Privacy with Windows 10

(Classified under: Backups)

Posted on 8 April 2016

Microsoft Windows 10 is the "latest and greatest" operating system from Microsoft and if your computer currently runs Windows 7 or 8, then you've probably seen the popups suggesting (and more recently insisting) that you upgrade to Windows 10 with the "free" upgrade offer. Windows 10 does have some really cool new features, but there are and number of things that you should be aware of if you're using, or thinking of using, Windows 10.

I'm going to highlight just one of these points today - that of your privacy on Windows 10.

Windows 10 has been designed to be able to data-mine as much information about its users as possible, and the more they know about you, the better they can target ads and provide "customised services" both now and in the future. The value of your data is one of the reasons that Microsoft can give away the software for "free" - you are not just getting a new product, you are also becoming a source of information for Microsoft.

If it sounds like I'm coming across as being a little paranoid, check out the following options in the Customize Settings screen of the Windows 10 setup process:

  • Personalize your speech, typing and inking input by sending contacts and calendar details, along with other associated input data to Microsoft;
  • Send typing and inking data to Microsoft to improve the recognition and suggestion platform;
  • Let apps use your advertising ID for experiences across apps.

These are just a few of the instances where Microsoft is actively harvesting your information - and all of these privacy-invading settings are turned ON by default. Given that Windows can now act as a keystroke logger for Microsoft, you'd really want to hope that your computer remembers when you turn off all of thesesettings. Sadly, though, some Windows Updates (which now happen automatically) do turn some of these settings back on, so you will need to check your settings regularly to see that your security and privacy aren't compromised.

All this having been said, there are also quite legitimate reasons why you might want to send information to Microsoft - for example, if you want to use Cortana or voice recognition software - but the important thing here is to choose to activate these settings, rather than having them turned on by default.

Of course, you might be fine with Microsoft knowing everything about you - but if you're not, a useful tool for you to evaluate is Spybot Anti-Beacon - a stand-alone application which was specifically designed to help prevent privacy issues on Windows operating systems. This application also works on Windows 7 and Windows 8.

If you aren't currently using Windows 10 and don't want to be bullied into upgrading, then consider installing GWX Control Panel - this application actively prevents Windows from upgrading your machine to Windows 10.

NB: Information presented here is general in nature, does not take into account your particular situation and should not be used in place of professional IT consultation.