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Windows 10 Spies On You By Default: Here's How To Opt Out

For all the gloriousness that is Windows 10, Microsoft's latest, greatest and last Windows platform is not without its flaws. And a huge one has been discovered just days after the operating system's July 29 release - Windows 10 collects private information about users by default.

Not a lot of people will likely learn about this on their own. That's because it is buried somewhere deep in Microsoft's 45 pages of terms of use documents that the company knows most people will not bother reading.

"We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary," says Microsoft in its Windows 10 privacy statement.  

The company goes on to include the instances where it accesses private, personal data, and this include complying with law enforcement and legal orders, protecting consumers from spam or physical harm, preventing cyberattacks against users, and protecting Microsoft's rights and properties. The data collected by Windows 10 will also be used to improve Cortana's performance and serve users personalized ads, some of which are found in Solitaire, where users have to pay $1.49 a month to get rid of the ads if they want to.

For sure, Microsoft has followed through with its promises about "straightforward terms and policies that people can clearly understand." However, putting important information like this in a 12,000-word document and not making clear what options people have if they don't agree to the terms is not something we'd call "real transparency."

Fortunately, Alec Meer of Rock, Paper, Shotgun has laid out the steps that users can take if they don't want Microsoft to collect the contents of their email and other private information. These steps are admittedly not the most simple; one might wonder why Microsoft would want to put users through more than a dozen different screens to turn off the data collection feature, but once users have gone through these steps, they can rest assured that Microsoft is collecting minimal, but possibly not zero, data about themselves and their computing habits.

1.     Personalize your privacy settings.

Under Settings > Privacy, you will find a total of 13 different screens for you to optimize your computing experience based on your privacy needs. These will let you disable whatever settings you think are intruding into your private life and choose what types of data can be accessed by different apps.

2.      Turn off Cortana.

This entails some weighing the pros and cons of using Cortana, as Microsoft's smart personal digital assistant is easily one of the best features of Windows 10. Cortana provides you smart suggestions and answers your questions, and so far, early reviews praise Cortana for her helpfulness. However, all this is based on information that Cortana gathers from your activities, and it is up to you whether it is okay to give up your privacy for the convenience of having a smart digital assistant provide you all the information you need at a voice command.

3.     Turn off personalized ads.

For this, you will have to visit an external website to let Microsoft know you don't want personalized ads on your computer. Some users might not want to turn this off, as some personalized ads can be useful, but others might find them downright creepy. To turn them off, you must choose Off both for "Personalized ads in this browser" and "Personalized ads wherever I use my Microsoft account." Keep in mind that you won't stop seeing ads on Windows 10, you will just stop seeing too many ads that Microsoft delivered based on what it thinks are your interests.

4.     Use a local Microsoft account.

Instead of using your main Microsoft account, create a new account that will be used solely for one PC. Some people might find this a drastic measure, as it will prevent you from syncing your PC with other Windows 10 devices. Additionally, you'll likely get more prodding from Microsoft to sync all your devices. However, if you are 100 percent sure you don't want Microsoft harvesting your details for its own purposes, go to Settings > Accounts and create a new account that will solely be used for that PC alone.

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