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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Let’s shut the blinds on Windows 10

The new Windows 10 update includes a hidden, default feature for users who register with family accounts. This feature sends the administrator of a family account an automatic and weekly update on the search histories and websites visited family members’ accounts, whether or not those users cleared their history or browsed anonymously.

The feature was discovered when a father received an email from Microsoft detailing his son’s browsing activity, to which he replied in a letter “Don’t assume your own computer has your back.” Found under Family Settings, the default setting can be turned off, but the parents or administrators of the family accounts have to make a conscious decision and take extra action not to spy on the activity of their kids or other users.

This Windows 10 update was highlighted in an article on MTV’s website regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning teens and if their safety was at risk, but this invasion of privacy also extends beyond LGBTQ youth and into the lives of today’s college students.

The Internet is a place where everything that gets posted or even searched stays public. What would seem like a harmless inquiry turns into archived data that agencies like Google and the National Security Agency can use to control your experience online. Such efforts are reflected in advertisements on Facebook—which are tailored to you according to your browser’s search history. Further, any suspicious activity you post online can be directly linked to the local police for possible real-life questioning.

It’s always one thing to hear the older generations talk about the Internet as something that will eventually “take over the human race” and “brainwash us,” but it’s another thing to realize that they might not be wrong.

“The basic and persistent problem here is one of power,” said Victor Braitberg, assistant professor at the School of Anthropology. “Microsoft’s default mode with matters of privacy seems to be to provide technologies that will enable powerful groups to get data on those they want to control whether it is enabling the NSA to spy on ordinary citizens, corporations to spy on consumers or parents to spy on their kids. A free upgrade from Microsoft is going to have a catch. And what’s being caught is your data so that you can be monitored and more easily controlled.”

Braitberg continued: “My concern with many college students is that they are entirely too trusting when it comes to corporations like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, etc. … These companies are not your friend. Their products are designed to extract your data, repackage it and deliver it to all kinds of different groups that want to influence you, sell your stuff, spy on you and ultimately manipulate and control your behavior.”

As college students on the Internet, it is so important that we exercise control over our activity in order to ensure that our relationship with technology doesn’t reflect that of a dictatorship—with technology at the top and us at the bottom. We can control the rate of technological progress and its ability to take over our lives. It all starts with awareness.

Follow Justice Amarillas on Twitter.

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