Microsoft has been caught installing updates onto Windows 7 and 8 computers that effectively introduce the same diagnostic telemetry technology used in Windows 10. It indiscriminately uploads data to Microsoft’s servers, a major privacy concern for many.
Forbes reports on the discovery made by gHacks this week. A few days ago, Windows 7 and 8 users were likely prompted to restart to install updates. A usual occurrence for those operating systems, many probably did so without knowing what lay inside.
The updates in question are KB3068708, KB3022345, KB3075249 and KB3080149. Between them, they install the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service that is such a controversial component of Windows 10. Once installed, it immediately begins phoning home to Microsoft — apparently with no option to stop it.
The data goes to “vortex-win.data.microsoft.com” and “settings-win.data.microsoft.com.” It bypasses Windows system files that ordinarily could allow users to prevent their device from connecting to those servers, ensuring that the data is always uploaded.
The addresses are hard coded into the telemetry service; as soon as it is running it begins uploading. Like with Windows 10, 7 and 8 now both continue to phone home to Microsoft even when privacy controls are enabled.
Although some concerns regarding the types of data uploaded are likely unfounded — no, Microsoft is not taking your personal files, yes, it wants to know how much you use search — the discovery does raise some important questions about Microsoft’s usage of this information.
Currently, privacy concerns are a key reason cited by people who have not upgraded to Windows 10. Those users have made a conscious choice to stay on Windows 7 or Windows 8 and are likely to feel that it should be respected.
Installing the services that have created the refusal to upgrade isn’t going to win Microsoft any favors in the long-term. It’s unclear why it has opted to begin collecting telemetry and diagnostics data from Windows 7 and 8 systems; although they are still supported they only receive security upgrades and bug fixes and it is unknown why Microsoft wants to monitor them in the same way as it does Windows 10.
Windows 7 and 8 users may feel somewhat alarmed at this discovery but there is a way to remove the service once it is installed. Unlike with Windows 10, Windows 7 and 8 users have more control over updates and eliminating these should be as easy as going to Programs & Features in Control Panel and clicking “Installed Updates.” From there each update can be removed and then added to the “hidden” list so that the computer does not try to automatically install them again in the future.