Microsoft Forces Cortana – The Gloves Are Off


anniversay updateWindows 10 Anniversary Update…

is now available and being pushed to computers through Windows Update. Microsoft has included several new ‘features’ that come with this update. Notable features include a number of User Interface (UI) improvements to the Start Menu, Notification Center, Task Bar, and greater integration of the Windows 10 Virtual Assistant named “Cortana”.

Actually, the term “greater integration” is an understatement. The Anniversary Update replaces the standard search function in Windows 10 with Cortana. Who didn’t see that coming?

This seems a rather bold and brash change that falls right in line with the notion that Microsoft is determined to force everything you do in Windows 10 through their personal data collection filters.

As if forcing Cortana on users of the Windows 10 operating system wasn’t enough, Microsoft adds insult to injury by eliminating the ability to disable it. Once you get Cortana, you can’t get rid of her. Hide her, maybe. But, not get rid of her.

Currently, the option to disable Cortana is found in the Windows 10 Settings menu. With Cortana disabled, the search bar is limited to searching programs, files and folders that are on your computer. If Cortana has not been disabled, then searches will include other things, including the Web, Voice Commands, Notes and Reminders.


Goodbye Search Box – Hello Cortana

With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, Microsoft says, “… the search box is now Cortana.” So proud of their virtual assistant, Microsoft believes we will all grow to love Cortana’s endearing personality, overlooking the increased access to your private and personal data, including the things you search for online.

For some reason, I’ve seen very little comparison of Microsoft’s aggressive data collecting endeavors to that of Google. It seems that we have become quite jaded to Google’s data collecting via Android, Google Search, Google Docs, Google Photos, and it’s many other Web properties. Until now, Microsoft was somehow the balance between having no online privacy and having at least some online privacy. No more.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em…

You may recall several years ago when Microsoft ran an aggressive advertising campaign to introduce Bing Search to the World. The ad campaign attempted to persuade the public that Bing would produce better search results for the things we search for online. It did little to sway the public, and Microsoft’s search engine gained little from the campaign.

Let’s face it, “bing” just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like “google.” When you say to someone, “Google it,” they know exactly what you mean. If you say, “Bing it,” it just doesn’t have the same impact. So, Bing will never be a Google. At least, not until it gets a new name.

So, after all Microsoft’s failed efforts to bring Google Search down to size, it appears that Windows 10 was purposely designed to aggressively challenge Google at it’s own game of collecting marketable data about the hundreds of millions of people using Windows in their phones, tablets and personal computers. This was evident with the much maligned built-in telemetry that graces every nook and cranny of Windows 10. It is further confirmed by the fact that Cortana will now replace the standard search, and can not be disabled.


The Writing Is On The Wall

Windows 10 was the first free version ever offered to the public. Google’s Android and Chrome operating systems have always been free, and still are. In fact, Android is the most widely used OS on the planet. It seems that, with the offering of Windows 10 for free, Microsoft is, in some ways, testing the Google model to see if it will work for them.

With the growing popularity of Chromebooks and tablets, and more people using their Android phones in place of a personal computer, how much longer will consumers be willing to pay $120 for Windows? My guess is that Microsoft sees the writing on the wall. In Google’s business model, the OS is free. Being free, it is more widely used. Being more widely used gives Google more access to more people’s personal data. To compete, Microsoft must follow Google’s current business model, or come up with a better one If Microsoft has a better business model, I haven’t seen it in their current tactics.

It’s no secret that the goose laying Google’s golden egg is the Google Search engine. It is the richest goose that has ever flown the World Wide Web. In order for Microsoft to compete effectively for their fair share of the search engine golden egg pie, they have no real choice but to remove Google as an option for Web searches and force Cortana and Bing Search on Windows 10 users. That’s just what they are doing. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update is mandatory. If you haven’t gotten it already, you will.

If you have the patience and determination to avoid Cortana and don’t mind navigating the maze of settings to get there, you will still be able to hide Cortana or limit the information it has access to. Users will have the option to opt-out of Cortana’s personalized services. You can hide the search box in the task bar and instead make an alternative search site, like duckduckgo.com, the home page for your browser. Duckduckgo.com uses the Bing search engine, but protects your privacy and doesn’t produce “bubbled” results, the way Google does.

Windows 10 users can tell Cortana, to “Stop getting to know me,” which prevents her from ‘learning’ your typing inputs. That setting can be found at Start > Settings > Privacy > Speech > Inking & Typing.

