Windows 10 privacy settings now span several pages and if you have any wish to stop Windows sending massive amounts of your data back to Microsoft, you need to understand all of them. Here’s how to stop Windows 10 dialling home, part two.If you recall, the privacy settings can be found by clicking the Start button; select Settings, then select Privacy.
The Location tab controls location services. This exists to send ‘Microsoft and trusted partners some location data to improve location services.’ Trust is a controversial word to bandy about. Who are these partners and why should they be trusted any more than Microsoft (total trust score: less than zero).
Location and location history
Certain Windows apps work best with location-dependant information; anything using maps, directions, local business directories, Internet searches (suggestions for businesses near your current location) and the like. Unsurprisingly, your current location data is siphoned off by Microsoft and potentially shared with these trusted partners if you have location services enabled.
Location history is kept for 24 hours, during which any location-aware app can trace where you have been in that time. So that’s two ways that you can be tracked – current location, real time and 24 hour history. If you don’t like that, turn it off.
Speech, inking, & typing
This is a glorified key-logger. More than that, it’s a glorified audio-logger if you use the Cortana virtual assistant. Windows and Cortana will log your voice, writing, contacts, calendar events, speech and handwriting pattern, and typing history.
If you enable ‘the get to know you feature’ you give up any privacy on that Windows device. It’s a level of surveillance that Big Brother could only dream of. But only on this one device.
Manage cloud info
‘Go to Bing and manage personal info for all your devices’ is even better as it logs personalisation data stored on Microsoft’s servers against everything linked to your Microsoft account. The ‘Clear’ button under ‘Other Cortana Data and Personalized Speech, Inking and Typing’ will stop information on this Windows device being aggregated. We think.
‘Feedback & diagnostics’
The Windows telemetry system is called ‘Asimov.’ I’m sure the author would sue Microsoft for this if he were alive. By default it sends ‘Full’ diagnostic and usage data’ to Microsoft. The data collection process cannot be disabled. All you can you is choose Enhanced or Basic diagnostic and usage data. Enterprise customers have to edit the group policy to turn this off. No other Windows edition allows it to be disabled. This is nothing less than industrial spyware. You agree to it in the license agreement.
Search: Cortana and Bing
The smart assistance and ‘smart’ search engine will use anything you give them to try to learn what you need, how you work, search and think.
Cortana collects and uses ‘location and location history, contacts, voice input, searching history, calendar details, content and communication history from messages and apps, and other information on your device.’ It will also comb through your browsing history from the Edge web browser. Most of Cortana’s smart behaviour is powered by Microsoft servers in the cloud, so everything it does goes up the pipe for processing before the answers come back to you.
In fairness, this is exactly what Google Now and Apple’s Siri do.
Bing Search in the Start Menu – Even with Cortana disabled, enabling Bing search in the Start menu means all your Start menu search queries will go to Microsoft servers first.
Is that it? By no means. There’s still pages of settings to go through to get any sense of data privacy at all. AJS