WIN8.1 insecure, bigtime. Do I need to go linux to have some privacy?
June 19, 2015 4:33 PM   Subscribe

Microsoft is creepy-crawling into and onto my shiny new WIN8.1 computers. Do I need to go linux to have some privacy?

I bought a new HD TV 1920x1080, which my old WIN7 laptop video card could not handle. Bummer.

I bought a WIN8.1 mini PC both as home puter and as media center. It's really cool, about the size of a double CD case, cute as a bugs ear, does what I want/need for media stuff. So far so good.

Yesterday, I received an 8" Dell tablet, also WIN8.1. I set it up last night. Damned if it didn't have the exact desktop image I'd put onto the WIN8.1 mini computer last week. My image, not some stock MS image. Freaky. I'm all "WTF?"

More "WTF?" still -- when I booted the tablet today, it came up with the screen wallpaper I'd put onto the desktop yesterday. Also a custom image, from my image library, and not a stock Microsoft image.

I am furious. I loathe this. I can't stand this. Microsoft is creepy-crawling around on my computers and I don't like it. At all. I'm angry as hell.

I'm going to dump the tablet -- I bought it at a good price so I won't lose much if anything. So the tablet will be gone but MS is still going to be roaming freely on my WIN8.1 computer(s), unless you can tell me how to block them.

Is there any way I can keep MS out of my WIN8.1 machine(s)? How about WIN10, should I stay with MS that long? Also: My laptop is WIN7 -- is it safe from being crawled up into by Microsoft scumbags?

Am I going to have to go totally linux to keep from having slimeballs creeping on my machine(s)? I'll do it, though it'll be a learning curve.

tl;dr -- Can I prevent these pieces of garbage at microsoft from creepy-crawling my WIN8.1 and/or WIN7 computers? Or is it time for me to just gut up, grow up, and go linux?

Any insights greatly appreciated.

As you may have guessed, privacy is really important to me. Digital and otherwise. I contribute to EFF every month, a considerable amount, given my means. I haven't flown once since those bastards put those xray machines into airports and I never will. I know enough to not trust google or apple; I had no idea Microsoft is playing this game; I know I should have assumed they're as bad as the rest.
posted by dancestoblue to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think it's a case of Microsoft "creepy-crawling" into your computer, but rather some MS cloud service? Did it ask for you to log in?
posted by slater at 4:36 PM on June 19, 2015

I turned it down. I did sign up using the same email address but absolutely big thumbs down on anything in the cloud with them. They can keep their clouds, I want to keep my computers mine.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:39 PM on June 19, 2015
posted by thewumpusisdead at 4:39 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Do you use a Microsoft account to sign into your machines? Windows 8 and 8.1 sync things like your wallpaper, store apps and favorites across computers if you do.

If you don't want them to be linked, either use different Microsoft accounts on each computer, or create a local computer account.
posted by Aleyn at 4:40 PM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

It looks like this is what happened. That link also says how to limit what is synced or how to disable syncing altogether.
posted by aubilenon at 4:42 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ask a question, get an answer in six minutes. Thx to thewumpusisdead and aubilenon.

I specifically said "Nope" when they asked as I set up the tablet.

I'm still going to dump the tablet, take it back to original settings and let it go -- this is why god made craigslist.

Reading my rant, I do think it's time for me to go linux. I've tried it before, didn't at all like Ubuntu, absolutely loved Mint. Keep the WIN7 laptop for software I can only find on windows, though that's less and less a problem every day.

Thx for reading my screed and your prompt answers.
posted by dancestoblue at 4:53 PM on June 19, 2015

As a longtime Linux user, I feel obliged to point out that consumer-oriented variants of Linux tend to have features like this, too. The Linux world is probably overall a bit better about allowing users to opt-out of privacy-compromising features, but it's also more difficult in general to configure. I fear that if you found something like this happened to you against your wishes when setting up Windows, the same thing may well happen to you when you install Linux.

And remember, the stuff they make obvious (like the desktop backgrounds) is the tip of the iceberg.
posted by mister pointy at 6:06 PM on June 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Came to say the same thing as mister pointy. There was just a major kerfuffle in the Debian world because of a recent Chrome update. That wasn't Linux per se, but still.

You can lock Linux down pretty tight if you know what you're doing, but if you can get what you're after with some changes to your Windows settings, go for it.
posted by jquinby at 6:18 PM on June 19, 2015

If you’re willing to take on the learning curve of a new OS, and get all new versions of the apps you use for a new platform, go Mac.

Just so you know this isn’t coming from a “religious” fanatic, I’ve based my entire career on Linux, and I ran Linux on my personal desktop almost exclusively from 1998 until around 2006.

Linux is wonderful as a server OS, and the new desktop-oriented distros are a heck of a lot easier to use than they were back when I was doing it. On the other hand vendors will bend over backwards to support Mac users whereas Linux will always get the short end of the stick.

If you love to tinker, Linux can be an adventure. When I get off work, I just want my computer to function correctly and not have to worry (much!) about whether what I buy will work with it.

More to your concerns, Edward Snowden just lauded Apple for their stance on privacy and responsible use of personal data.
posted by tkolstee at 12:51 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Whichever OS you choose there's always a risk of it doing something without your knowing that you wouldn't allow otherwise. For starters, browsers are independent of the host OS and can do also sorts of privacy invasion behind your back.
Unless you have the patience and expertise to go through a lot of code you'll just have to take the software makers and user community on their word.

Having said that, it's probably easier to just stay away from any major commercial providers, that have been proven to do sketchy stuff: Microsoft, obviously, Google, but also Ubuntu and definitely Apple as well:
Some of the world's largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan "Your privacy is our priority" – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.

It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

I vote Debian GNU/Linux for best bet in terms of security/convenience trade-off. Note that even Debian in the default installation will ask if you want to install the popularity contest package, a program that phones home reporting which packages are installed in your system. The lesson here is not that Debian is just as bad as any other OS, but that any OS can do that (and much more) behind your back; at least Debian asks before doing it.
posted by Bangaioh at 4:58 AM on June 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

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