Someone said, if you don’t protect your right to privacy, you don’t deserve any. Do you think the deeper integration of Cortana gives Microsoft greater ability to collect more data about you, what you do on your computer and online? Do you use Cortana in Windows 10?

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About the Author

Daniel Banks

Daniel Banks is a computer enthusiast and part time tech. He began his computing career in the early '90s with a state-of-the-art 486 computer. Playing Kong when he should have been working, he quickly became a master at throwing exploding bananas. RAM was measured in kilobytes... computers only came in one color... getting online made lots of noise and AOL was the internet... or, so we thought. Daniel has been building custom computers for himself and others for over 25 years. His current box was built back in 2008, sporting a Gigabyte mainboard, over-clocked i7 Quad Core engine, 8GB RAM, and an antiquated, over-clocked video card that still gets the job done, running a carefully manicured Win7 OS. Don’t ask where he got the OS. Dan has always had a passion for computers and all things geek. We hope you enjoy his articles.

27 Comments

  1. I didn’t get the free Windows 10 update for the simple fact that my Windows 7 computers are running just fine and I don’t want Bing shoved down my throat. This is an interesting article, because it brings up a good point. I’ve completely handed my entire life to Google. Years ago I sucked it up and realized I liked their products (gmail, search, Android) so much that I was willing to let them build their huge folder on my life. On my desktop it was always a relief to be able to skip the market data collection. Hearing about all the data collection that Windows 10 does gives me pause, but why? Is Microsoft building a file on my life any worse than Google, or Facebook for that matter? I think it comes down to control. I know Windows well and like to control it and if I use Windows 10 than I feel like I’m losing all that control.

    • The problem for me is the lack of transparency. Microsoft is being far less than transparent about Windows 10 telemetry and data collection practices.

      • Oh and if you look at their “privacy” policy. you virtually need a degree in law to penetrate it. plus , there are several “learn more”
        links that take you on to non micosoft sites. because you get linkied to legal info about transatlantic data transfor stuff . and at the end of the day you aither get fedd up trawling through the stuff or give yourself a thumping headache trying to make sense of it all.

  2. You mentioned duckduckgo.com which uses Bing. There is also startpage.com which uses google, and protects privacy.

    • You’re absolutely right. I’ve used Startpage.com in the past. Startpage is based in the Netherlands. They probably have servers all around the world.
      But, in the past, their servers seem to be a little slower in delivering search results to my location. But, I have them in my list of alternative search sites in my browsers.

  3. Sorry to disagree but any one that’s spent any amount of time on the internet, has already given up most of their “privacy”. Unless you’re hiding in a cave somewhere, you have no privacy.
    By the way, Siri has been gathering your private information in your Apple garden for a very long time but no one seems to care.

    • Not everyone has an iPhone. Siri knows nothing about me. Further, I’ve spent a lot… i mean, a whole lot… of time on the internet. There are actually quite a number of ways to severely limit what personal information third-party sites and data brokers are able to gather from you. Not much you can do about the NSA. But, anyone with half a brain can figure out how to limit their personal and private information from being exploited on the internet, if they care. The problem is, most people don’t care, because they don’t understand what they’re giving up.

  4. I have the misfortune to have a laptop with Win 10. Use Cortana? I can’t even make it work! And I never have been.
    If I need to “Google” something I assume I still have the option to just go to Google.

    • Yes, you can still Google. But, Windows 10 won’t make easy for you. It is pretty obvious they want you to use Bing. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Bing. In fact, as long as I’m using a non-microsoft browser, I use Bing as much as I do Google. If I don’t find what I’m looking for with one, I try the other.

  5. In an office environment hearing the continuous ‘babble’ from people on telephones is annoying, add to this the ‘double-babble’ of file-searching on Windows 10 with Cortana.
    Where will the most confusion be, with the client or Cortana.

    I left the twice weekly office environment in the past and the more I read about Windows 10 continued ‘enhancements’ the more satisfied I am since rolling back to Windows 7.

  6. The FIRST thing I did was to ensure
    I went through the custom install.most users miss that option and use the express install because of the way the install/setup pages are designed.

    second thing is i had to reset my system to accept Firefox as my default browser because Windows wanted me to use edge, NO THANK YOU MICROSNOOP!!

    The unfortunate thing is people are being conditioned to accept “convenience” and are being discouraged from asking the very real and pertinent question.”at what cost?”. quite Franky if Microsoft. et al keep at this invasive behavior I’m headed off to alternatives that give control right back in my ball park.people say Microsoft have changed. that is not the case, A leopard never changes is spots.

