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

Privacy seems more important today than it ever was, so naturally a big release like Windows 10 will get a lot of scrutiny in that department.

Microsoft’s latest operating system generally viewed favorably and has been a huge success commercially, but what is using it like in terms of privacy? Read on to find out about the most common complaints: is there any truth to them and what can you do about it if there is?

Windows 10 is stealing your bandwidth

One claim people have been making is that Windows 10 “borrows” (some would say “steals”) part of your internet bandwidth, something it does to deliver updates quicker and more efficiently. Outrageous as this may sound, this is actually true, and is a “feature” that’s enabled by default!

The operating system actually uses cutting edge peer-to-peer technology to allow your computer to share updates with other machines on its network, and quite possibly with any other computer on the planet.

And while this isn’t exactly like Microsoft is taking your bandwidth and using it for its own purposes, it still has the potential to slow down your computer while you’re browsing the internet.

Thankfully, there is a way to disable this. Go to Start, then Settings -> Update & Security -> Windows Update -> Advanced Options. Once there, look for the “Choose how updates are delivered” option, and simply set the “Updates from more than one place” setting to Off.

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Your browser history, favorites, and even passwords are synced with Microsoft’s servers

This feature isn’t something new, in fact this has been part of the package ever since Windows 8. The thing is, this synchronization isn’t automatic. In order for it to occur, you will have to sign in with your Microsoft Account and choose Express Settings when you set up the operating system for the first time.

Even if you clicked Express Settings without knowing what effects it will have, you can fairly easily reverse these features by going to Start, then Settings -> Accounts -> Sync your Settings, and once there selecting the features you wish to enable.

If you don’t want anything to do with this feature, you could simply use a local account. To do this, go to Start, then Settings -> Accounts -> Your account -> Sign in with a local account instead, and once there follow the instructions to complete the process.

Wi-Fi Sense is automatically sharing your password

Of all the rumors regarding the operating system’s privacy issues, this one is the farthest from the truth. Here’s why:

First of all, this is an opt-in feature, which means you have to actually enable it for it to work. Furthermore, even after you turn it on, it never actually shares your password. What this feature actually does is it allows you to choose whether you share Wi-Fi login information with your contacts when you log in to any network.

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Also, you can select the people you share this data with, so it’s not like everybody in your address book knows about it. And finally, even those with whom you share this information won’t actually see your password, they will simply get logged on to the network automatically.

Advertisers will know all about you

You know what they say, if a service is free, than you’re the product! On the internet, what companies that offer free software are usually interested in is information about you so that you can be better targeted by ads. And since Windows 10 is free, that’s what must be happening in this case, too.

However this isn’t actually the case. Sure, Windows 10 does generate a unique advertising ID for each user and on each device, but this also used to be the case with Windows 8. And after all, all this does is it allows app developers, ad networks, Microsoft, and others to send you targeted ads – basically like the entire internet!

While this is enabled by default, it can be easily switched off. Go to Start, then Settings -> Privacy -> General, and disable the “Let apps use my advertising ID for experiences across apps” option.

If you really dislike advertising, go to the “Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalized info” option you can see at the bottom of the screen. You will be directed to a web page which allows you to opt out of both personalized ads in the browser, as well as personalized ads, wherever you might be using your Microsoft Account.

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Cortana is spying on you

According to the terms of use, Cortana can gather all sorts of information about you, from your device location, to data from your calendar, to the music you listen to or even your alarm settings.

As your personal assistant, you’d expect Cortana to want to know some information about you. But ultimately it’s a question of what’s more valuable to you: your privacy or the convenience of having a program which can help you organize or find answers to various questions.

By default, the service is disabled and will only search the web and your system for information you’ve requested. However Cortana won’t respond to any voice commands until you enable it.

Big tech companies aren’t exactly known as champions of privacy and almost every one of their new releases gets immediately criticized for problems in this area – so it’s no surprise Microsoft’s latest operating system is getting its fair share of flak on this issue.

What do you think about the criticism? Do you think it’s fair, or are Microsoft’s practices reasonable in the current privacy climate? Let us know in the comments!

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