It seems like the whole world has been waiting on Windows 10, and Microsoft’s new operating system is getting positive reviews for the most part. The new OS offers a slew of new features, including a new browser (Edge) and a quite useful digital assistant named Cortana.
That said, Windows 10, like virtually all software products produced by major tech firms today, will try to access, store and analyze as much of your personal data as it possibly can.
There are ways, however, that you can protect your privacy by setting your personal system configurations to minimize the amount of your data Microsoft can get its hands on.
You can look over Microsoft’s 12,000-word service agreement if you want a detailed breakdown of exactly how, when and where Microsoft is harvesting your personal data, but it boils down to the OS assigning you a unique advertising ID connected to the email address you signed up for Windows with that stores the contents of messages and calendars, apps and networks, purchases and whatever you upload to Microsoft’s cloud. If you use the new digital assistant Cortana, then Bill Gates and company harvests even more personal data. Of course, Microsoft says the data is only being used to create a better, more personalized online experience for users.
How to set up your Windows 10 privacy settings
The first step in protecting your privacy with Windows 10 is to open Settings and click on Privacy. You will then have 13 tabs to select from and you can disable anything you want using them. Most of the important settings are located on the General tab, but you will likely want to make some changes in the other settings as well. Of note, cyber security experts strongly recommend that you adjust what types of data the various apps on your device can access.
In what might seem like a case of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, privacy experts say you should probably turn off the new Cortana app. Although many folks are raving about the new digital assistant as one of the best new features in Windows 10, experts say the app also plays fast and loose with personal data.
Another important step in protecting your digital privacy is the settings on your browser. To maximize your privacy in Microsoft’s new Edge browser, take the time to set both “Personalised ads in this browser” and “Personalised ads wherever I use my Microsoft account” to off. Taking this step means the OS’s ad tracking features have been disabled.
Some technology websites, including Rock Paper Shotgun, recommend going so far as using a newly made local account instead of your already established Microsoft account when you first install Windows 10. This prevents Microsoft from grabbing all your data to sync it across your various devices. Most users find data synching to be a useful feature, but it’s just a matter of a few steps to set up a new account if you want to prevent data synching between your devices.