It’s no secret that Windows 10 collects an unprecedented amount of user data, especially if left to its default settings. Now ZDNet reports that Microsoft is changing the operating system’s privacy and security settings, in the midst of legal threats from regulators in France and Switzerland.
Microsoft’s overhaul now collects your data in a Web-based privacy dashboard that you can access by logging in to your Microsoft account. The Windows 10 installation process will also be changed in a future version to give you more control of and awareness over the data that gets shared with Microsoft. You can access the dashboard right now, and because it’s Web-based, you can access it from any device. This is what the new section of the installer will look like:
Be aware that the dashboard only lets you view and purge data that Microsoft has already collected in the cloud from your Windows 10 machine. This includes a history of webpages that you have visited in the Microsoft Edge browser, searches you have conducted on Bing.com, and voice commands you have issued to Cortana on the Windows 10 desktop. Unfortunately, the dashboard does not itemize how the information was collected, so it’s not clear how you can avoid giving Microsoft more data going forward. Also, to change your security and privacy settings in Windows 10, you’ll still need to wrangle the OS’s built-in tools — you can’t adjust settings from the Web dashboard.
We produced guides to your Windows 10 privacy settings and security settings shortly after the release of the OS, and it looks like the settings within Windows itself will not be changing much. If you don’t want to mess with settings, you can preserve some privacy by not using Microsoft Edge, Bing, and Cortana.
Finally, even if you switch off every available toggle in your privacy dashboard, Microsoft still requires automatic uploads of data related to crashes and certain other system errors. The company clearly wants to use this data to improve the user experience and to plug security holes, but most people don’t like it when something on their computer “phones home” without their consent. Unfortunately, Microsoft remains firm on retaining access to this particular stream of user info. Executive VP Terry Myerson says in a company blog post that Microsoft will reduce the amount of data it collects if you’ve selected the Basic setting, but the before-and-after differences aren’t specified, either by him or by the new tool. “Off” is not an option.