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There is no denying it, the launch of Windows 10 has been a fantastic success and a massive win for Microsoft. It’s widely regarded as a huge upgrade on both Windows 7 and 8, and has been downloaded tens of millions of times since its launch on the 29th July.
Naturally, some people dislike certain aspects of the new look, and there are still a few wrinkles that need to be ironed out in forthcoming updates, but on the whole the experience for the vast majority users is overwhelmingly positive.
The only area of the launch that has gone less smoothly is concerning various issues around privacy. Perhaps it should come as no surprise – these days, eagle-eyed Internet users are on the lookout for the merest suggestion that a tech giant is committing privacy-based foul play and they descend like hawks.
While it’s true that Windows 10 does have some issues that users need to be aware of, some of the claims have been blown out of proportion. Here’s our guide to everything you need to know about Windows 10’s privacy issues.
Windows 10 is Stealing Your Bandwidth
The claim is that Windows 10 is using your Internet bandwidth (which you are obviously paying for) in order to deliver updates faster and more efficiently, and that the option is enabled by default.
Although it sounds somewhat outrageous, this claim is actually true. The operating system makes use of the latest peer-to-peer technology to enable one computer to share its updates with other computers on its network, and potentially with any other computer in the world.
This is a double-edged sword. If you’re only sharing updates with other machines on your home network, it could reduce your bandwidth. On the other hand, sharing with machines across the World Wide Web could see usage increase.
To disable the option, head to Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options > Choose how updates are delivered, and set Updates from more than one place to Off.
Browser History, Favorites, and Passwords are Synced with Microsoft’s Servers
This has been a feature since Windows 8, and the catch to this claim is that none of this synchronization is actually automatic. It will only happen if you a) sign-in with your Microsoft Account, and b) choose “Express Settings” when you set up Windows for the first time.
Even if you carelessly clicked on Express Settings when going through the initial setup, all the options are easily reversed. Just head to Start > Settings > Accounts > Sync your Settings, and choose what features you want to enable.
If you’re really uncomfortable with this feature, it’s best to just use a local account. You can change an existing Microsoft Account to a local account by clicking on Start > Settings > Accounts > Your account > Sign in with a local account instead, then following the onscreen instructions.
Of course, you need to keep in mind that one of the biggest advantages to actually using your Microsoft Account is that it does keep all this content synced; if you sign in on another PC or phone all your data and preferences will already be there waiting for you.
Wi-Fi Sense is Automatically Sharing Your Password
This is a lie. Firstly, it’s an opt-in feature, meaning you need to turn it on. Secondly, even if you enable the feature, your password is never shared.
Again, this isn’t actually a new feature. It was on Windows Phone 8.1 last year, but is only just debuting on the fully-blown Windows operating system. It essentially allows you to decide whether you want to share Wi-Fi login information with your contacts when you first log in to any given network.
Even if you turn it on, you can choose which friends to share the data with – it’s not a carte blanche invitation to everyone in your address book. Whoever you do share the details with never actually sees the password, they just get logged on to the selected network automatically.
Advertisers Will Be Able to Identify You with Ease
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Windows 10 was free, ergo, they must be doing something to recoup that money – right?
Well, yes and no. Windows 10 will generate a unique advertising ID for each user on each device (in exactly the same way as Windows 8 did). That ID can be used by app developers, advertising networks, Microsoft, and an array of third-party companies to profile you and send targeted ads to your screen.
This is turned on by default, but can be easily disabled. Head to Start > Settings > Privacy > General, and ensure that “Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps” is disabled. As the option itself tells you onscreen, it’s worth noting that turning the option off will automatically reset your ID, instantly hiding yourself from those prying eyes.
If you are anti-advertising, you should also click on “Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalization info” at the bottom of the screen. You’ll be taken to a website where you can opt out of both personalized ads in the browser you’re using, and personalized ads wherever you happen to be using your Microsoft Account.
Cortana is Watching You
“To enable Cortana to provide personalized experiences and relevant suggestions, Microsoft collects and uses various types of data, such as your device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device.
“Cortana also learns about you by collecting data about how you use your device and other Microsoft services, such as your music, alarm settings, whether the lock screen is on, what you view and purchase, your browse and Bing search history, and more.”
Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google’s Google Now service. This personal assistant will help you find answers to questions, make your appointments on time, and keep you up-to-date with the latest news that you care about.
The important thing to realize about the service is that it is disabled when you run Windows 10 for the first time (by default it’ll only search the Internet and your computer for any information you request), and Cortana won’t respond to voice commands until you enable the feature.
Are You Concerned About Microsoft’s Privacy Policies?
What is your opinion on Microsoft’s privacy policies? Are they fair? Are they in keeping with what we now expect from the other tech giants?
Should that have been more open about their data collection, or are naysayers just scaremongering?
Let us know your thoughts, opinions, and feedback in the comments below.