Understanding Windows 10 Privacy Settings

Windows 10 privacy settings are complicated. If you are interested in protecting your privacy while using Windows 10, you are going to want to read this post. Windows 10 privacy settings are extensive but this post gives clear guidance on the new privacy settings.

There are 12 privacy options in Windows 10. You can disable many of them ahead of time by using the customized setup instead of the express setup.

There’s a lot to review so I’m going to dig deep into each category.

Windows 10 Privacy Options

The privacy options are available in Settings as their own group.

In the privacy group, you will find the following 12 categories, the first of which are the General Settings.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - General

The General Settings are similar to the privacy options in Windows 8.1, except that the option to let apps access your name, pictures, and account information has been relocated to its own “Account Info” section.

Windows 10 - Change Privacy Settings

One of the most important aspects of any set of privacy options will be the location items, because those are going to tie you and your device to a place, revealing where you are and where you have been.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Location Settings

If you want to control whether Windows tracks and reports your location to various apps, you can make those adjustments here.

Camera and Microphone

Do you have a camera on your laptop? If you’re concerned about apps using it, err on the side of safety and turn it off completely.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Turn Off Camera

Otherwise, you can choose which apps can use the camera, rather than it being an all-or-nothing kind of deal. That said, you only want to enable the apps you will actually use with the camera.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Choose Apps that Use Camera

Your laptop will also have a microphone, which certain apps (like Skype) can use. To prevent this, turn the microphone off.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Choose Apps that Use Microphone

Similar to the Camera privacy options, you can decide which specific apps can use the microphone.


Microsoft Wants to Get to Know You

Windows will automatically “get to know you” by learning your voice and handwriting. It will also collect other information on you such as calendar events and typing history.

It stores this information in the cloud so you can go from Windows 10 computer to Windows 10 computer and pick up where you left off with your Microsoft account.

Unless you’re truly on board with Cortana and want it to know every nuance and lilt of your voice, I am skeptical about the prospect of sharing all this information with Microsoft.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Getting to Know You

You’re not done though, you still want to click the “Go to Bing” link and clear the data stored there as well.

On the Bing settings page, click the “Clear” button under “Other Cortana Data and Personalized Speech, Inking and Typing”.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Clear Bing

Account Info, Calendar and Messaging

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Account Info

In Windows 10, there are certain apps, which may want to access your contacts. There’s no one global control to completely disable this, so you will need to allow or disallow apps individually.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Apps that can access contacts

Windows 10 includes a calendar, which can be accessed by other apps. On a side note, the calendar is a cool feature. You can easily integrate multiple calendar accounts like gmail or Outlook 365. Again, you can turn this all off universally, or one app at a time.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Calendar

If you use your Windows 10 device to send or receive text messages, then other apps can read or send those messages.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Messaging

Radios, which are usually something like Bluetooth, can send and receive data on your device. To do this, apps may need to automatically turn these radios on and off. You can disable this feature completely, or do it app by app.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Radio

Other Privacy Settings

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Sync Devices

Click the “Choose apps that can sync with devices” link to see if there are any apps that can sync with these devices.

Below, there’s a section for trusted devices (devices you’ve already connected to your PC, tablet, or phone), and an option to prevent apps from using USB storage. Again, you can choose which apps can use USB storage, if any.

Windows 10 Privacy Settings - Trusted Devices

There are a lot of privacy settings in Windows 10, and I am sure they’re going to confuse most people. While the camera and microphone settings are pretty simple, the “Getting to know you” is going to deserve careful scrutiny. Again, I recommend you double-check your location settings as well.

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