There is no such thing as privacy relating to the use of Internet resources. Your activity is being logged whenever you visit a website or use your operating system or web browser. Data about you and your activity is being captured mostly for marketing purposes. However, in some cases, malware installed on your computer is stealing your data for nefarious purposes.
Did you know Windows records data about you and what you do while using your computer? The data it collects includes what you type, websites you visit, apps you run, and more. Microsoft offers some control over what data Windows collects through its privacy settings. Many people are not aware that Windows is constantly collecting data you’re your activity while they use their computer.
In this article, I share with you some things you can do to control what data Windows collects and how Microsoft can use it.
The privacy settings are located in “Privacy & Security” under Windows settings in Windows 11 and “Privacy” in Windows 10. The privacy settings are general, speech, Inking & typing personalization, diagnostics & feedback, activity history, search permissions, and searching Windows.
The General settings control the use of advertising IDs for more relevant ads while using applications, tracking application launches, and more.
Speech settings control the use of online speech recognition for apps using Microsoft’s online speech recognition technology.
Inking & typing personalization controls the use of a personal dictionary generated by storing the words you type or write. Inking is a Microsoft technology that allows you to use a digital pen to write notes and documents.
Diagnostics & feedback help keep Windows up-to-date and secure, provide an option for optional inking and typing data, and let Microsoft use some of your diagnostics data for personalized tips, ads, and recommendations.
The feedback frequency setting controls how often Windows asks for your feedback.
Activity History setting controls storing activity history on your computer and sending it to Microsoft. Activity history includes the websites, apps, and services you visit.
Search Permissions customizes adult content filtering when searching, including apps and services associated with your Microsoft account.
Searching Windows provides customization of searching in Windows, e.g., searching for files on your computer.
Location lets you control Windows’ ability to know your physical location like a GPS would. It also controls the ability of apps to use Windows’ location services and various aspects of the location services (e.g., location history).
It is touted that virtual private networks (VPNs), such as NordVPN or ExpressVPN will protect you from snooping eyes. That is not entirely true. It is true that data travelling through a VPN is encrypted and cannot be read by snooping eyes (or programs). However, your ISP can still see what websites you visited, what time, etc. They can’t see your data, but they can still collect some aspects of your online activity. Of course, Windows will also know what websites you visited and more.
So, though a VPN provides some protection, especially when abroad (e.g., on a public Wi-Fi at a hotel), it does not completely hide your activities.
When you install a program, there may be a checkbox for your agreement to allow the program to collect diagnostic data and send it back to the company. The data is purportedly used to help make the program better by tracking how you use it along with other data. However, it is still collecting data about your usage of that program and who knows what else.
Be aware of those seemingly innocent checkboxes (that you probably don’t pay attention to) when you install programs. Always read the screen when installing programs as they may install other programs without you realizing it. Case and point, installing Adobe Acrobat may cause a McAfee product to be installed on your computer. Always read the screen when installing applications.
Be mindful that your activities while using your computer is being collected and used. For example, it can be used to target more relevant ads that you see when visiting websites or from Windows. Therefore, use the controls available to you to control as much as possible what data is collected and how it is used.