Microsoft secretly adds Windows 10 user tracking technology to Windows 7 & Windows 8

Microsoft have come under a fair deal of criticism since the launch of Windows 10 with regard to some of the user tracking and reporting technologies that have been included especially if you use Express Settings.

One of the recommendations from Privacy advocates is to avoid Windows 10 altogether and stick with Windows 7 or Windows 8 – unfortunately Microsoft have cottoned on to this, and have recently released four updates via Automatic Updates that have added much of the tracking and telemetry technology from Windows 10 in to these operating systems.

Fortunately these updates were marked as ‘recommended’ updates rather than ‘critical’ so they won’t have been forced on to people that have only opted for ‘critical’ updates, however anyone that has unwittingly opted to install these updates will now have the tracking technology active.

The updates that provide Microsoft with this tracking are:

KB3068708 – ‘This update introduces the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to¬†existing devices. By applying this service, you can add benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights‘.

KB3022345 (replaced by KB3068708) – ‘This update introduces the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to in-market devices. By applying this service, you can add benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet been upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights‘.

KB3075249 – ‘This article describes an update that adds telemetry points to consent.exe in Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1), and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1‘.

KB3080149 – ‘This package updates the Diagnostics and Telemetry tracking service to existing devices. This service provides benefits from the latest version of Windows to systems that have not yet upgraded. The update also supports applications that are subscribed to Visual Studio Application Insights‘.

If you have already installed any of these updates, you can reverse the effects of the tracking by uninstalling them in one of two ways:

  1. Via the ‘Uninstall Windows updates’ feature in the Windows Control Panel
  2. By opening an elevated command prompt and using the following commands

wusa /uninstall /kb:3068708 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:3022345 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:3075249 /quiet /norestart
wusa /uninstall /kb:3080149 /quiet /norestart

Once uninstalled we would also recommend hiding them from future update listings to avoid having them installed in the future by mistake.

The big concern for many privacy advocates here is that Microsoft may have ‘slipped up’ by marking these updates as ‘recommended’. Should they at some point decide to mark these as ‘critical’ then they will be forced upon users who have their systems set for Automatic Critical Updates.

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