Windows 10 Privacy Settings
A lot has been published about privacy and security issues in Windows 10. While everyone who uses it must decide how important those issues are to them, we wanted to provide a list of privacy and security settings, why they may matter to you, and how to change them. The settings shown in the screenshots lean towards more privacy.
Please note that maximizing privacy will limit or disable some features in Windows 10.
This document is intended for end-users, not IT staff.
If you haven't installed Windows 10 yet, be sure to click Customize settings during installation so you'll be able to pick and choose your privacy settings. (If you installed Windows 10 using Express Settings, you can still change some privacy settings — begin at step 4 below.)
- On the first Customization screen you’ll see:
By keeping the first three switches on you allow Microsoft greater access to your personal information. Your contacts, calendar details, your speech, typing and inking input will all be sent to Microsoft. The third option allows Microsoft to assign an advertising ID to you. This allows them to send personalized ads to you (based on all the tracking information). To maximize your privacy, turn off all three options.
This allows Microsoft to track your current and past locations and to share that information with their unidentified trusted partners. You do not get to decide if you trust these partners or not. If you want to maximize your privacy, you may want to turn off everything on this page.
- On the second Customization screen, you’ll find:
Browser and protection
SmartScreen online services are somewhat useful in protecting against malicious content. This sends the URLs you visit in Windows Store apps to Microsoft which checks them against potentially harmful sites. You may want to keep this option on.
Use page prediction sends more of your activity and browsing data to Microsoft. To maximize your privacy, you may want to turn off this option.
Connectivity and error reporting
The next two switches (Automatically connect to suggested open hotspots... and Automatically connect to networks...) control when and how Windows 10 sends error and diagnostic information to Microsoft. To send that information, Windows 10 by default allows your computer to connect to networks without your explicit consent. Unless you trust Microsoft's judgement (and the judgement of all of your contacts), you may want to disable those options.
Go ahead and complete the installation, as the next steps need to be completed within Windows 10.
- From the start button, go to Settings > Privacy > General tab. (If you customized settings as described above during installation, most of the following will already be set for maximum privacy.)
Change Privacy Options
Here's what each setting does:
Let apps use my advertising ID helps Microsoft send more personalized ads through your apps.You can safely turn off this option without significantly affecting your Windows 10 experience.
Turn on SmartScreen Filter sends URLs you visit in Windows Store apps to Microsoft, which checks them against a list of potentially harmful sites. Some sites, such as Lifehacker, suggest that you keep this setting on. If you choose to turn it off, be careful when you browse.
Send Microsoft info about how I write improves text completion suggestions as you type. Lifehacker suggests turning it off.
Let websites provide locally relevant content may be useful for non-English speakers, but you should turn it off if you don’t want sites to know what language your system uses.
- Next go to Settings > Privacy > Location tab.
This Windows 10 feature also appears in similar forms in iOS and Android. Turning the location setting on can provide a better experience in certain apps. For example, your weather app can provide updates specific to your zip code.
Microsoft may, however, share your location with other “Trusted Partners” (which are not clearly defined). Many security-conscious people turn off location data for all or select apps. (If you want to use Cortana, the location setting must be on.)
- Now, jump down to Settings > Privacy > Speech, inking & typing tab.
Speech, Inking, and Typing
Getting to know you: This is where you enable or disable Cortana. Cortana is a personal assistant similar to Siri in iOS and Google Now in Android. All collect much of the same data.
Cortana is one of the most interesting and useful new features of Windows 10, but also includes some of the most sweeping privacy-related settings. You’ll have to decide whether turning it on is worth your privacy. Cortana logs your voice, your location, your writing, your contacts, your calendar events, and more to increase the accuracy of its answers to your questions and provide information about upcoming appointments.
To disable Cortana click "Stop getting to know me" in the middle of the page. If the button is labelled "Get to know me" as it is in the above screenshot, Cortana is off.
- Now, go to Settings > Privacy > Other Devices.
Sync with devices
Let your apps automatically share and sync info allows your device to connect with beacons typically used for advertising purposes. Most sources recommend turning it off.
- Now, back out of Privacy settings and go to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi, and click on Manage Wi-Fi settings (Wi-Fi settings will only be available if your device is Wi-Fi enabled).
- These settings allow your computer to connect to networks without your explicit consent. Unless you trust Microsoft's judgement (and all of your contacts), you may want to turn off these options and uncheck the boxes on the screen.