Microsoft changed its diagnostic data collection settings in a recent release of Insider. In the different telemetry modes, the editor deletes one and renames the others. An exercise that can be confusing.
Last week, Microsoft said it would remove one of Windows 10’s diagnostic data collection settings and change the names of two other settings. The Redmond firm explains that it wants to give business customers more control over the data collected, as it committed to in 2019. “As part of our commitment to transparency and control over data, we are bringing some Changes to app “Settings” and “Group Policy”. These changes will appear in Windows Insider builds this month,” wrote Brandon LeBlanc, a senior program manager, in a March 5 post on a company blog. Windows Insider builds allow customers to preview Windows 10 code in development. Changes to diagnostic data were introduced in build 19577, released March 5.
The “Enhanced” setting, removed
Windows 10 launched with three telemetry settings – “Basic”, “Enhanced” and “Full” – plus a fourth called “Security”, added later. Based on the increasing amount of data collected by Microsoft, the ranking of the four settings was as follows: “Security”, “Basic”, “Enhanced” and “Comprehensive”. The “Enhanced” setting has been removed since Windows 10 version 1703. It included all data collected by the “Security” and “Basic” options, plus other information collected by Microsoft about machines, in particular, a lot of operating system events, including Hyper-V and Cortana, specific events of applications integrated into Windows 10 or downloaded from the Microsoft Store as well as all crash dumps, those crashes that occur without warning. Microsoft claimed that the “Enhanced” setting collects packets between 239 KB and 348 KB in size daily per device. According to a post in the “Insider” section of Microsoft Answers, in build 19577 , systems previously set to ‘Enhanced’ would default to ‘Basic’, the most restricted level in terms of collected data.
In addition to removing the “Enhanced” setting, Microsoft will also rename the other settings.
– The “Security” parameter will be renamed “Diagnostic data disabled”.
– The “Basic” parameter will be renamed “Required diagnostic data”.
– The “Complete” parameter will be renamed “Optional diagnostic data”.
These denominations better describe what’s going on – unlike the previous very opaque titles – and lend more credence to Microsoft’s promise of transparency. The “Diagnostic data disabled” setting – formerly “Security” – should do exactly what it advertises. For a long time, Microsoft considered the option to collect “only the diagnostic data information needed…to protect Windows devices with the latest security updates.” The company admits that some data is still collected – operating system, device ID, device class – but this time the option opts out of collecting any content and data that could identify the device. user, including company name.
The ‘Required diagnostic data’ (formerly ‘Basic’) and ‘Optional diagnostic data’ (formerly ‘Full’) settings seemingly give a better idea of what’s going on, but don’t say what can be collected. makes them almost as fuzzy as previous denominations. The first parameter referring to “Data Required” (mandatory) is the telemetry applied by default since version 1903 of Windows 10, the feature update delivered in the spring of last year. The second parameter, “Optional Data”, really gives the impression of a catch-all collection. It covers all data that Microsoft will want to collect that does not fall into the category of “Required Data”.
A confused telemetry
Since the telemetry changes are only for Windows Insider and might take a while to show up in production builds, it’s no surprise they haven’t been documented further. The company said on this subject, in the “Insider” section of the Microsoft Answers, that it would provide “additional information on these upcoming diagnostic policies before their introduction”. Even if the renaming of the “Basic” and “Complete” parameters to “Required Data” and “Optional Data” seems clear, the deletion of the “Enhanced” parameter still raises questions. For example, does the collected data now fall into the “Optional” or “Required” category, or is it split between the two categories? (It is not Microsoft telemetry practice to stop collecting a specific category of data).
Microsoft says nothing about the odd setting introduced at the end of 2017 – called “Enhanced (Limited)” – which limited data collection to the minimum necessary for the Windows Analytics service at the time (reappeared as “Desktop Analytics”) after the closure of the Windows Analytics service at the end of January 2020). Telemetry data collected by Microsoft is used by enterprise customers of Desktop Analytics to perform updates and upgrades. Will the “Required Data…” or “Optional Data” options do something similar after removing the “Enhanced” option? Microsoft has also not indicated when these changes will be introduced to customers not participating in the Insider cycle. Insider’s build version number including these settings changes was higher than the Windows 10 2004 baseline, first – and possibly only – feature update of the year (version 19041), which which means that the new telemetry settings will not be introduced in the next spring update. The vagueness persists over too many data collection processes and discredits Microsoft’s discourse on transparency and control.