Tech Tip: Adjusting your Windows 10 Privacy Settings

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Windows 10 is loaded with data-tracking tidbits and hooks into a variety of Microsoft’s online services. While there are certainly benefits to having those hooks enabled (OneDrive integration and Cortana’s back-end, for example), you don’t have to be thrilled about the idea of Mcrosoft’s operating system calling home or looking over your shoulder. Here’s how you can disable these integrations.

Turn Off Personalized Advertising: While ads are all fine and dandy (we’re certainly not against companies making money of advertising), ad personalization is a feature that presents ads tailored to your personal tastes and browser history thanks to tracking cookies placed on your computer, assigning your computer a unique ID. That doesn’t sit right with a lot of folks. If you’d rather see ads based on more generic demographics versus your unique tracking, you can turn this feature off:

  1. Head to your settings area by heading to “Search à Privacy à General” and turn the “Let apps use my advertising ID for experience across apps” switch to Off.
  2. If you have a Windows Live account tied to your machine (and even if you don’t, this is a good idea) head to http://choice.microsoft.com/en-us/opt-out and login to your Microsoft account. Select “Off” for “Personalized ads wherever I use my Microsoft account” and “Personalized ads in this browser.” Note, you may need to do this in all your browsers on your computer to clear cookies for those browser, too (your default browser is likely enough, but better safe than sorry).

Disable Cortana: Microsoft’s built-in assistant, created to compete with the likes of Apple’s Siri, can be incredibly useful. However, it can also be quite annoying and it does collect data when used. To turn it off:

  • To turn it off, click on the Cortana icon in the taskbar, followed by the notebook icon on the left hand side of the pop-up panel.
  • Click on Settings, this should present you with the first option which says, ‘Cortana can give you suggestions, ideas, reminders, alerts and more’, you can slide that to Off.

Stop Peer-to-Peer Updates Sharing: We won’t rehash this bandwidth hog here, but you want to disable peer-to-peer sharing. Directions for that are here in a past article.

Disable WiFi-Sense: While this doesn’t do anything unless you explicitly use it, it’s probably something you should double-check to make sure this WiFi-password sharing service is disabled. You can find a full write up for that over at PC World, but the long and short of it: To make sure Wi-Fi Sense is off and stays off, go to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > Manage Wi-Fi Settings. Then slide the two options that say ‘Connect to suggested open hotspots’ and ‘Connect to open networks shared by my contacts’ to Off.

More Privacy Options: While the above are the most critical options, you can find some more options in Windows 10’s privacy settings area. Head again into the Settings app, and click on Privacy. There you can tweak things further, but probably the main one you’ll want to check is under Privacy à General. Here you’ll want to turn off ‘Send Microsoft info about how I write to help us improve typing and writing in the future.’ You may also want to shut off ‘Let websites provide locally relevant content by accessing my language list.’

Even More…PC World has additional settings that can be tweaked in Microsoft Edge and SmartScreen and more. Head here for more you can tweak. And if you’re ultra paranoid, you can further tweak things based on this Ars Technica article.

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