Windows 10 is spying on almost everything you do – here’s how to opt out
Windows 10 is amazing. Windows 10 is faster, smoother and more user-friendly than any Windows operating system that has come before it.
But there’s something you should know that Windows 10 is also spying on nearly everything you do ! dah !
Looks like Microsoft wants to beat its competitors “hook or by crook”. Its getting desperate now.
It’s your own fault if you don’t know that Windows 10 is spying on you. That’s what people always say when users fail to read through a company’s terms of service document, right?
Well, here is Microsoft’s 12,000-word service agreement. Some of it is probably in English. We’re pretty sure it says you can’t steal Windows or use Windows to send spam, and also that Microsoft retains the right to take possession of your first-born child if it so chooses. And that’s only one of several documents you’ll have to read through.
Actually, here’s one excerpt from Microsoft’s privacy statement that everyone can understand:
“Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to: 1.comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies; 2.protect our customers, for example to prevent spam or attempts to defraud users of the services, or to help prevent the loss of life or serious injury of anyone; 3.operate and maintain the security of our services, including to prevent or stop an attack on our computer systems or networks; or 4.protect the rights or property of Microsoft, including enforcing the terms governing the use of the services – however, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property of Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves, but we may refer the matter to law enforcement.”
If that sentence sent shivers down your spine, don’t worry. As invasive as it is, Microsoft does allow Windows 10 users to opt out of all of the features that might be considered invasions of privacy. Of course, users are opted in by default, which is more than a little disconcerting, but let’s focus on the solution.
Here is everything You Need to Disable in Windows 10 Spying & stealing of personal data
Windows 10 is the most cloud-oriented version of Windows to date—yet, while this means you get some nifty new features, it also means some of your personal data is being shared with Microsoft’s servers.
In general, Microsoft has proven to be a fairly trustworthy company when it comes to utilizing your data in order to streamline services like Cortana, but an excerpt from their privacy statement puts the scope of this data mining into perspective:
In all fairness to Microsoft, this type of behavior has become commonplace amongst tech companies across the world—but that doesn’t mean we should sit idly by. Additionally, some of these features can cost you battery life and performance, so I’ll show you how to disable them all below.
Disable Wi-Fi Sense
The first questionable Windows 10 feature I’d like to talk about is called “Wi-Fi Sense.” Microsoft enabled this feature by default, and to summarize, your network passwords can now be shared with your social media friends automatically. It’s a 2-way street, so the convenience factor is definitely appealing—no more asking for your friend’s Wi-Fi password, and no more issues conveying your own complicated password to your friends.
The description sounds scary, but Wi-Fi Sense does not share passwords automatically—while it’s enabled by default (so you can access shared passwords), you have to explicitly choose what passwords to share. None are shared without you explicitly choosing to share them. When shared, the passwords are securely stored on Microsoft’s servers and never revealed to others, even when shared, but that’s just it—it’s my password, and I never wanted Microsoft to have it in the first place. Encrypted or not.
So if you’d like to disable Wi-Fi Sense, open your Start menu and launch the Settings app. From here, choose the “Network & Internet” option to begin.
Disable Bandwidth Sharing for Updates
In another strange act of opt-out data sharing between users, Windows now uses a sort-of peer-to-peer network for downloading updates. Similar to a torrent program, this means that when you download a Windows update file, you’re also uploading parts of it to other users.
Since unnecessary bandwidth usage can be costly, you’ll probably want to disable this one. Again, start by heading to the Settings menu, but this time open the “Update & Security” section.
Finally, turn off the toggle switch directly beneath the excerpt about “Updates from more than one place.” They really buried this deep inside, did’t they ?
Disable ‘Getting to Know You’ Features
Another disturbing feature that is meant to streamline your Windows 10 experience is called “Getting to know you.” This one logs your typing history, saves recordings of your voice, collects information from your contacts, calendar, and even your handwriting—all in the name of giving you a more personalized experience with Cortana.
In addition to options for the “Getting to know you” feature, each of these last 4 sections will be dealing with options in Windows 10’s Privacy menu—so open your Start menu and launch the Settings app, then select “Privacy” to begin.
From here, select the “Speech, inking & typing” category in the left-hand menu, then click “Stop getting to know me” to take back a bit of privacy.
Disable Targeted Ads
With Windows 10, you’ve now been issued a unique advertising ID to help “serve” you with more targeted ads. This ID cannot be removed permanently, but at the very least, you can prevent 3rd-party apps from accessing this data.
To begin, head to the “General” tab in Windows 10’s Privacy menu. From here, make sure to disable the topmost toggle switch, labeled “Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps.”
Disabling this setting won’t affect Windows apps like Microsoft Edge, so you may want to take this a step further. To disable targeted ads in Edge, use the browser to navigate to this link, then turn any available options off.
Prevent App-Access to Your Location, Microphone, & Webcam
In Windows 10, third-party apps can access your microphone, webcam, and location. While this makes sense for some apps—for instance, a video-chatting app needing access to your microphone and webcam—not all apps absolutely need these permissions. Additionally, apps accessing your location too frequently can lead to a reduction in performance and battery life, so you should at least familiarize yourself with these menus.
First up, head to the “Location” tab in the Privacy menu, then scroll down to the bottom of the page to review the apps that have permission to access your location. To block any of these apps from accessing your location, simply toggle the adjacent switch to “Off.”
In the same vein, head to the “Camera” tab to check on apps that can access your webcam. Again, scroll down to the bottom of the list, then turn off the toggle switches next to any unnecessary apps in this list.
Finally, head to the “Microphone” tab in the Privacy menu to view apps that can access your microphone. Again, simply turn off any switches here if you don’t want an app to access your microphone.
Disable Unwanted Background Apps
This last option is a bit less privacy-oriented, but it can make a big impact in terms of battery life and performance. Many “Universal” Windows apps are set to start up alongside your computer, and this is a drain on your computer’s resources.
From the Privacy menu again, scroll down to the bottom of the menu on the left side of the page, then select the “Background apps” option. From here, simply use the toggle switches to prevent these apps from running on startup and staying open in the background.
Other Elements You May Want to Disable
While these don’t deal with privacy, there are some customization options that you may want to take a look at.