I have a weakness for drama.
Especially when it involves espionage, sneaky behavior and uncontrolled anger.
I binge-ate a large bucket of hibiscus-flavored popcorn, therefore, when I heard that some Chrome and Firefox users were accusing Microsoft of underhand activities.
I was alerted to a Reddit thread that offered disturbing allegations. Sample from Redditor krankie: “I was immediately annoyed at how invasive this is. I’m a software developer so I’m sensitive to these sort of UI tricks.”
And I’m sensitive to the beginnings of a feisty ruckus. When the likes of Microsoft raises a software developer’s hackles, you have the makings of a scurrilous saga.
In this case, these Redditors said that Microsoft is foisting its new Edge browser on the unsuspecting in Windows 10.
Redditor krankie continued: “No option to get rid of the window, you cannot close Edge with the mouse and you cannot escape the modal window. The only option if you don’t want to ‘Get started’ is to use task manager to kill it. Even when you do, it pins itself to your task bar. It puts an Edge icon on your desktop. It unsets your default browser, so next time you click a URL from a shortcut, you’ll have to re-choose your default browser. Apparently it ingests data from other browsers without your permission.”
And there I was hoping that Microsoft was at least slightly more honorable than Google, which has recently been quite annoyed that Gmail users might have switched to Edge.
Redditor rexington was also disheartened: “Yeah, I did not authorize Edge to copy my firefox/chrome data at any point. I’ve jumped through a lot of hoops in the attempt to maintain some level of privacy with this OS. Finally, it just takes my data without giving me the choice to opt out.”
Naturally, I contacted Microsoft to ask whether (or why) it was being so disturbingly sneaky. A Microsoft spokeswoman told me: “We believe browser data belongs to the customer and they have the right to decide what they should do with it. Like other browsers, Microsoft Edge offers people the opportunity to import data during setup.”
Oh, come now. The “standing up for people’s rights” shtick? The “everybody’s doing it” argument?
Offering people an opportunity is one thing. Offering them an opportunity they find it a little too hard to refuse is something associated with an older, nastier Mafiosoft.
I delved a touch deeper. It seems that — and I’m paraphrasing as nicely as I can — you have to be really careful how you reject Microsoft’s aggressive browser approaches. Swiping left just won’t do it.
Essentially, Redmond believes you can discard the personal browser data which it’s so helpfully imported. If you remain patient, that is.
But if you terminate the Edge browser, um, prematurely — say, if you get the Task Manager to do it — there might be some residual data left behind.
I’m trying to be delicate here. I understand the setup process is such that, if you get annoyed and just try to shut it down before it’s over, you may get precisely the unpleasant surprise these Redditors experienced.
There’s worse, of course. So many people are tied to Windows, but don’t necessarily grasp all its nuances. They offer it trust. They just want it to work. So, as these Redditors pointed out, parents and grandparents — and quite a few other relatives — may even already be using Edge as their default, personal data happily imported, without realizing it.
This is both sad and a touch unattractive. And, as Microsoft sneakily intimates, exactly what you’d expect a tech company to do.
If they think they can get away with something, well, they’re certainly going to leave that option open.
It’s a pity as, if you voluntarily download Edge — which I did — you may find it’s really quite a fine browser.
But if you find out that some of your personal data has been left behind because you didn’t say good riddance to Edge in the right way, you might be permanently annoyed at Microsoft.
Personally, I’m still a little annoyed at Microsoft as the company keeps on asking me to download Edge — with ads on my Outlook inbox — even though I’ve already done it.
I’m not sure tech companies have quite worked out how not to be annoying. I blame the people who work for them.