Convinced that a piracy crackdown is coming, one torrent tracking site has banned all users of Windows 10, and several other sites have considered doing the same. Unfortunately, these sites are also jumping to conclusions without much in the way of evidence.
As noted on Reddit, the private torrent tracker iTS has been banning Windows 10 users since last week, citing reports that Microsoft is scanning Windows 10 PCs for pirated games and unauthorized hardware peripherals. Many of those reports were overblown, however, as the End User License Agreement in question only applies to Microsoft services. In other words, playing a pirated game over Xbox Live in Windows 10 might get you banned from Xbox Live, just as it does on Xbox consoles.
iTS also claimed that Microsoft is submitting “the contents of your local disks” to the servers of MarkMonitor, a firm that provides many services including anti-piracy. Again, this seems like an overstatement. As TorrentFreak points out, Microsoft has long worked with MarkMonitor to offer phishing protection in Microsoft services (and it’s not as if concerns about fraud and malware on torrent sites are completely unfounded).
Nonetheless, iTS’s extreme stand against Windows 10 seems to be inspiring some other trackers. According to TorrentFreak, tracker operators BB and FSC are also considering a ban on Windows 10. “What’s particularly nasty is that apparently it sends the results of local(!!) searches to a well known anti piracy company directly so as soon as you have one known p2p or scene release on your local disk … BAM!,” BB staff wrote to its users.
The concern appears to be that that these trackers could be exposed by Microsoft’s monitoring of its own Internet services. But again, there’s no sign that this is actually happening, so all we have are a few sites taking an abundance of caution in lieu of hard evidence.
Why this matters: While the reaction from private torrent trackers is extreme, that doesn’t mean Microsoft is blameless. By not clearly explaining certain aspects of Windows 10 (such as the way taskbar searches phone home even with Bing disabled ), and enabling features like Wi-Fi Sense and peer-to-peer updates by default, the company has seeded some distrust in its latest operating system. Thus, even the slightest perceived issues, such as anti-piracy measures in Xbox Live, become the cause for more paranoia.