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Privacy vs Security – Which Is More Important?

Any regular readers should be aware by now that I am of the opinion that security trumps privacy all day; it’s a point I’ve made consistently in previous articles. One of the aspects that amuse me is that Apple and Google have been collecting user data for many years but the complaints and conspiracy theories only began in earnest when Microsoft introduced its telemetry features in Windows 10. Many of you might be surprised to learn that Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 also included telemetry but it was a lot less obvious in those earlier operating systems.

Online Privacy – A Myth?

Online Privacy

You’ve probably come across the saying… from the very moment you decide to connect online your privacy is essentially out the window… and that is very true to an extent. Collecting and selling user data has become a huge and profitable business and the only recourse for users is to take steps to try to minimize their exposure. Install an anti-tracking browser extension such as Privacy Badger and definitely limit interactions on social media. Social media is the natural hunting ground for predators of user data.

That said, what’s the worst that can happen? I guess one could say that identity theft is the worst-case scenario and, once again, social media can play a large role in that. I do not mean to offend, but victims of identity theft are often victims of their own online habits. On the other hand, the telemetry that’s part of Windows 10 and 11 is, in my opinion, relatively harmless. I understand and appreciate how some users consider this type of telemetry to be an invasion of privacy but, as far as I am concerned, that is an overreach.

Microsoft introduced the additional and more transparent telemetry into its recent operating systems as part of the company’s efforts to capture a share of the mobile market. It’s a fact of life that the “apps” that proliferate mobile devices often require a lot more telemetry in order for them to do their job and Microsoft merely followed the same approach that has been a part of Apple and Google-driven mobile devices for many years. Yes, Windows is and, in my opinion always should have been, a desktop operating system but bear in mind that, if not required for mobile the telemetry can very easily be cut to a minimum.

Privacy vs Security

Privacy vs Security

The point is, I have never known or heard of anyone who’s been hurt, robbed, or defrauded because of telemetry. On the other hand, despite constant warnings to the contrary from multiple tech sites over many years (including from DCT), far too many people are still opening malicious attachments, clicking on malicious embedded links, and falling for phishing and scam email.

One prominent tech blog, that shall remain nameless, has attracted a large following of conspiracy theorists and Microsoft bashers over the years who, regardless of an article’s content, are continually submitting comments lambasting Microsoft and Windows 10’s perceived invasion of their privacy – comments such as, “Windows 10 is malware“. No, it’s not! Telemetry is not malicious. Trojans, keyloggers, Ransomware, scam and phishing email, etc., they are malicious, they are the enemy.

I wish some people would put as much effort into educating users about security as they do whinging about perceived privacy issues.

BOTTOM LINE:

I am not for one moment suggesting that online privacy is not an issue, it is. What I am saying is not to allow a preoccupation with online privacy to override the more critical aspects of online security. Microsoft knowing that you have visited Daves Computer tips or are shopping for a new PC is never going to hurt you but a Trojan or Ransomware infection… well, that’s a different story altogether.

4 thoughts on “Privacy vs Security – Which Is More Important?”

  1. Jim,
    I agree with nearly everything in your article, but I have to take exception to your statement about identity theft. I’m in the US and got caught up in the Office of Personnel Management breach a few years back. I found out when someone tried to file my income taxes for me and got contacted by the Internal Revenue Service.
    The good part was that it was someone not familiar with how the US tax system actually functions and the return was filed way too early.
    I also got snared in the Target, Home Depot and Equifax breaches. My point is that one can do everything right but one also has to trust institutions to do everything right as well.

    1. Good point Mark. Unfortunately, we (users) have no control over external security systems.

      Geez mate, you’ve had some bad luck. Hopefully, that is all behind you now.

  2. Jim. I also agree that Security trumps Privacy, but, there are programs which can assist with both. To deal with the tracking problem using Firefox, there are the Kaspersky Protection and AdGuard Browser Assistant add-ons. As for Privacy, when you do not want your IP to know what you are browsing, a trusted (and this is where your trust is truly put to the test), a VPN is the solution. This is the famous IMHO, as I cannot offer any proof, other than wishful hopefulness, Mindblower!

    1. Hey MB,

      Yes, I read an article recently by a security expert the title of which was… “Can you trust your VPN?”. The article wasn’t very flattering toward VPNs in general.

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