Windows 10 has received a lot of positive reviews from users the world over, but there have also been plenty of concerns over privacy settings. While many experts believe that the privacy concerns are for the most part overblown, the perception that something’s not right is constantly playing in the minds of a lot of people. Since Windows 8 and Windows 10 were designed to sync your browser settings, history and passwords across all Windows devices when you sign in with a Microsoft account, there is a perception that your data that is now residing in the cloud in Microsoft’s servers is likely to be compromised.
There’s the concern that Cortana, being your personal virtual assistant and all, who knows everything about you – your location, your calendar appointments, your interests and so on could turn against you at some point in time exposing you to the unknown dangers that lie out there.
If that's not enough, there is a feature in Windows 10 that lets you share Windows updates via peer to peer technology, to save you and Microsoft some bandwidth. And rumors have been floating around that Microsoft uses this feature to steal your Internet. There’s also the WiFi Sense feature (enabled by default) that shares your WiFi connectivity with your social contacts, thereby giving them access to your WiFi password, which IS NOT TRUE in any case. And the latest bit of news is that Microsoft can tell if you are running pirated games on your PC. and can disable them.
Whatever the reason, the fact remains that as more and more issues are being dragged out into the open, the concerns and worries only take on magnanimous proportions. If you are concerned about privacy, and prefer to be safe than sorry, here are some things that you can do to protect your privacy when using Windows 10.
Go to Settings->Privacy to access all your privacy options. If you want to apply the privacy settings not just for your PC but for all your Windows 10 devices, you can head over to the Microsoft Privacy web site where you can learn more.
General Privacy Settings
On the General tab, you will find a number of options. If you are concerned about allowing apps to gain access to your user experiences to provide personalized ads, you can turn this off. This will result in non-personalized ads being displayed. If you don’t want to see the URL’s that Windows Store apps uses, you can turn off the SmartScreen filter option.
If you feel that sending anonymous data to Microsoft about your typing and writing data behavior is a concern you can turn off the third option. he last option will help browsers to provide better local content and language related advertising, but if you find this disconcerting, you can turn it off too.
Location Privacy Settings
On the location tab, you can see the list of apps that have access to your location and you can choose which apps can access your location information.
Camera Privacy Settings
Here you can disable the cameras in your PC and set which apps can access the camera.
Microphone Privacy Settings
Here you can disable the microphones in your PC and set which apps can access the camera.
Speech, Inking & Typing Privacy Settings
If you enable Cortana and opt into voice control, she will study your writing and voice over time in order to respond more accurately. If you feel that this is sneaking into your privacy, you can disable this option. Remember Cortana is not enabled by default. Its only when you turn it on that the privacy concern arises in the first place.
Account Info Privacy Settings
There may be some Windows apps that use your account name, picture and other personal info to offer a personalized app experience. If you don’t want the apps using your personal data, you can turn them off individually or apply a global rule to do so.
Contacts Privacy Settings
Here you can configure which apps can have access to your Contacts list.
Calendar Privacy Settings
Here you can globally disable Calendar access or configure which individual apps can have access to your Calendar.
Messaging Privacy Settings
Here you can globally disable which apps have the ability to read or send text messages or select individual apps for disabling.
Radios Privacy Settings
Here you can disable which apps have control over your radio.
Other Devices Privacy Settings
You may have devices that are paired with your PC such as smartphone which can automatically sync data between them. If you want to disable this functionality, you can head over to this section.
Feedback and Diagnostics Privacy Settings
If you don’t like to share your feedback on Windows or share anonymous diagnostic information with Microsoft that will help make Windows better, you can head over to this section to turn it off.
Background Apps Privacy Settings
Certain apps run in the background to receive information over the Internet to keep the app up to date as well as to send alerts and notifications to you. If you want to turn off such the background running functionality, here’s where you do it.
Apart from these settings, you also need to consider if these areas are of concern to you.
Windows Update Delivery
By default Windows 10 is configured to receive updates from PCs on your local network and well as PCs on the Internet. This is designed to help Microsoft and yourself save some bandwidth and ensure faster download. A better option would be to set this option to PCs on my local network. This will ensure that once an update has arrived on a PC in your local network, you can do a peer to peer transfer to other PCs on that network. Or if you don’t care for any bandwidth saving, just turn it off.
1. Go to Settings->Update & Security->Windows Update.
2. Click Advanced Options.
3. Click Choose how updates are delivered.
4. Select an option.
Turn Off WiFi Sense
WiFi Sense is designed to serve users in a couple of ways. First, it lets you sign in to free public WiFi hotspots anonymously without having to create an account and secondly, it lets you securely share your WiFi network with friends and family on a network-by-network basis. (No passwords or sign in information is shared here.) However, if you still prefer to opt out of it:
1. Go to Settings->Network & internet.
2. Click Manage Wi-Fi settings.
3. Turn off Connect to networks shared by my contacts.
The way I see it, the biggest issue with privacy in Windows 10 lies in the fact that Microsoft has not made them expressly clear to users. To get a truly wholesome Windows user experience means accepting that your user information and experience will be observed, analyzed and integrated into the system.
If that trade-off is unacceptable to you, you can turn off all the settings that infringe upon your privacy and use a less than complete operating system to get things done. In the end its all about drawing a fine balance between the two. I hope this post offers some guidance to you in protecting your privacy while getting the best Windows experience.