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As Windows 10 moves towards final status, some of the operating systemÂ’s new features and capabilities are getting attention. One new option, brought over from Windows Phone 8.1, is called WiFi Sense, but itÂ’s debut on the desktop could be controversial given what the feature does. WiFi Sense will automatically connect you to detected crowdsourced WiFi networks, acquire network information and provide Â“additional infoÂ” to networks that require it (itÂ’s not clear exactly what constitutes additional info), and can be used to automatically share your WiFi password with your contacts on Facebook, Skype, and Outlook.
That last feature is the potentially controversial one. When you turn on this feature of WiFi Sense (and itÂ’s not clear if the feature comes activated or not), it will request permission to connect to Outlook, Skype, and Facebook on your behalf. Other users on your friends list who also run Windows 10 will have their contact information shared with you as well, assuming they also enable the feature.
Microsoft claims that this feature improves security and reduces frustration. Now, instead of painstakingly spelling or writing down passwords for guests or friends, they can automatically acquire them as soon as they come in-range of your home network. The companyÂ’s FAQ states:
"When you share Wi-Fi network access with Facebook friends, Outlook.com contacts, or Skype contacts, theyÂ’ll be connected to the password-protected Wi-Fi networks that you choose to share and get Internet access when theyÂ’re in range of the networks (if they use Wi-Fi Sense). Likewise, youÂ’ll be connected to Wi-Fi networks that they share for Internet access too. Remember, you donÂ’t get to see Wi-Fi network passwords, and you both get Internet access only. They wonÂ’t have access to other computers, devices, or files stored on your home network, and you wonÂ’t have access to these things on their network."
In theory, Microsoft could be right, but the company is also creating a de facto database of WiFi information. Elsewhere in the FAQ, Microsoft notes that if you choose to share this information, itÂ’s sent via an encrypted link to Microsoft, who stores the data on their own servers (again in encrypted format). This isnÂ’t as foolproof as it might have once seemed; weÂ’ve covered multiple bugs related to Internet encryption standards in the past 9 months.
The other concern we have with WiFi Sense is that the feature has no granularity beyond the service level. I can choose to share or not-share information with Facebook, Outlook, or Skype, but thatÂ’s it. If you share your network information with anyone on your Facebook friends list, youÂ’re sharing it with everyone on your Facebook friends list. ThatÂ’s something Microsoft really ought to have addressed when it brought the feature over from Windows Phone; just because I want to share this kind of data with some people doesnÂ’t mean I want to share it with everyone.
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