Thursday, 21 July 2016

Windows 10 Telemetry Documentation Latest

This document lists the main changes I've noticed in the latest version of Microsoft's telemetry documentation, which is dated 19th July 2016.

Disclaimer: I'm only human, and also dyslexic. I try my best to read and write accurately but I make mistakes and my enthusiasm can sometimes cloud fact. This is also a hobby, not a job. Please do check documentation yourself to be sure I've got things right.

My Summary

The latest significant change to this documentation in over a month sees an undeniable greater emphasis on how telemetry is not only of great benefit to Microsoft but also to customers and enterprises. As if to underline all that, we have a reminder of Microsoft Privacy Principles now positioned within the first few paragraphs of this documentation and an array of "Additional resources" at the very end of the documentation that points to various privacy pages for various windows components. It's clear to me that Microsoft must be getting feedback from enterprises that they see no value in the extra traffic from telemetry and that there are strong concerns over the privacy aspect of telemetry. The documentation now reminds us of the transparency, security, legality laws and minimisation of customer related content that Microsoft's privacy principles underpins in the use of telemetry, It is, however, somewhat amusing that the first principle of privacy that they list is "Control". Enterprises have that granular control to essentially turn off telemetry, but not us consumers.

Away from the reminders about privacy, we now have a decent amount of new content in the documentation to remind us about the concept of telemetry and what exactly telemetry is, and isn't. I'm not sure this really needed spelling out, but there must have been many who were baffled by this. In the documentation, Microsoft refers to 'Functional Data' as the types of things that people mistake for telemetry. They list weather location, wallpaper and desktop settings as examples, including bing searches, which anyone should be able to deduce isn't telemetry. It's good that they remind everyone though and thus it's helpful to have this clearly spelt out. However, knowing what isn't telemetry isn't my problem. Know exactly what telemetry they are taking, when, and seeing examples of it, is my problem.

Previously this documentation had a section all about the ways Microsoft uses telemetry, but that's all gone in this update, with some of that content being reused and reworded, and also reshaped to remind us that it's because of the telemetry that we all have a better Windows OS much quicker. The sections on driving higher app quality and improving end-user productivity add little new to the debate but are useful real-world reminders of how telemetry is used by microsoft.

Sadly, they do say several times that telemetry gives users a voice but I disagree with that. There's no implicit voice in the telemetry data, of which data can always be misinterpreted. The true indicator that Microsoft should be using as a voice of the customers is via the feedback app. Telemetry is supplementary data in terms of a user's voice. Sure, this data is vital and necessary for understanding the operational and functional operations of windows but it shouldn't be used in any way as representing our voice.

List of Changes to 'Configure Windows telemetry in your organization' documentation

Before the "Overview" Section

NEW - Opening paragraph empathises how telemetry is important to Microsoft and that it gives users a voice in OS development.

NEW - Next two paragraphs describe Microsoft's Privacy Principles in relation to telemetry.

EDIT - Key sentence on what telemetry data is used for has been changed slightly to add specific threats into the mix.


"The telemetry data is used to keep Windows devices secure, and to help Microsoft improve the quality of Windows and Microsoft services."


"The telemetry data is used to help keep Windows devices secure by identifying malware trends and other threats and to help Microsoft improve the quality of Windows and Microsoft services."

Overview Section

DELETED - Two paragraphs are gone completely. First paragraph has had some of its wording integrated into opening paragraph of document but second paragraph that talks about how telemetry helps enterprises is gone.


Understanding Windows Telemetry

NEW - This is a completely new section which talks about Windows as a Service in its introduction before explaining categorically the differences between telemetry and functional data. 

NEW - There's a sub-section about telemetry giving users a voice.

NEW - sub-section about 'Driving higher app and driver quality' as being an an advantage of telemetry. This paragraph is basically a rewrite of "Drive higher application and driver quality in the ecosystem" that used to be in a different section entitled "Examples of how Microsoft uses the telemetry data"

NEW - sub-section titled "Improve end-user productivity" which describes how telemetry shows Microsoft how customers use windows and in-turn how that can lower help-desk calls. Examples of the types of telemetry useful for this is the Start-Menu, Cortana and Application Switching. Some of this you could say came from a section in "Examples of how Microsoft uses the telemetry data".

How is telemetry data handled by Microsoft?

Data use and access

NEW - Couple new sentences added to this paragraph:

"Data gathered from telemetry is used by Microsoft teams primarily to improve our customer experiences, and for security, health, quality, and performance analysis. Only Microsoft personnel with a valid business need are permitted access to the telemetry data."

Telemetry Levels

Security Level/Connected User Experience & Telemetry Component Settings

EDIT - Opening couple sentences contain more elaboration on the mechanism of this component. Says that component sends data to Microsoft if "general" telemetry data has been gathered and queued. Also says that component "may" download a configuration file.

Enhanced Level

EDIT - Information that enhanced level is default for Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions has been added to this section but was elsewhere before.

Enterprise Management

NEW - New section added but basically a shifting of information from elsewhere and also to emphasise that Enterprises can configure a lot of settings regarding telemetry but that Microsoft don't recommend turning it off.

Examples of how Microsoft uses the telemetry data

Section deleted! Although some of this data has been moved to other sections in the document and reworded.

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