As you surely already know, Microsoft is currently distributing its new operating system Windows 10.
The OS, which was launched globally in 190 countries on July 29 is full of new features, fills in a lot of gaps and does away with the “Metro” style UI almost entirely.
Moreover, Windows 10 is super fluid and fast and its new browser Microsoft Edge might win back a lot of users because it’s also super-fast.
But all this comes at a pretty steep price for privacy, since Windows 10 listens in on what you do now more than ever and all that data gets transferred to Microsoft’s servers.
Basically, the OS will go through all your data (contacts, calendar, mail, messages…) and will learn information about you.
To make matters even worse, with Windows 10 you also have an advertising ID assigned to you so you can be easily targeted with specifically tailored ads; if you encrypt your hard-drive, the keys are stored by default on OneDrive.
Thankfully though, the native VPN option can be accessed and started directly from the notification quick-setting.
Of course, these are all settings and features aimed at increasing your productivity, as they make your apps and operating system much smarter.
But as mentioned before, this does come at a cost. Everything you do gets uploaded to Microsoft’s servers to improve your future experience. As stated in the Terms of Service, Microsoft has the right to share this data whenever it “has a good faith belief doing so is necessary to: 1.comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies; 2.protect our customers, for example to prevent spam or attempts to defraud users of the services, or to help prevent the loss of life or serious injury of anyone; 3.operate and maintain the security of our services, including to prevent or stop an attack on our computer systems or networks; or 4.protect the rights or property of Microsoft, including enforcing the terms governing the use of the services.“
In addition, all these settings are ON by default and will remain enabled if you just click next when installing/upgrading to Windows 10.
Most of the information regarding Win 10 and privacy is available in this official Microsoft article:
To sum it up, everything that happens with your Microsoft account (@live.com, @outlook.com, @msn.com, ….. , which is necessary for most of the new features) is scanned by Microsoft’s services. Everything you talk with Cortana (searches, reminders, notes, actions,….) is also processed by them. So is your location. In Microsoft’s own words:
“We also share data with Microsoft-controlled affiliates and subsidiaries; with vendors working on our behalf; when required by law or to respond to legal process; to protect our customers; to protect lives; to maintain the security of our services; and to protect the rights or property of Microsoft.“
Nevertheless, there’s something you can do about that and protect your data and privacy from Windows 10’s prying eyes.
In case you just clicked NEXT, NEXT when installing/upgrading to Win 10 and went with the defaults, here are a couple of things you should be aware of and disable if you feel spied on too much.
The Privacy settings can be easily managed by searching privacy in the start menu and most of the modules that send your data to Microsoft can be disabled.
If you simply press start then settings and then search for “privacy,” you’ll find most of the options listed. You can go through each of them and disable what you feel you need to keep only to yourself.
Below are some important ones that you need to change if you want to considerably increase your privacy:
- Disable advertiser ID: open the settings and search for “advertising;” open “Choose if apps can use your advertising ID” and disable the first option: “Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps”
- On the same page, disable “…info about how I write” so that the text you type and write with a stylus is not sent to Microsoft servers
Also in the settings, search for “privacy” and open “Privacy Settings.” Get more privacy by changing the following:
- “Send Microsoft info about how I write..” -> OFF
- “Let apps use my Advertising ID…” -> OFF
- “Location” -> OFF
- Speech, Inking, & typing: This is a feature strongly tied with Cortana. You can opt to clear everything, but if you do, you’ll lose Cortana. You will still be able to use the Windows search function.
The rest is pretty self-explanatory and mostly relates to managing apps’ access to certain personal data. You can check the list of programs or devices (camera, mic) allowed to access the data or device or you can disable them entirely.
Before you go ahead and change these settings though, you should know that:
- Disabling these option will diminish the “smart” experience you’ll have with Windows 10, so if you’re more into new features than you are into privacy, keeping them ON would be best for you. Otherwise, Windows 10 works really well without all these options; search is still possible.
- Remember that your information is made available to “Microsoft employees, contractors, vendors, and partners…,” so basically it’s still not as hard as it should be for someone to get your data and use it.
There is one more Windows 10 novelty that you need to know about and that’s called “Wi-Fi Sense.“
“Wi-Fi Sense” is a new feature that will sync all your Wi-Fi passwords to the cloud and share them with your contacts (Yep, you read that right). Through this functionality, your PC will also be able to “borrow” passwords and automatically connect, which means that you could end up automatically connected to a rogue router where your data could be easily phished.
In order to disable “Wi-Fi Sense,” go to Settings, search for “Wi-Fi” and open “Change Wi-Fi Settings.”
At the end of the list of found Wi-Fi networks, you will see “Manage Wi-Fi settings” and that’s where you can disable both options mentioned before.
Photo credits: www.orangejuiceblog.com