Computers / Tips and Solutions

6 Privacy Tips for Microsoft Windows 10 Users

0Share

Microsoft made it no secret that it wanted Windows 10 to give you a personalized experience. The company wanted you to get your local weather forecast without keying in your zip code, or have Cortana send an email or text on your behalf via voice input. Unfortunately, this means that Microsoft must collect a great deal of data on how you use your computer. If you’re uncomfortable with that, here are some tips on how to increase your privacy on Windows 10.

Advertising ID

What it Does
Your advertising ID allows Microsoft to personalize the ads that you see. Unfortunately, that requires Microsoft to collect data on you while you’re browsing the Web or using Windows 10 apps. Turning this option off doesn’t mean that there won’t be ads (you’ll need an ad blocker for that); they’ll just be generic instead of personalized.

How to Turn It Off
Go to Start à Settings à Privacy à General à Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps (turning this off will reset your ID).

Move the slider to Off.

You’ll also have to head over to choice.microsoft.com/en-us/opt-out and turn them off there, as well, to be completely free from personalized ads. Don’t forget that you’ll have to repeat the process in every browser you use (i.e., Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge).

Cortana

What it Does
Cortana is your digital agent. Like Siri for iOS and Google Assistant for Android, Cortana helps you get things done in Windows 10. The more you use Cortana, the more personalized your experience will be. Cortana can set reminders, track packages and flights, send emails and text, manage your calendar, and more. Unfortunately, Cortana must log your data to accomplish this.

How to Turn It Off
You used to be able to turn off Cortana with an easy slider toggle, but Microsoft removed that option after the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. You can still turn Cortana off by editing the Windows registry, but that might be a bit too involved for casual users. You may not be able to turn off Cortana, but you can limit the assistant by turning off certain settings that it requires (see below).

Speech, Inking, and Typing

What it Does
To use voice input, you must allow speech input tracking. This is because certain speech services exist both in the cloud and on your device. Microsoft stated that the voice data collected helps improve the speech services. If you’re only using speech services that do not rely on the cloud and only exist on your device, such as Narrator and Windows Speech Recognition, they will still work even if this setting is turned off. In addition, Microsoft will also not collect data.

This also logs handwriting and typing for Cortana, which requires an additional step (see next tip). Oh, Cortana also has access to your Calendar and People (for reminders and sending emails and text).

How to Turn It Off
Go to Start à Settings à Privacy à Speech, inking, and typing à Getting to know me

Click on the “Stop getting to know me” button.

Please note that clicking on this button will clear the data on your device and turn off speech recognition. It also resets the local user dictionary used to improve your typing and inking. Also, any voice data that was already sent to the cloud will also be dissociated from your device.

Typing and Handwriting Input Tracking

What it Does
Windows 10 tracks your typing and handwriting (for touchscreens) to improve your word autocomplete suggestions. While the reason seems innocent, that sounds awfully like a key logger. Microsoft has stated that it won’t log complete sentences, but pulls certain words out of context to update the local user dictionary.

How to Turn It Off
Go to Start à Settings à Privacy à General à Send Microsoft info about how I write to help us improve typing and writing in the future.

Move the slider to Off.

Location

What it Does
Windows 10 tracks your location. It’s useful for local weather forecasts, traffic updates, and finding nearby restaurants, but that does mean that Microsoft knows where you are. This may be somewhat useful for portable devices, like tablets and laptops, but less so for desktop computers.

How to Turn It Off
Go to Start à Settings à Privacy à Location

You can turn off location for individual apps or opt to turn it off entirely via the slider at the top.

Feedback and Diagnostics

What it Does
Like most apps and operating systems, Windows 10 also allows you to send diagnostics to Microsoft for improved troubleshooting. However, it’s not exactly clear what is being sent. Also, Microsoft doesn’t allow you to totally turn off diagnostics. Instead, you’ll have to choose the level of involvement from Full, Enhanced, and Basic.

How to Turn It Off
Go to Start à Settings à Privacy à Feedback & diagnostics

Select Never under “Windows should ask for my feedback.”

Select Basic under “Diagnostic and usage data.”

Please note that Microsoft doesn’t allow you to turn off diagnostics completely, except for the Enterprise Edition.

Do you have any other tips to ensure greater privacy on Microsoft devices? Share them with us, in the Comments section!

Close

Close

Close