Windows 10 has been called a privacy nightmare by many, and I have usually thought those concerns are overblown, with Microsoft more focussed on the OS working well that what porn you are watching.
It turns out however that Windows 10 does have tools built into the OS specifically designed to spy on users and report back to developers, all in the interest of fair play.
Called TruePlay, the API lets developers run a game in protected mode, where the user will then be monitored for common methods of cheating. If TruePlay detects cheating has taken place it will automatically notify the developer and share the logs of the session.
A game enrolled in TruePlay will run in a protected process, which mitigates a class of common attacks. Additionally, a Windows service will monitor gaming sessions for behaviors and manipulations that are common in cheating scenarios. These data will be collected, and alerts will be generated only when cheating behavior appears to be occurring. To ensure and protect customer privacy while preventing false positives, these data are only shared with developers after processing has determined cheating is likely to have occurred.
These systems are often prone to false alarms due to game streaming software and other overlays, which increases the risk of unnecessary data leakage.
Tellingly the link to Microsoft’s TruePlay Privacy Statement is simply a link to the generic Windows 10 Privacy Statement, with no specific mention of TruePlay and Microsoft never details which information is collected or if it is anonymized before it’s shared with the game developers.
Separately Microsoft writes:
The gameMonitor capability causes the system to use active monitoring to detect game cheats by the app. Windows enabled the monitoring immediately, which persists across reboots. The hub of the monitoring is an NT service, which listens for Windows Defender events. The events are processed into signals, published to a cloud service, where they are consumed by partners.
Only Microsoft partners and those who work with a device vendor may request access to this capability for store submission.
While it appears TruePlay can be activated or de-activated by the user, a developer can demand all or some of the game require the feature activated, meaning popular games could force Windows users to expose their session to random developers and their often fallible data protection protocols and policies.
Presumably if effective it would replace similar 3rd party anti-cheating systems which are equally intrusive.
The feature is an example of the operating system working for a developer and against the owner of the PC, which I do not normally consider acceptable. It is not known if any developers are using the feature yet, but more details about its implementation can be read at its MSDN page here.