Make Windows 10 Respect Our Privacy Even More

Ever since Windows 10 came out, there have been a lot of concerns about how much information it collects on everyone who uses it. Here are a few recommendations that just take a very few minutes to do.

Make Windows 10 Respect Our Privacy Even More
Photo by Marija Zaric / Unsplash

Ever since Windows 10 came out, there have been a lot of concerns about how much information it collects on everyone who uses it. This is also up for debate if you think Microsoft has crossed the line when it comes to respecting people's privacy or you just want to make sure you protect as much information about yourself as you can – this article is here to help you. A lot of these recommendations just take a very few minutes to do.

Local Accounts

The first thing you can do to protect your privacy, and the one I tend to do the most, is utilizing a local account instead of a Microsoft Account. A local account is just that, local to your device, whereas, with a Microsoft account I have to log in and authenticate through Microsoft. The Microsoft account syncs settings with all of your Windows devices, so when you make changes to your settings on a desktop PC, those changes will also be made on your laptop the next time you log in.

If you like your privacy like me, maybe you don't want to store that information about yourself. Maybe you want to disconnect your Desktop PC from your laptop. Then maybe you want to cut ties as much as possible from anything that Microsoft could store about you in general. If any of these are things that bug you, then a local account may help and or be the answer you are looking for. To do this, follow the directions right below.

Computer Settings -> Accounts -> Family & Other Users -> Add Someone Else to this PC -> I don't have this person's sign in information -> Add User without Microsoft Account

Yes, there are a few hoops you will have to navigate through in the settings menu of making a local account, but it is well worth it. Also, keep in mind that you will not be able to use OneDrive or use Paid Apps from the Microsoft Store. However, you can still download and install the free apps if you so choose.

Ad Tracking

One of the biggest privacy settings that should be changed by everyone is turning off ad tracking. This information tends to make a profile of our interests that is used by a variety of companies to target ads that we may like and or click. Windows 10 does this with the use of an advertising ID. This ID which they use isn't just about the websites that we go to and use, but also what we do on Windows 10 apps.

I highly recommend turning off the Advertising ID. We are going to launch the Windows 10 Settings App. Then we are going to go to the Privacy then General menus. We will now see several choices under Change Privacy Options. The first option on the page controls the Advertising ID. You want to toggle it off from being on. Ads will still be shown to you, but they won't be directly targeted to anything you do. They will be more or less generic ads.

To make sure you're not tracked online when you use Windows 10, and to turn off any other ways Microsoft will use information about you to target ads, head to the Ad Settings section of Microsoft's Privacy Dashboard. Sign in to your Microsoft account at the top right of the page.

Microsoft's Privacy Dashboard

Microsoft offers a very nice but also very little-known web tool called the Privacy Dashboard. This Dashboard lets you track and delete a majority of the data which Microsoft gathers about you. To access the Dashboard, go to https://account.microsoft.com/privacy/.

As I covered earlier in the story, you can turn off the ad targeting. You are also able to view and delete your browsing history, search history, location activity, voice activity, media activity, and more.

Please Note: Browsing and search history, only tracks your activity when you use Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer. It doesn't track data when you use other browsers, like Chrome or Firefox. And it only tracks your location history when you're using Microsoft devices, not those that use iOS or Android.

Location Tracking

Where ever you go with your laptop, Windows 10 knows where you are. Some people do not mind this too much – it helps give the operating system relative information – but if you are a privacy advocate like myself, then you are going to want to disable this.

We are going to launch the Settings App to go to the Privacy tab then Location. Underneath the Allow Access to Location on this device, you are going to toggle from On to Off. Doing this will turn off all locational tracking for each user on the PC.

Just for the record, this doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing affair — you can turn off location tracking on an app-by-app basis. If you would like your location to be used by some apps, you can, while restricting other apps from the data.

Please remember that when you turn off location tracking, Windows 10 will still keep a record of your past location history. To clear your location history, go to the Privacy Dashboard. We will do this by scrolling down to the Location Activity section, click the View and Clear Location Activity, and then delete all or some of your location history that is displayed there.

Turn off Cortana

Cortana can be called a somewhat useful digital assistant for people who uses the Windows platform. Yet there is a tradeoff in using it: for it to do its job well, it needs to know things about you such as your home location, place of work, and the times and route you take to commute there. If you are worried that this is too much information that Cortana is collecting, there are a few things you can do to limit the amount of information that is gathered about you. Please remember that there's some information you'll have to share with Cortana if you want to use the assistant at all.

We will start by opening the Cortana Settings. We will click the Cortana icon to the right of the Windows search box (it's a circle), then click the three-dot icon in the upper left of the screen and select the settings icon that appears in the pane. Then click Privacy. A panel appears that lets you, to a limited extent, limit the information Cortana gathers about you.

Then we will click Revoke permission and sign out, and we will officially be signed out of Cortana, then your chat history will be cleared, and finally, Cortana won't track information such as your location or connect with your calendar, email, contacts, and other apps and services. But we also won't be able to use Cortana, either. So, the next time you choose to sign in, Cortana will once against track you and connect with all those services.

If we only want to clear our chat history, but remain signed in to Cortana, click Clear in the chat history section. Our chat history will be deleted, but once we start using Cortana, you'll once again build up a chat history once again.

Note that the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard section of Cortana’s settings is outdated. It brings us to the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard, but the Dashboard no longer lets you clear any of Cortana's data.