Windows box around, mostly because I need Windows (or Mac) to upgrade the firmware on my digital camera and accessories (which may be an argument in favor of returning to film). Everything else, including image editing and development, is on Linux.
    I’m planning to build a new computer soon. Are you still sticking with your recommendation to go with AMD? TPM, UEFI, and Intel’s remote management tools don’t seem to have been the disaster for Linux that many at the time predicted. I know AMD’s Dash is an open specification but honestly, Intel just spanks AMD on productivity apps–I’ve tried it myself. Still, I’ll trade a little wait time for more freedom.
    Keep up the good fight!

  7. The problem is that Windows – unlike Open Office, Apple, Linux or anything else that I’m aware of – very early focused on high productivity.
    I can get so much more done in a two-hour block of time with Windows and Office than anything I’ve found on Apple or on the web. I have many friends who berate me about using Windows, and want me to move to Linux, but so far, no one has shown me a way to replicate the productivity of Office and Windows.
    I use Access as a database, and I know and program VBA. I have a very complicated folder structure in Outlook, reflecting the many different hats I wear, with 8 different POP3 accounts and a zillion rules to faciliate handling the emails I get every day.
    The advanced features of Word, Excel and Access are not available on any web app that I know of. Apple has Word and Excel, but it doesn’t have VBA, which saves a HUGE amount of time. One of the main features i miss are the keyboard shortcuts. Very few apps have more than a handful, and most have none.
    I know you are correct about having to leave – I’ve seen the signals from MS. They are deprecating the very features that make them valuable, and each version of Office and each version of Windows strips out a bit more functionality.
    My solution is to not upgrade, but to buy a new computer with the new OS, and keep the old one around. There are some valuable tricks you can do with Access97’s Web Browser control that you can’t do with later ones. In one of my offices, we’re still using Windows XP – it’s working just fine, and I never have to stop typing while I wait for the cursor to catch up with me!
    Every time I try to do work on the web – as opposed to using it as a fancy TV set – I get frustrated. It feels like a throwback to the 1970 dumb terminals.

  8. Micro$oft, with the roll-out of W-10, unwittingly exposed the fact that it has perfected the ” 5 second Window$ Hack” !
    While 13,000 IT Pro’s witnessed it, apparently not one of these “So-Called-Pros/Experts” comprehended the severity of it, or for that matter that it was in fact a Security Flaw. As more and more computers are exposed via the “Upgrade” (That’s Laughable) to W-10 the danger of exploitation and fiscal impact will grow exponentially until the temptation to employ the Flaw for monetary gain triggers wide-spread financial devastation ( Could be in the Trillions). Wait and see !
    It really doesn’t matter, ” Security Wise ” to me as I’m a a Linux user who supplements my income by repairing Window$ PC’s. I do though appreciate the additional income it is providing. While I do “Advise” my customers to steer clear of Windows when connected to the internet, but like leading a horse to water . . . I can’t make them overcome their own ignorance.

  9. get an Apple Mac you will never turn back, I have used Apple products for the last year and a half because I got sick of microsofts spying and bloat ware.

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