The start menu in Windows 10. The new operating system was launched to generally favourable reviews. Picture: Microsoft, via AP
The start menu in Windows 10. The new operating system was launched to generally favourable reviews. Picture: Microsoft, via AP

Tweak your Windows 10 privacy settings

By Hayley Tsukuyama Time of article published Aug 12, 2015

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Windows10 was launched last week to favourable reviews and general goodwill. But as the new system has got into more hands, some have been raising a red flag over privacy concerns.

It is true that Windows 10 relies heavily on picking up user data, and it’s certainly more data than any version of Windows we’ve seen before. Long-time Microsoft users may not realise just how much information the company is using to run some of the system’s new features.

Cortana

One of the main features of Windows 10, for example, is the personal assistant software Cortana. To make it (or any personal assistant software) useful, you have to be willing to pour a lot of information into the program over time.

That includes information about your personal preferences, as well as data such as the locations of appointments. But if you’re not comfortable with sharing that information with Cortana – and, by extension, Microsoft – you can head into Cortana’s settings and turn the program off. You can also opt out of using Bing in the searches you run on your computer from that menu.

WiFi Sense

Another feature that’s getting a lot of attention is WiFi Sense, which lets you share access to your trusted WiFi networks with contacts from Facebook, Outlook or Skype.

The program doesn’t show other people your password. But it does a bit of a logical leap by assuming that if a person is a) your contact on one of those networks and b) in your home or office, they’re probably someone you wouldn’t mind sharing a network with.

The problem here is that you can’t whittle down a subset of contacts you like to share your network with; it’s an all-or-nothing deal.

The setting shares with all of those groups by default – though you’ll need to take an extra step to verify your Facebook account to share with friends on that network.

Sharing access means that your friends or colleagues won’t have to enter passwords to join your networks. It also means, of course, that they get the same access you do to printers or even other computers that are connected to the same network, depending on your set-up.

The good news is that even if you have WiFi Sense enabled, it doesn’t mean you automatically share access for every wireless network stored on your computer.

Every time you join a new network and enter a new password, there’s a check box under the password field that asks if you want to share. It’s not selected by default.

WiFi Sense will also connect you automatically to certain open networks vetted by Microsoft and labelled “trusted”.

In theory, that means you shouldn’t be caught up by bad guys running fake “Free Airport WiFi” networks on your next trip. But it’s still safest to stay off open networks if you can.

If you want to turn off WiFi Sense, you have to head to the “advanced settings” pane in your general WiFi settings menu.

General

Microsoft’s general Windows privacy settings are also worth taking a sweep through, if only to familiarise yourself with which apps and services are looking at various types of information.

Those include your location, as well as the on/off switch for allowing information gathered from your computer to show up in your Microsoft advertising profile. (To control what’s in your ad profile, you’ll have to head to a separate website, which is linked from the privacy settings menu.)

In general, people should approach their computer settings as they do the settings on their mobile devices, particularly if they have concerns about sharing information with major companies. – Washington Post

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