Take control of your privacy in Windows 10

Take control of your privacy in Windows 10

Where do you draw the line on personal privacy? The right options are different for everyone. In this guide, I show you which privacy settings help you create the right balance of privacy and convenience in Windows 10.

Written By / Courtesy of ZDNet

Over the past year, I’ve read countless “privacy guides” for Windows 10. Most are well-intentioned, but they invariably take a simplistic approach to privacy: Just turn off every switch in the Privacy section of the Settings app.

If you do that, you’re not understanding the privacy landscape, which encompasses far more than just those settings. You’re also missing some important additional steps.

Windows 10 is a mix of software and services. With every session, a Windows 10 device exchanges a great deal of information with Microsoft’s servers. That’s neither unusual nor alarming. Microsoft’s chief rivals, Google and Apple, are also blending services into their software, with the goal of making your life easier and making that software more reliable.

So are other tech companies that you don’t think of as software companies: Amazon, with the Echo. Tesla, with its self-updating, software-driven cars. Your thermostat and your home security system.

There’s something profoundly satisfying about a service that anticipates your every move, reminding you when to leave for an appointment to arrive on time, or to pick up flowers for your anniversary tomorrow. Your digital personal assistant, whether it’s Siri or Cortana or Alexa or Google, needs to be able to see your calendar and contacts to make that magic happen.

But when that sort of personal attention goes too far, it “crosses the creepy line,” to use a phrase that Eric Schmidt probably regrets uttering when he was Google’s CEO.

The thing about that line is that it’s drawn in a different place for everyone. I know people who are thrilled at the idea that their PC or mobile device is so familiar with their actions that it can anticipate what they’ll do next. I know others who would like to build a virtual Faraday cage around their computing hardware so that none of their personal details can escape.

Both of those viewpoints, and everything in between, are perfectly valid. That’s why the software and services we use are loaded with switches and dials designed to help you take control of their potential privacy impact.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the big privacy questions for Windows 10, with enough context to help you decide which settings are right for you.

Note that this guide assumes you are using Windows 10 on a personal PC or one in your small business. If you are in an enterprise setting, or if you are in a regulated industry, you should seek professional assistance to ensure that you’re meeting proper standards.

Let’s start with the part of your PC that has the biggest impact on your personal privacy.

The network

No one knows more about your online identity than your Internet service provider. Every packet you send or receive from anywhere online goes through their servers. When you travel and connect to Wi-Fi networks that are under the control of others, the owners of those networks can see every connection you make and can intercept their contents.

Regardless of the platform you use, that’s why it’s important you use encrypted connections for any kind of sensitive communications. Using a virtual private network whenever possible is an excellent best practice.

Windows 10 does offer one obscure option that can help protect third parties from tracking your movements based on your connections to Wi-Fi networks. Under Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi, turn the Use random hardware addresses setting to On.


That step keeps third parties from matching your Wi-Fi adapter’s hardware address with your personal information, making it more difficult to track your location.

The browser

Countless third-party ad networks and analytics companies use cookies and other tracking technology to record your movements around the web and to correlate your online activities with your offline identity.

The result is a digital fingerprint that can be extraordinarily detailed and, unfortunately, outside of your ability to change.

To limit the amount of information that those ad and analytics companies know about you from your web browsing, consider third-party anti-tracking software such as Abine’s Blur, which is available for every web browser except Microsoft Edge. (That lack of solid support for add-ons is one reason I can’t yet recommend Edge as a full-time browser for most Windows 10 users.)

Another privacy product worth considering is Ghostery, although some are suspicious of this browser extension because of its uncomfortably close ties to the online advertising industry.

Continue reading the rest of the article over at ZDNet.