Though some might think these pieces cast Microsoft in a negative light, I’d say they’re a good thing for privacy pros, and probably Microsoft as well.
Let’s start off with its new "Wi-Fi Sense." This new feature shares an encrypted version of the user’s WiFi password with her Skype, Facebook, Outlook or Hotmail accounts. This, in turn, allows those contacts, assuming they visit the house, to jump right on her home WiFi without having to ask for a password. Since the password is encrypted, the guest will not see the password.
I can see why Microsoft would implement such a feature as a user-friendly add-on for friends and relatives visiting the house. Plus, it helps you save on your cellular data and battery life as you bounce around visiting your contacts.
In its Wi-Fi Sense FAQs, Microsoft spells out where the user can go to control Wi-Fi Sense, clearly stating the need to use location services and how to change the settings.
It’s true, there’s definitely privacy and security concerns with this new feature, and Brian Krebs offers a candid look at the potential issues with Wi-Fi Sense, calling it “a disaster waiting to happen.” He notes, “Given the myriad ways in which social networks and associated applications share and intertwine personal connections and contacts, it’s doubtful that most people are aware of who exactly all of their social network followers really are from one day to the next.”
Privacy is part and parcel of the product release. That will become a consumer expectation. If a rival releases a new software product and it doesn't come with a FAQ that addresses privacy concerns, that becomes a competitive differentiator. While Microsoft might suffer some slings and arrows regarding the choices it has made, what it has also done is reframe the conversation to include privacy. If Microsoft trusts its choices, it'll be confident that this new frame is good for the company in the long run.
Look at some other privacy responses around the web.
A column for The Next Web highlights what it considers to be privacy issues with Windows 10. The column cites data-syncing by default; Cortana, or the “sexy spy in the machine”; the amount of data Microsoft will now collect, including what apps that run on Windows; the unique advertising ID on each device, and curiously, adds the benefit of a backed-up encryption key to its concerns.
For companies that want to push the envelope, make their services user-friendly and privacy-sensitive, they’re going to have to heavily rely upon privacy pros to make these rollouts as smooth as possible. Privacy is a sensitive thing, and headlines touting another “privacy invasion” will continue.
In a way, the Brian Krebs of the world are a boon to privacy pros, and the fact that they exist is proof positive of the value privacy pros provide to the organization. Media scrutiny ensures that companies stay on their toes. It’s the privacy pros that will help make that happen. And just think what will happen to organizations without privacy pros on board.
photo credit: An Archer's Arrows via photopin (license)
Investigative reporter and cybersecurity expert Brian Krebs will be a keynote speaker at this year’s Privacy. Security. Risk conference in Las Vegas, NV.
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