Windows 10 “Privacy” Feature Automatically Sends Browsing History Of Children To Their Parents
A new privacy feature in Windows 10 sends a weekly “activity update” to parents carrying all the details of children’s internet browsing and computer history. More importantly the information is sent to the parents in an unsolicited email.
The new operating system, which was rolled out last month as a free upgrade for users of Windows XP, 7 and 8/8.1, has raised concern over the new ‘activity reports‘ feature. This allows parents to get ‘weekly reports’ of absolutely everything their children are looking at online, even if the kids browse anonymously or try to clear it.
While it can protect kids from adult content, there are fears it will be used to out young people to their families before they are ready.
The feature, which is automatically switched on, allows parents to create child accounts with controls and restrictions put on them.
Once active, Windows then sends an email about websites the child visited, the hours per day they spent on them and how many minutes they used on each of the apps.
The tool also specifically flags up search terms and blocked content that children tried to access. This means that teens who are experimenting with their sexuality could have their sexual fantasies emailed directly to their parents.
The flaw was first point out by a Windows 10 user Kirk who told Boing Boing : “This weekend we upgraded my 14-year-old son’s laptop from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Today I got a creepy-ass email from Microsoft titled ’Weekly activity report for [my kid]’, including which websites he’s visited, how many hours per day he’s used it, and how many minutes he used each of his favorite apps.”
I don’t want this. I have no desire to spy on my boy. I fixed it by going into my Microsoft account’s website, hitting the “Family” section, then turning off “Email weekly reports to me” and “Activity reporting”,” he added.
As Kirk points out, Windows 10 does not inform children that they are being monitored or that their internet history is being sent to their parents.
With new reporting function many fear for children’s safety, especially when suicide rates are six times higher in LGBT youth. Also, this could do a lot of damage to a parent/child relationship. And apart from that, it’s just really creepy.
However, the feature is optional. If you go onto your Family account, turn off ’email weekly reports to me’ and ‘activity reporting’, then it won’t be a problem. This allows children to keep their privacy but also at the same time does not allow them access to adult content.
A Microsoft spokesperson has said the feature was added to ensure parents would be able to keep their children safe online.
They added: ‘Windows 10 puts customers in control by giving them choices about how information is used to deliver personalized services and experiences.
‘We also offer customers a number of options in Windows 10 privacy settings, and customers can adjust their Windows 10 privacy settings at any time.’
For what it’s worth, Windows users say the feature has always been available on the platform. It’s only been turned “on” by default after their upgrade to Windows 10.