Here's How To Keep Microsoft's Nose Out Of Your Personal Data In Windows 10
Amid the privacy concerns and arguably invasive nature of Microsoft's Windows 10 regarding user information, it's no surprise that details on how to minimize the leaks as much as possible have been requested. To this end, we've put together a quick guide to help out.
If you are using Windows 10, or plan to upgrade soon, it's worth bearing in mind a number of privacy-related options that are available, even during the installation/upgrade. If you are already running the OS and forgot to turn them off during installation (or didn't even see them), they can be accessed via the Settings menu on the start menu, and then selecting Privacy from the pop-up.
Among these menus are a plethora of options regarding what data can be gathered about you. However, we should mention that changing any of these options may disable various OS related services, namely Cortana, as Microsoft's digital assistant has it tendrils buried deep.
The first option you will probably want to disable is the targeted advertising via ID. You can probably keep the SmartScreen on, but disable if you're slightly paranoid about the Microsoft Store hijacking links to Store items. Sending typing information back to Microsoft sounds suspiciously like the key logging that we mentioned last week, but this is related to Cortana, as part of the inking data. Last is for language options, in which regional settings are sent to Microsoft.
This is mainly used for local advertising, weather, directions and such. Pretty much useless if you are on a desktop, as you are unlikely to have location data to begin with. Mobiles and laptops may wish to disable this -- however, a number of services won't work, such as Weather, News and Cortana. However, you can selectively disable location information on a per application basis.
Camera and Microphone are best left on, otherwise you won't be able to Skype or use online chat services very easily. Still, if you prefer some applications to use your peripherals, and others not, settings can be changed.
Speech, Inking and Typing are all used as part of Cortana. If you can live without the assistant, you can disable these options too. Account info is required for various Microsoft Store applications to work, so turning this off may not be possible for a number of users. If you don't intend to use the store, then you can safely disable this. With Contacts, there is no global override, and as such you will need to disable applications as need be. Calendar, Messaging and Radios have global options too, but it's up to you if you wish to disable. Radio may be best left on if you are on a Laptop, as this is more about functionality than privacy.
Depending on what other devices you have/use, there will be a list of additional settings. Mobile phones, TVs, tablets, can all share data with applications from the Microsoft Store. This is normally used for synchronizing data, cloud services, bookmarks and other odds & ends.
Feedback and diagnostics, those pesky prompts when things go wrong. While you can not completely disable what information is sent to Microsoft regarding crash reports (you can still decide not to send any information when a prompt does occur), you can at least reduce the amount.
Your Microsoft Account
If you use a Microsoft Account to log into your Windows machine, rather than a local account, there will be yet more privacy options that can be tweaked online. This includes clearing 'interests', which are generated by your search behavior through Bing, clearing data saved by Cortana, as well as search and location history. If you use the same account with the Xbox service, there are yet more options for you to check out too.
While you need to jump through quite a few menus to get it all, much of the privacy related data gathering can be opted out of - for the most part. If you would like to keep your search history private too, consider using a search engine like DuckDuckGo.