A new privacy feature in Windows 10 is working to out young LGBT children to their parents, many of whom may not be accepting, by spying on their internet activity and reporting each website they visit in an unsolicited email to parents.
The flaw was first pointed out by Windows 10 user Kirk, who wrote to Boing Boing earlier this month:
This weekend we upgraded my 14-year-old son’s laptop from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Today I got a creepy-ass email from Microsoft titled ’Weekly activity report for [my kid]’, including which websites he’s visited, how many hours per day he’s used it, and how many minutes he used each of his favorite apps.
I don’t want this. I have no desire to spy on my boy. I fixed it by going into my Microsoft account’s website, hitting the “Family” section, then turning off “Email weekly reports to me” and “Activity reporting”.
As Kirk points out, Windows 10 doesn’t inform children that they’re being monitored or that their internet history is being sent to their parents. As we’ve seen previously, when adult site Corbin Fisher began suing tweens who pirated their content, effectively outing children via their internet habits can have dire consequences.
At the time, a number of kids claimed to be facing hostile environments at home after the adult giant outed them — some even threatened suicide. This Windows 10 privacy flaw is working to effectively do the same thing, only this time it’s worse, since kids aren’t doing anything particularly illegal by surfing LGBT interest sites.
According to Microsoft, the child “safety” feature also reports “how much time the child spent on the PC, the websites they visited, the games and apps they used, and the terms they’ve looked up in search engines like Bing, Google, or Yahoo! Search.”
For what it’s worth, Windows users say the feature has always been available on the platform. It’s only been turned “on” by default after their upgrade to Windows 10.
But as Kirk says, it may already be too late for some young users. He writes, “A message to young readers: if you have Windows 10 now, your parents might be getting the same kind of report I did. Don’t assume your own computer has your back.”