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Windows 10 lets parents access children’s web history

A controversial feature of Windows 10 sends parents a comprehensive report on their children’s online history.

The new operating system from Microsoft monitors a child’s internet activity and creates a log of which websites they visit, which apps they use, what they search for and how long they spend on each page. These logs are then sent to the child’s parents each week.

It was introduced as a child online safety feature, but many parents were surprised to discover that it was activated automatically when the child’s computer was upgraded. One such parent reported that he had received “a creepy-ass email from Microsoft” which detailed his 14 year-old son’s browsing history shortly after the upgrade despite the fact that he had “no desire” to see such information. He warned young people that their parents “might be getting the same kind of report I did” if they had recently installed Windows 10.

The new feature has also been attacked by gay rights advocates. They claim that the reports threaten to ‘out’ LGBT youngsters to their parents without their consent. One gay parent told Gay Star News that the feature “could be very damaging to parent/child relationships” and was “the modern equivalent to reading your kid’s diary”.

Another gay news site investigated further. Journalists at PinkNews created a Windows 10 account for a fictional child in order to see how the feature worked. Visits to gay rights and advice sites were flagged by the subsequent report, as were visits to pornographic sites.

Measures such as clearing the internet history or browsing in a private window – which have been “the tools of many a closeted teen to date” – did not make a difference to the content in the report received by the parents, PinkNews reported.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. The Devil's Advocate says:

    Good! They are children for which if they are resonsible parents they will know how to act accordingly. Better a child to be protected than hurt.

  2. Tim Haines says:

    A can’t see how – for right or for wrong – this isn’t a Human Rights Act, Article 8 issue.

  3. Andrew says:

    If this feature is technically possible and is not implemented and a child suffers harm Microsoft will get the tabloid blame.

    They are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Rather like social workers!

    If I set up Windows 10 with myself as administrator and my adult son or daughter (who still darkens my door) as a user does the system ask whether the user is under 18, or perhaps 16? Or does it just make assumptions and act accordingly?

  4. Amber Hartman says:

    This is not an Article 8 issue as Article 8 has limitations.

    • Tim Haines says:

      The only ‘limitations’ on Article 8 mentioned in the Act are available to a ‘public authority’, and as far as I am aware, Microsoft is not a ‘public authority’ (much as it would like to be!)

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