MikeMecanic: "I don't have a MSA and Cortana works fine except that I don't use it for the Web: Bing is disable"
Well, I think that is a good start. I cannot determine on an individual basis whether having an MS. account and having Cortana or other application aggregate personal data is or is not a good trade-off for convenience. The social trend of trading personal information for convenience is a disturbing trend that we should all pay attention to and begin to curtail it because there is a reason why programs and services are free (they are free upfront because massive amounts of personal or behavioral data is worth gold to most companies).
The population of the U.S. is approx. 321,362,789 as of year 2010, the population of people working in companies with 10 or more people is 122,723,520 . If one were to assume that Microsoft Cortana and it's other applications are so necessary to the function of the job /company that they must be implemented or used then you are having 38% of the population determine the overall privacy of the whole U.S. population. Of course 38% would be an upper limit, the number is probably under 20% and maybe even below 15%.
These numbers are based on the U.S. Census and the U.S. Dept of Labor Force. It maybe that your job benefits alot from having your computer sync everything in your phone,your laptop, your watch, and whatever other computers you use BUT for the 80-90% of the population this is not a mission critical service not even life necessary. If it was strictly a matter of convenience then it would be great if no strings were attached but the reality is that strings are attached in the form of extracting personal data which is a multi-billion dollar industry.
This kind of behaviour by major companies and minor companies in aggregating personal data to monetize it, is a mayor threat to individual liberty and freedom. One may argue that M.S. does not share information, but the fact is that they do through their business partners which have their own policies on privacy or non-privacy. The other common myth is that many internet and software companies only gather aggregated data but the fact is that with enough aggregated data the information becomes a fingerprint of any single individual and thus there is no difference between personal information and aggregated information. In fact with aggregated data a computer program developed by a U.S. University can pinpoint your probable location to 1 block at anytime of the day 365 days a year with a 98% confidence limit (this does not include cell phone usage). We are creatures of habit and that is what makes data of any individual so valuable.
If you use a "smart T.V." and navigate the web through it's web browser, many T.V. companies like Samsung, L.G., Sony are aggregating data and target advertising to the user. This even includes YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, services. Worst of all those that play videos or movies on the t.v. from a hardrive may also send data to those companies. For those T.V.s that have built-in cameras there has been even reports of t.v. companies turning them on to spy on you (probably by rougue employees). These are facts that have been reported on various major newspapers and tech-web sites that report on technology. What it use to take the Gov a month to find out about an individual, today it only takes anybody less than 30min., and the information is far far more specific about an individual than what the Gov use to get.
It is not about being paranoid. Paranoia is an unfounded fear. The reality of the erosion of privacy is insidious and real. Companies and gov. will always tell you that customer data is necessary for their productive function, that is only a self-serving answer. In so far as companies are concerned they are suposed to entice you and seduce you with new services marketed as convenience . One has to ask oneself if the convenience provided by certain software is of so much value that one is going to disseminate his/her personal information to the whole world of marketing, and in many cases criminal hackers. The so-called "modern interface" of M.S. really is a personal aggregator of your personal data giving M.S. and its partners a new revenue streams. The fact is that there is nothing "modern" about the new MS. Win 10 interface except to drum-up revenue for MS by aggregating personal data and tie-it-in with other MS applications and services that rely on your personal data.
We are changing society were people are becoming commodities not only in the private sector but also the political sector and the black-market of criminal data aquisition. This won't stop until consumers wize-up and become educated enough to see how money is being made from their personal information and how they are politically being manipulated by political groups through data mining. People need to re-evaluate what is the cost of convenience. A large number of people don't know how to add unless they have a calculator in their hands. Some are unable to have a serious conversation face to face or through a phone because they are hooked on text-messaging one or two sentences of shallow thinking. Convenience is not necessarily a positive characteristic. When Win 10 comes out it would be wise to look at the settings and see what features each of us feels comfortable with. We have to be pro-active in safeguarding our own personal information because nobody else will. This may mean turning certain features on/off and complaining to M.S. or other entities where you think it invades your privacy. It's up to you, through your actions , to limit how companies intrude on you and exploit you or make a positive contribution to your welfare.