With hackers getting into jailbroken iPhones, the notorious Ashley Madison personal user data dump and even The Hacking Team breach, we’re all exceedingly aware of how important tech security is these days. You might even consider switching over to the iPod Touch for greater privacy in digital communication. But what do you do when the spying and data collection comes built in to the software?
Windows 10 may have all sort of nifty upgrades, but the benefit might not be worth the cost. According to BGR, the latest Windows upgrade has rather questionable language in its 12,000 word privacy statement, including one excerpt that states that Microsoft reserves the right to “disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders)” when they have “a good faith belief that doing so is necessary” to comply with the law, protect their customers, and ensure Microsoft copyrights. Naturally, the language is quite vague, and would probably set Edward Snowden on high alert.
The good news is you can opt out. The folks over at Rock Paper Shotgun break it down for us into four simple steps. First things first: if you have yet to set up Windows 10, choosing a manual setup over Express Setup, turning off Cortana and not allowing Microsoft to track your location at any point will make opting out a breeze. However, if you are backtracking to disallow Windows 10 from accessing your private info, the steps are a bit more complicated.
1. Opt Out in Settings: Go to Settings > Privacy, where you’ll find 13 different screens that will help you turn off anything alarming. Your personalized settings will allow you to customize your version of Windows 10 to access your info in ways you’d be comfortable with.
2. Say bye bye to Cortana: While having a personal assistant might seem really nifty (because it is), enabling Cortana allows Microsoft to access your location, your calendar data, your Internet searches, digital communications like text and email, who you call and more. Certainly, it’s handy, but for those of us who put privacy first, turning her off might be the less risky choice.
3. Personalize your ad settings: This one is a bit of a pain. You actually have to access an external site (find it here) in order to customize your personal ad settings. Set everything to “Off” if you want to stop seeing targeted ads that were generated using data collected from your Windows usage habits. This won’t make all ads go away — they just won’t be creepily tailored to your interests anymore.
4. Go local: If you have multiple devices running Windows 10, this may be a bit of a PITA, but worth it if you don’t want want your info being gathered and sold to advertisers. Use a local account on each of these devices. While this means you won’t be able to take advantage of some cool features, like One Drive, you can rest better knowing that your info and usage patterns are less likely to be harvested across devices.
Rock Paper Shotgun also points out an amusingly ironic Tweet from Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy counsel of the Products and Services division of Microsoft’s Legal and Corporate Affairs, Horacio Gutierrez, that states, “Real transparency starts with straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand.” *sarcasm* Riiight, 12,000 words, 45 pages of policy, having to visit an external website as well as opt-out settings spread across 13 different screens. Real transparent. */sarcasm*
Stay vigilant, guys.