Friday, August 25, 2017

"C" is for creepy Cortana

Cortana is the Microsoft version of Alexa, who is the Amazon version of Siri, who is Apple's version of an embryonic Skynet, as fantasized by data-driven marketers who prefer all subservient voices to be feminized. She's just as creepy, intrusive, and frightening as the others. I can't figure out how to turn her off. After disabling her once, I am now on a screen, quoth:
Hey, look, it's the "me"part of set-up! Can I have permission to use the info I need to do my best work? 
To let Cortana provide personalized experiences and relevant suggestions including when your device is locked, Microsoft collects and uses information including your location and location history, contacts, voice input, speech patterns, searching history, relationships, calendar details, email, content and communication history from text messages, instant messages and apps, and other information on your device. In Microsoft Edge, Cortana uses your browsing history.
FUCK NO. This paragraph makes my skin crawl; it makes me want to incite a lawsuit; it could be the summary voice-over for the beginning of a movie about stalkers and abusive relationships.

Later, in a more detailed explanation, they say,
When your location is used by a location-aware app or service, your location information and recent location history is stored on your device and sent to Microsoft in a de-identified format to improve location services.
The red flag here is de-identified, which basically means "schoolchildren in 2025 will be able to link this data to your name and fingerprints as part of routine homework assignments." De-identified means "your privacy is not really protected against anyone clever, or educated, or with enough data" --- and that almost certainly includes the reams of data that are being collected by this very procedure. In fact, a little later in the same document,
As you use Windows, we collect diagnostics data... This data is transmitted to Microsoft and stored with one or more unique identifiers that can help us recognize an individual user on an individual device...
This documentation also says that some of the data collected may "unintentionally include"... as if anything about this human-authored operating system were unintentional.

The entire new-Windows-device setup --- with the four separate times I have now disabled my own device from eavesdropping and blurting out perky spoken questions --- was very slimy. It feels like a modern update of Clippy, that universally-reviled and -mocked piece of computing history. Basically, it has convinced me that I definitely do not own my device, the data on it, or any analytics about how it is used. (There is no way to turn off automatic updates, either.) So I'll only be using it for the one program I want, instead of as a multipurpose computing device.

This post's theme word is deterge, "to wash, wipe, or cleanse." I require a psychic emollient to deterge the scummy Big Brother sense of using a Windows device.

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