24 Oct 2016, 26 mins ago

MOSCOW, August 11 (RAPSI) – Vadim Solovyov, a parliament member representing the Communist Party, has addressed Prosecutor General Yury Chaika with a request to check whether the new Windows 10 operating system complies with the Russian laws, Izvestia newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Reuters goes on to report that: “Vadim Solovyov, the chief lawyer of the Communist Party in the State Duma, claims that the end-user service agreement distributed with Windows 10 reads that the operating system (OS) will collect and store users’ web history, access points, passwords and other personal data, including physical location, emails and other messages and information about phone calls. Microsoft also reserves the right to share this data with special services, use it in research, publish or use it in any other way it sees fit.

However, current Russian law demands that such gathering and processing of personal information is only permissible by companies included in the National Register of Personal Data Operators, Solovyov noted. As Microsoft is not included on this register, the distribution of Windows 10 on Russian territory becomes illegal, he wrote.

In addition, the MP shared his fears that the use of the new OS in Russian state structures could end in leaks of classified information to foreign special services.
“Practically, we are talking about espionage here,” the letter reads.

To stop the suspected breach of law, Solovyov asked Chaika to launch a probe into Microsoft and to block on the Russian territory all websites that allow the downloading of Windows 10. He also suggested issuing a warning to all bodies of executive and legislative power asking staff not to use Windows 10 on their devices. The Microsoft press service commented on the initiative saying that any transfer of personal information is possible only with the user’s consent.

Apart from the regulations concerning the collecting and processing of personal data Russia has a pending law obliging all internet companies to store the personal information of Russian citizens inside the country. This act is expected to come into force from September 2016 in order to give foreign and domestic internet companies enough time to create data-storage facilities in Russia.”

Mr Solovyov’s objections as reported by Reuters and Izvestia newspaper address the concerns of online privacy with regard, first and foremost to compromising state security. It also highlight’s though the concern for personal privacy and in turn the need for individuals to be vigilant in regards to protecting their online footprint and their privacy. As Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web has stated in the past, our searches on the internet become our personal footprint and diary on the web – it tells much about who we are, what we do and what we do and don’t like. The problem therein lies in getting the most out of technology and the applications available to us whilst protecting our personal information and on-line security as much as possible.

Online tech guru’s Tech Radar state that: “…for all the good Windows 10 brings, Microsoft’s latest operating system has to collect a ton of data on its users, and that might not sit well for everyone. Windows 10 can see everything from the websites you visit to where in the world you are to all the online purchases you make, and those are just the bits Cortana collates. By default, the OS is programmed to watch the words you type and listen to your speech so it can personalize the experience for you. These features can be convenient, but also raise privacy concerns.
Luckily, there are ways to curtail all of Windows 10’s cyber sleuthing built right into the OS’ privacy controls. However, cracking down on what Window 10 can see will come at the cost of some functionality and could potentially disable features you want to use.”

It has become apparent that it is crucial to read the user agreement and/or terms and conditions of any product and service we wish to utilise or download and to make ourselves aware of our privacy rights when signing up to any new service from any provider – whether that be the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system or any of Google and Apple’s products and technologies for example. We must be aware that in order to utilise these products and protect ourselves as much as is possible we should adjust the privacy controls as soon as we start using any product or technology.

This can be easier said than done however. Microsoft has been criticised for their lack of transparency and failure to provide straightforward terms and conditions that are easy to understand for the average user. The terms and conditions for Microsoft 10 is a 45 page document and the settings are split across 13 screens. They don’t make it immediately obvious how to opt out of the default setting nor how accepting the default settings might affect the user.

Microsoft’s argument that data can only be collected with the user’s consent may not assuage those who have already unwittingly consented to the terms of use (some 14 million people downloaded the system in the first 24 hours it was launched) nor Vadim Solovyov and his party’s concerns. For the Russians there is the argument that Russian law prohibits such gathering and processing of personal information by companies not included in the National Register of Personal Data Operators, of which Microsoft is not (presently) included.

This story is part of a continuing narrative in Russia as it strives to control online privacy and security whilst still allowing global online services and companies to operate in the country. And it is a continuing issue of our time – that our right to privacy can be compromised in order to avail of technology.

The big questions that remain unanswered are why does Microsoft really need this information (other than their argument that it ‘improves’ our experience using their technology – which is difficult to believe), who is this information for and who are they going to sell it to?