Master Your Windows 10 Privacy Settings

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In an era where digital privacy is of paramount importance, understanding and managing your Windows 10 privacy settings is crucial. This guide is designed to provide you with comprehensive, easy-to-follow instructions to enhance your control over personal data.

From general privacy adjustments to app permissions and diagnostic data management, each section offers clear steps to safeguard your privacy. Whether you are a casual user or a tech enthusiast, this guide will enable you to make informed decisions about your digital footprint in the Windows 10 environment.

1. General Privacy Settings

To adjust your general privacy settings in Windows 10:

    1. Navigate to the Start menu.
    2. Open Settings.
    3. Select Privacy & Security.

This section will present you with a list of general privacy options. To find specific settings:

  • Look at the left side of the page for a list of all privacy settings.
  • Select a category to view and adjust its specific settings.

2. Turning Off Timeline

To prevent Microsoft from gathering information about your PC activities through the Timeline:

  1. Open Settings from the Start menu.
  2. Navigate to Privacy & Security > Activity History.
  3. Turn off the option for Store my activity history on this device.
  4. To delete previous activity history, locate the Clear activity history section.
  5. Click Clear to remove old activity information.

Note: These steps need to be repeated on each PC you use to completely turn off activity tracking.

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3. Managing Cortana’s Privacy Settings

Cortana, the digital assistant in Windows 10, requires personal information to function effectively. To manage what Cortana knows about you:

  1. Click the Cortana icon next to the Windows search box.
  2. Select the three-dot icon in the upper left of the screen.
  3. Choose Settings (gear icon).
  4. Click on Privacy.

In the privacy panel, you have several options:

  • Revoke Permission and Sign Out: This will sign you out of Cortana, clear your chat history, and stop Cortana from tracking your location or connecting with your calendar, email, contacts, and other services.
  • Clear Chat History: If you want to delete your Cortana chat history but remain signed in, use this option.

Note: The “Microsoft Privacy dashboard” section in Cortana’s settings is outdated and does not allow clearing of Cortana data via the Dashboard.

4. Switching to a Local Account

Using a Microsoft account syncs settings across all Windows devices, which may not be preferred for privacy reasons. To use a local account:

  1. Go to Settings from the Start menu.
  2. Navigate to Accounts > Family & other users.
  3. Click on Add someone else to this PC.
  4. On the screen that appears, select I don’t have this person’s sign-in information.
  5. Next, choose Add a user without a Microsoft account.
  6. Follow the instructions to create a local account.

Note: Switching to a local account will limit access to certain Microsoft services like OneDrive and paid Microsoft Store apps.

5. Change Your App Permissions

Control the privacy settings of individual apps, particularly access to camera, microphone, and location:

  1. Open Settings and go to Apps.
  2. Under “Apps & features”, find the app whose permissions you want to control.
  3. Click the app and select Advanced options.
  4. Toggle the app’s permissions on or off as desired.

Alternatively, for broader app permission settings:

  1. Go to Settings > Privacy.
  2. Under “App permissions”, select a feature (e.g., Microphone).
  3. Toggle access for all apps or manage access on an app-by-app basis.

Note: Not all apps offer customizable permissions.

6. Control and Delete Diagnostic Data

Windows 10 collects diagnostic data to improve user experience. To control this data:

  1. Access Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics & Feedback.
  2. In “Diagnostic data”, choose between:
    • Required diagnostic data: Sends basic device information and performance data to Microsoft.
    • Optional diagnostic data: Includes detailed information about app usage, websites visited, and more.
  3. Toggle Tailored experiences off to reduce targeted ads and tips based on your data.
  4. To delete collected diagnostic data, click Delete under “Delete diagnostic data”.
  5. Consider turning off Improve inking and typing to prevent sending typing data to Microsoft.

Note: Microsoft will resume collecting diagnostic data after you delete it.

7. Use Microsoft’s Privacy Dashboard

Microsoft’s Privacy Dashboard is a comprehensive tool for managing your personal data collected by Microsoft:

  1. Access the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard online.
  2. You can view and delete various types of data such as browsing history, search history, location activity, voice activity, and media activity.
  3. This data is only collected when using Microsoft services like Edge or Internet Explorer for browsing, and location data is tracked only on Microsoft devices.

Additional features of the Privacy Dashboard:

  • Turn off ad targeting to reduce personalized ads based on your activity.
  • Manage privacy settings for other Microsoft products, including Xbox, Office/Microsoft 365, and Microsoft Teams.
  • Some data might not be fully controllable or deletable.

Note: The Privacy Dashboard primarily affects how Microsoft uses your data and may not prevent all data collection.

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