Windows installations have come a long way over a few decades. It used to be that you had to hand-hold the system, but it's increasingly automatic -- you can even nuke an existing install with relative ease. And now, you don't even need to touch the keyboard for certain manually-guided steps. As The Verge has noticed, the Windows 10 Creators Update brings Microsoft's Cortana assistant into the setup process. You can tell Windows to connect to your WiFi network, choose keyboard options and sign into your Microsoft Account with little to no typing.
This will only be of limited use if you have a complex configuration, of course, and you can take the hands-on approach if you'd rather not talk to an AI helper. Still, this could be an important step toward simplifying computers, making them a little less intimidating to newcomers. It should be helpful to more experienced users, too. You'll have to sit down in front of your computer at some point, but this lets you wander across the room while accomplishing some important tasks.
The full extent of Windows 10's data sharing is slightly alarming
Microsoft has repeatedly sworn that Windows 10 doesn't violate your privacy, but you've had to take its word on that when it hasn't outlined exactly what data it shares from your PC. At last, though, it's coming clean -- the company has started publishing a complete list of the diagnostic info it collects at the Basic level, and has posted a thorough summary of what it obtains at the Full level. While Microsoft already gave you a good sense of what to expect if you went with Full, the summary is much more thorough... and a little concerning given that it's the default level with a new Windows 10 installation.
For example, Windows collects a surprising amount of info about your media playback. It's not tracking what you're playing, but it will check how long you spent reading a Windows Store book, and will scoop up internet links if there's an error with online video. And when Microsoft says it looks at "browsing history and search terms," we now know just what it means -- that includes text you type in the address bar and Cortana searches. When you search for local files, Windows will collect the kind of search you performed, the number of items your query turned up and the name of the app you use to open a file from that search. It looks like Microsoft is steering clear of collecting particularly sensitive info, but there are incentives to choose Basic if you're privacy-minded.
With this in mind, Microsoft says it's promising to "refine" its data collection over time based on feedback. In the future, it'll also share how Windows 10 meets European data protection rules.
To some extent, the newfound transparency is a response to governments worried that Windows 10 is intruding on your privacy. French regulators believe the software's data collection goes too far by tracking non-essential info like app running times, while the EU is concerned that improvements in the Creators Update aren't good enough. A detailed explanation won't necessarily change officials' minds, but it might clear the air and make sure that any objections are based on what Microsoft isactually doing, not sensationalist stories.