Windows 10 privacy settings: How to stop Microsoft from spying on you

When it comes to private data, Windows 10 is the most intrusive of all Microsoft operating systems so far. But recent updates have given users the option to turn off some of Microsoft's snooping mechanisms. — dpa

When Windows 10 was first launched, Microsoft was heavily criticised by consumer advocates who said the new operating system collected too much data on its users. There has been several updates since and users now have more control over data collection.

Users who don’t want Microsoft or others to have far-reaching insights into their usage behaviour need to change the default settings, says consumer protection expert Hauke Mormann.

“Services that you do not need or whose actions you do not understand should be disabled,” he says. You should do this straight away after installing an update, as these set some privacy settings automatically. From the Start menu go to Settings > Privacy.

“First of all, you can turn off everything here relatively painlessly,” says tech reporter Jan Schuessler. Some features that you want to use may be disabled in the process – for example, the location function of Google Maps – but the apps will tell you this when you try to use them.

If you click through the privacy settings, the first step is the “General” tab. Here you should deactivate the use of the advertising ID – this stores which products the user is interested in and what he or she looks at on websites, Mormann says. This information is used to show suitable advertising to the user.

For similar reasons, “Allow websites to access their own language list” and “Allow Windows to track app launches” should also be turned off.

Under “Diagnosis” Mormann recommends choosing the setting “Simple”. “This gives Microsoft less information about your user behaviour,” he says.

Turn off the “Improve freehand and input recognition” function if the computer isn’t to be controlled by voice or pen. Mormann advises the setting “Never” for “Feedback frequency” as this will prevent Microsoft from automatically retrieving user data.

If you do not work on several devices with Windows 10, you can deactivate all functions under “Activity History”.

Under the “Camera” item you can specify whether it should be active and which programs are allowed to use it.

“It’s important for video chats like Skype. If you do not need the camera right now, it should be switched off for security reasons,” Mormann says. The same applies to the microphone.

Anyone who has set up an account with Microsoft can use “Account Information” to decide which apps are allowed access. Under Contacts you can select which programs are allowed access data on your saved contacts. This is important for the email application, for example.

“Other programs, especially those that you do not know, should not be allowed to access this,” Mormann says. This also applies to the calendar, the call log and your emails and messages.

Under “Background apps” you can decide which programs are allowed to exchange data in the background. If you don’t want to do all this work yourself you can use free programs such as W10Privacy or O&OShutUp10 to do it. – dpa