  7. I’m just having my morning coffee and reading news, mail and weather (more heat) but my computing is cool. Using Firefox in PCLinuxOS on my i5 2500k 8 ram 64 bit. I recorded over 7 hr. classical music on Linux yesterday but moved it to another hd with Win 10 to do some editing in an open source windows app. Linux will still play it from the other hd but I like that little Waveshop app. I still have Win 7 which I cloned to a 3rd hd before the hijack.

    I’m using Linux 90% but will boot Win 10 today mainly to see if it gorges my limited mobile data so I’ll be watching the meter on my LG tablet. I just blew Vista on an older Dell Laptop and it now has Linux. It takes some learning as there are a few important differences but if an octogen with only about a dozen years of computer use can pull it off I’m sure any modest techie can – and I’m sure without regret.

  8. Cortana reminds me of paperclip.

    I don’t use it or intend to use it. But it seems that it will be coming back to get me!

    Having ‘retired’ I am really starting to think – “Do I really need windows?”.

    Probably not…. Linux looks more useable all the time and it seems to be built by folks with a very healthy dose of privacy paranoia.

    I’ve got 10 working (well almost) as I like my computer to work after a year and now Billy Boy Gates wants to make me learn everything all over again.

    If Cortana becomes a problem my decision will be to learn Linux rather than yet another windows number.

    Thanks for the info, forewarned is forearmed, but Microsoft have, yet again, spoilt my day :o(

    Jon

    • Just don[‘t use Ubuntu, microsoft have”partnered” with canonical. If you intend on using Linux i would suggest either debian or maybe red hat.( I tend to lean towards Debian as a preferred choice since. although updates are infrequent you are almost guaranteed that the stable release will be rock solid)

      • I happened on PCLinuxOS after a comparative search but innocently loaded Full Monte not realizing that it was so loaded with far more than I would ever need and blow more data than I had to spare. Fortunately the PCLinuxOS forum got me straightened out directing me to Minime version which is barebones on which you build on what you want. I’m no expert but I understand PCLinux to be highly regarded.

        • Thanks both for the info.

          I’m shopping around and will be taking my time making a decision.

          Many Linux sites tend to assume a level of knowledge that superseded mine many years ago. In addition, there is a level of trust needed that just goes beyond what is there (for me).

          I suppose I’m just getting old and things have moved on.

          It’s got to the stage of – dual boot to try and remembering where I put the external DVD writer – It was somewhere safe!

          Jon

          P.S. Only half joking about my ageing brain. Some Linux distros need to learn that mucking around with code in a little black screen is not something that people who HAD to do it want to go back to.

        • one way round the problem( at least temproarily) might be to use something like virtualbox or a live distribution that you can use without messing up your existing operating system., in the first instance you can pretty much use all the features including updating in place whereas if you use a live sistribution things tend to be a little bit slower and your choices are limited somewhat in that it is not possilb in some cases to save your work.. whcih leaves, you guessed it,, dual boot. you get full speed execution of your preferred distribution plus access to your work. etc. btw I’m no spring chicken either.

  9. Been in the computer repair business full time since 1991. Installed the Anniversary update yesterday, took it out an hour later.
    The Window game pack would no longer run, if fact the files were gone.
    It changed most of my setting defaults back to MS defaults..
    IE icon in task bar and on desktop were gone.
    VLC and Irfanview were completely gone.

    Actually there was so many negative issues I could not tell you about any positive ones because I did not see any. I was too busy fixing what they messed up.

      • Upgraded one of my PC’s with the W10 Anniversary update, all I can say is that very little has changed, as for as I can tell.

  10. “With the growing popularity of Chromebooks and tablets, and more people using their Android phones in place of a personal computer, how much longer will consumers be willing to pay $120 for Windows?”

    For my desktops, which I use almost exclusively, not only would I gladly fork over $120, I would get down on my knees and thank MS, if they would only provide me with a DESKTOP version of Windows once again. As it is, the “end of life” for Windows in my house is Windows7.

    • I totally agree. And it’s becoming an issue of principle almost as much it is that I hate everything MS has done after Win 7. I’m thankful I have 3 Win 7 Desktops in fairly good shape.

      Don Morgan, Coventry, Ct.

      • You should never post your email address in a public forum. Better turn on the SPAM filters, cause you may have just opened yourself up to a lot of it.

        • Perhaps you meant home address? I didn’t expect anything to show up except the name in the required box when I post the comment. But when I send an email I generally do sign them.

        • Don, I edited your personal email address out of your comment for your own security.

          DCT never publicly displays personal email addresses. Perhaps it appeared as part of your signature, it was right under the “Don Morgan, Coventry, Ct.”