Everything You Need to Know About Windows 10’s Privacy Issues

Dan Price 17-08-2015

There is no denying it, the launch of Windows 10 has been a fantastic success How Do You Rate Windows 10? [MakeUseOf Poll] Microsoft needs Windows 10 to do well, especially as Windows 10 is likely to be the last version of Windows ever. So, on a scale of 1 to 5, how do you rate Windows 10? Read More 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 Make Today Your Launch Day: Get Windows 10 Now! You're eager to install Windows 10. Unfortunately, you missed the Insider Preview and now it's taking a while until the upgrade will be rolled out to you. Here's how to get Windows 10 now! Read More .


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 This Is How Microsoft Can Monetize Windows 10 Nothing in life is free, not even Windows 10. Many millions of users will indeed have a free Windows 10 upgrade. But how are we going to pay for Windows 10 in the long run? Read More , 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.

microsoft advertising

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 Cortana Arrives on the Desktop & Here's What She Can Do for You Is Microsoft's intelligent digital assistant as competent on the Windows 10 desktop as she is on Windows Phone? Cortana has a lot of expectation on her shoulders. Let's see how she holds up. Read More 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 terms of use above sound scary, but in order to help you to the fullest of its abilities, it’s only fair to assume that it needs to collect data about you.


The important thing to realize about the service is that it is disabled How to Set Up Cortana & Remove Her in Windows 10 Cortana is Microsoft's greatest productivity tool since Office. We'll show you how to get started with Windows 10's digital assistant or how to turn Cortana off for improved privacy. Read More 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.

Related topics: Online Privacy, Windows 10.

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  1. Anonymus
    June 21, 2017 at 7:45 am

    My opinion of MS' privacy policy, or better said, their lack of it, is an outrage. I may not have paid for the upgrade to W 10 ( which I regret I ever did), but I did pay for an OS when I bought my PC, and what MS is dong here is invasion of private property which hopefully will end in a class action suit. Until then my PC with Win 10 will stay off line while I'm using my iPad and shop for a iBook. I'm just greatful I didn't upgrade my Win7 laptop

  2. Anonymous
    October 1, 2015 at 7:54 am

    If MS had simply been less seemingly secretive about this, maybe there wouldn't have been such an outcry. Yes, you can change the settings but it's not something everyone thinks about, not everyone is a tech-whizz.

    • Dan Price
      October 1, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      That's true Caroline, they need to who their market are...

  3. Anonymous
    September 12, 2015 at 2:22 pm

    Here is how you get around the privacy issues. You take your Linux Mint disk and insert into drive, boot and install.

    • ozric
      November 6, 2016 at 8:35 am

      what is a linux mint disk?

      • Mark Parsons
        November 6, 2016 at 9:17 pm

        You can download the Linux Mint operating system for free from:

        You then burn this ISO as a bootable DVD. Then install it and forget this Windows privacy and security and virus nonsense.

        • Tyler
          September 24, 2018 at 6:32 am

          I prefer Debian though. I also trust it more now that Canonical is becoming so caught up with modernizing its OS and LM is based on Ubuntu.

  4. Anonymous
    August 18, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    Microsoft Windows spies because of SQL.

    SQL, Structured Query Language is a programming language designed for managing data held in relational database, and was intended to manipulate and retrieve the data. SQL structures EXTERNAL questions in the sense that it was designed to convert incorrectly formulated EXTERNAL questions into the right ones.
    SQL works with structured data; where the structured data refers to information with a high degree of organization, such the database is easily searchable by simple, straightforward search engine.
    SQL structures queries which have NOTHING to do with the data itself!

    Because SQL structures EXTERNAL to the data queries SQL needs as many EXTERNAL details which depict the data and queries as possible: this is the true reason why Windows spies. Windows spies after these EXTERNAL details and Microsoft sells them to advertisers or whoever pays.

    I, however, discovered and patented how to structure any data without SQL, the queries - INTERNALLY: Language has its own INTERNAL parsing, indexing and statistics and can be structured INTERNALLY. (For more details please browse on my name ‘Ilya Geller’.)
    For instance, there are two sentences:
    a) 'Sam!’
    b) 'A loud ringing of one of the bells was followed by the appearance of a smart chambermaid in the upper sleeping gallery, who, after tapping at one of the doors, and receiving a request from within, called over the balustrades -'Sam!'.'
    Evidently, that the 'Sam' has different importance into both sentences, in regard to extra information in both. This distinction is reflected as the phrases, which contain 'Sam', weights: the first has 1, the second – 0.08; the greater weight signifies stronger emotional ‘acuteness’; where the weight refers to the frequency that a phrase occurs in relation to other phrases.
    My technology structures INTERNALLY the data itself and it does not need any spying, no any EXTERNAL details.

    SQL cannot produce the above INTERNAL statistics – SQL is obsolete and out of business.
    Nobody will pay for these EXTERNAL details soon, the spying on Internet is over: a new version of Windows won’t spy.

  5. Anonymous
    August 18, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    I feel like something isn't right here...

    " We can use all your PC data to make you look bad for piracy" "We have acces to al your data, and you can't do anything. Live with it!"

    "We don't want you to use pirated software so we are going to remove em!" Ok thats bullshit already! So many gamers use cracked stuff! And if I have cracked something and I have loads of data that I care about, Microsoft doesn't and they would be like : "We don't give a fuk, we'll delete em and you'll lose all your work" This isn't right! Microsoft can be sued in the Court for "Stealing data, no privacy for users, and invisible spying without the user knowing!"

    Well can they? I'm not sure about that... But I will not accept the "We can use your own data against you" stuff... It's like Good Cop, Bad Cop. Wich I don't feel like that is good. We are already giving out LOADS of data only when browsing Facebook, and apps take our location anyway, why do we need the main opperating system do the stuff that the Internet does already? Can't we have some freaking privacy? Do we need proxys upon proxys to keep our datas safe?

    Microsoft, people will report you for stealong data, and you will pay money from your BILLION dolar storage. So be careful...

  6. Anonymous
    August 18, 2015 at 2:36 am

    It appears MS went out of their way to make it difficult to set privacy limits. Just look at all of the screens and setting one has to navigate.

  7. Anonymous
    August 17, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    "What is your opinion on Microsoft’s privacy policies?"
    You mean the ones that basically say "All your data is ours to use as WE see fit"?