Computers & Technology

By Darryl Budge

Stay on top of Windows 10 privacy

While Windows 10 is a free upgrade, Microsoft wants to make money getting you glued to their cloud services. This means that Microsoft is following the focus of Google and Facebook, for whom adverts and online services deliver profits.

In Windows 10 there is advertising on Windows Store apps, as mobile apps have for years. Like Android and iOS, Windows 10 uses a 'unique advertising ID' for targeted ads. It also collects location, speech, typing and inking/touch data to personalize search and voice services, much like Android Now does.

For desktop users who desire greater privacy here are the main concerns:

  1. Ignore 'Express Settings' when first installing Windows 10, as this has the lowest possible privacy settings. Go the 'Custom' route, where you will see every privacy option before you start using Windows 10. All the invasive features can be disabled via Start > Settings > Privacy.

  2. Free privacy tool: Windows 10 privacy settings can be controlled via the free application O&O ShutUp 10 (oo-software.com/shutup10), which runs without needing to be installed. Simply follow the recommended settings. A similar free app is W10 Privacy (www.WinPrivacy.de)

  3. Cortana search: This is off by default, but If you activate it Cortana provides a Bing-powered personalised search experience by gathering speech, inking and typing patterns from you. If you wish to avoid these privacy concerns, disable the 'Getting to know you' option under 'Speech, inking and typing' in the Privacy settings. There is also a gear icon in the Cortana app to disable Cortana and manage cloud-stored information about you.

  4. Adverts: Avoid data harvesting for advertisement services by navigating to the 'General' tab in the 'Privacy' settings, and disable "Let apps use your advertising ID." After that, you also must disable the browser and Microsoft account options at https://choice.microsoft.com/en-us/opt-out

  5. Location: Your computer may not have a GPS, but location services are available to Windows Store apps in Windows 10 unless you disable it. Microsoft's privacy agreement suggests that your location info and location history may be shared with "trusted" third parties (i.e. advertisers). If that is a concern, go to Settings > Privacy > Location tab to turn location services off. Turning off Location services unfortunately disables Cortana entirely.

  6. Wi-Fi Sense: This Windows 10 feature is off by default, but if you 'Allow my contacts to access this network', Windows will automatically share your Wi-Fi password with your Outlook, Skype and Facebook contacts, so that they can use your Wi-Fi when they are nearby. This option does not allow picking individual contacts, so it should probably only be enabled if you trust every single contact on each network. Disable this option under Settings > Network and Internet, not in the Privacy section.

  7. Local Account: For maximum privacy use a local account instead of a Microsoft account to login to Windows. You will lose settings sync between Windows devices. Under Settings > Accounts > My account, select 'Sign in with a local account instead'.

  8. Update 'Delivery Optimization': Home and Pro versions of Windows default to using your net quota to deliver updates to other W10 Internet users. To turn off: Settings > Windows Update > Advanced > 'Choose how...'

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