Microsoft has promised it will never again download files onto Windows PCs without permission, after being challenged over its Windows 10 upgrade push.
During the one-year period when Windows 7 and 8 users could upgrade to Windows 10 for free, Microsoft downloaded gigabytes of data to eligible PCs in anticipation of the upgrade.
In early 2016, a consumer rights body in the German state of Baden-Württemberg took Microsoft to court over the downloading of these files, on the grounds that up to 6GB of files were being added to PCs without the consent of owners.
After more than a year of legal hearings, Microsoft’s German subsidiary has now agreed the company will not download files to Windows users’ PCs without permission.
The German group welcomed the change but said it was unacceptable it had taken so long to reach this resolution.
“We would have wished for an earlier backdown, but [Microsoft’s statement] is a success for more consumer rights in the digital world,” said Cornelia Tausch, CEO of the Consumer Center in Baden-Württemberg.
In a statement, Microsoft said it is pleased the matter is resolved and highlighted recently added Windows 10 features that offer users greater control over when updates are installed. But it is unclear how the declaration by Microsoft’s German subsidiary will affect the way the wider company handles user consent in practice. The free upgrade period for Windows 10 ended in July last year, and there are ways to nominally get consent for actions that the bulk of users are unaware of, for example, making options opt-out rather than opt-in.
It is not the first time Microsoft has distanced itself from the aggressive tactics it used to push Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade to Windows 10. At the end of last year, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer Chris Capossela admitted the company had gone too far when changes it made to the Get Windows 10 user prompt made it easier for Windows 7 and 8 users to inadvertently agree to the upgrade.
Microsoft also faces a multi-million dollar, class-action lawsuit from US citizens who claim they lost data or suffered ‘damage to software or hardware’ after upgrading to Windows 10, some of whom, the suit claims, did so “inadvertently”.
This recent suit followed a ruling by a US small claims court last year that Microsoft should pay $10,000 to Teri Goldstein, a travel agent based in Sausalito, California, who said an unwanted Windows 10 upgrade made her PC unstable.
Microsoft set itself ambitious targets for Windows 10 adoption. When Windows 10 launched in July 2015, the firm predicted it would be installed on one billion devices within two to three years.
That timeframe for Microsoft to hit its target was dropped last year, when Microsoft acknowledged it would take longer than expected, due largely to its decision to reduce its focus on making Windows 10 smartphones amid lackluster sales. By May this year, the OS was installed on half that original target, about 500 million devices, with daily growth slowing.