Top Privacy Settings for Windows 10

In light of all the new malware out there, you should check and update your Windows 10 privacy settings…

Introduction
If there’s one thing that really gets my dander up, its malware. Saying that it drives me a bit nuts is an understatement. I work too hard to keep my PC running as fast and efficiently as it can. I don’t need some random jerk ruining my work simply because they want to make a quick buck.

All that being said, Windows is one of the biggest malware traps in the world. It runs on nearly every enterprise PC ever deployed, and runs the majority of consumer PCs as well. There are some things that you can do to protect yourself, though; and quite honestly, you should do them. I’ve run into malware before, and its not fun. If you want to protect yourself, follow the advice I’ve given in those two linked articles. You can further protect yourself by adjusting some privacy settings in Windows 10.

While you may not want to do all of these, if you implement them all, you’re likely going to lock yourself down pretty tightly. At that point, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. However, please note that if you implement all of these, you’re going to shut down some pretty useful Window 10 features. You have to balance your need for privacy with your need for safety. In the end, this is all on you…

Shut Down Cortana
Cortana is only your best friend in the world when she knows nearly everything about you. The more she knows, the more she can do. However, the more she knows, the more your data is “out there.” Cortana interacts with you via voice and through the searches you do when you type questions or search criteria into Windows 10’s search box located on the Task Bar.

You can stop Cortana from getting to know you by following the steps I’ve outlined below. However, if you do this, there are going to be a few repercussions:
1. You won’t be able to speak to Cortana any longer. When you turn her off, you totally get the “talk to the hand” experience from her.
2. She forgets all of the information that she had been gathering on you. If you later change your mind and wish to turn Cortana back on, you’ll be building your relationship from scratch again.

To turn off Cortana,
1. Go to Settings – Privacy – Speech, inking and typing.
2. Under Getting to know you, tap the Turn off speech services and typing suggestions button
3. Under Manage cloud info, tap the Manage my voice data that’s stored in the cloud with my Microsoft Account, link and clear all the data that Cortana has stored on you

Please remember that Cortana remembers all of your data as part of OneDrive. Keeping that information out of potentially prying eyes may be important to you. If you don’t want information on your stored in the cloud, this last step is important.

Turn off Location Services
Location Services are used by your Windows 10 device to help locate you geographically. Yes, this means GPS services are being used on your Windows 10 laptop. There are a number of different apps and security settings that that will use Location Services. Maps and Weather are probably the most obvious of these.

If you’re not using a Windows 10 Mobile device (and to be honest, I don’t know of ANYONE who is…), this means that unless your Windows 10 PC has a cellular connection (some do, some don’t…), your actual location and its accuracy is managed by Wi-Fi, though even in a mobile data world, anyone with a smartphone will tell you that your device and its location services will complain to no end when Wi-Fi is turned off.

When your device does report its location, Windows 10 keeps track of that for up to 24 hours and allows apps with permission to access the location and any related or associated data. When and if you turn off location services, apps and services that require that information won’t be able to function properly. In those cases, you may have to manually set your location.

To manage Location Services, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – Privacy – Location
2. Under Location,
a. Under Location service, slide the On/ Off slider off to turn Location Services completely off
b. To manage Location Services for your device, tap the Change button and change the position of the One/ Off slider
3. Under Default location,
a. To manage your device’s Default location, the Set default button. This will bring up Maps.
b. Follow the instructions on setting your device’s default location.
4. Under Location history
a. To clear the location history maintained on your device, tap the Clear button under, Clear history on this device.
5. To manage apps that use Location Services
Those apps that make use of Location Services will be listed in the, “Choose apps that can use your precise location” section.
a. Review this list of apps
b. Tap the slider of those apps you wish to change the service status of.
c. Turning an app on will allow that app to use your location while it runs. It may also leave a service stub running in the background so that it always has location specific data for you
d. Turning an app off will prevent that app from using location specific data.
e. Cortana’s use of Location Services can be managed in the Speech, inking and typing section of Privacy.
6. Action Center Settings
a. The Action Center by default has a toggle for turning Location Services on and off.
i. Display the Action Center
ii. Tap the Location Services tile to turn Location off.
iii. Tap it again to turn it on.

Stop Synchronization Services
Windows 10 synchs with a number of different services. If you sign into Windows 10 with your Microsoft Account, your settings, including your passwords, may be synched across a number of Windows 10 devices. If you turn off synching, your settings and passwords won’t be synched to your other devices, and the unified experience that Microsoft is trying to perpetuate throughout its OS, regardless of type, brand or vendor, is seriously deprecated.

There are two ways to handle this. You’ll need to insure that you’re connected to the internet as well. Once connected, you can stop synching entirely, or you can toggle the sync settings for an individual app. To adjust these settings, you need to visit the Settings page for Sync.

To adjust your synchronization settings, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – Accounts – Sync your settings
2. Under Sync Settings, you can turn sync on or off. Turning it off will turn it off for all services.
3. If you wish to control sync for specific items, under Individual sync settings, you can control
a. Theme
b. Internet Explorer Settings
c. Passwords
d. Language Preferences
e. Ease of Access, and
f. Other Windows Settings

If you wish to turn off notification synching, open Cortana and go to Settings – Send notifications between devices. Here, you can toggle notification synching on or off. You can also edit your sync settings to manage your different signed in devices.

Lock Down your Lock Screen
One of the neatest things that Windows 10 can do is provide a customized lock screen on each of your devices. Depending on your privacy concerns, you can have some convenient information – like text messages or your next appointment – display on your lock screen. However, depending on your privacy concerns, you may not want to do that.

Guessing that this is likely the case, because who wants to have that kind of personal information just hangin’ out there for anyone who passes by your PC to see, you can actually prevent this information from displaying there, if you wish. In fact, there are likely three things that you don’t want appearing on your lock screen – however, most of them start and stop with your email address and your appointment notifications.

In order to secure your lock screen, you’re going to have to make changes in a few different places. To make changes to your Lock Screen, follow these steps:

1. Go to Settings – System – Notifications and actions
2. Turn off Show notifications on the lock screen

After you have done this, you’ll need to attend to Cortana, if you haven’t already. There are a couple of things to take care of here.

To turn off Cortana on your Lock Screen,

1. Go to Settings – Personalization – Lock screen
2. Click the link, Cortana lock screen settings
3. Cortana’s lock screen settings will pop up out of the Start Menu. Turn OFF the following items
a. Let Cortana respond to, “Hey Cortana.”
b. Use Cortana even when my device is locked
c. Send notifications and information between devices
4. Under Choose an app to show detailed status
a. Remove all icons. Tap them and choose None from the fly out menu

The downside to turning all of this off is that your device becomes localized to itself and Windows 10 loses some of its interconnected intelligence.

You can also hide your email address from the log-in screen. This will keep your email address away from unauthorized scrutiny.

To hid your email address on your log in screen,

1. Go to Settings – Accounts – Sign in options – Privacy
2. Turn off Show account details on sign in screen

This option really doesn’t have a downside to it. Not showing your email address on the lock screen doesn’t deprecate any functionality. This just keeps it away from prying eyes.

Turn off your advertising ID
Each Microsoft account has a unique advertising ID that Microsoft uses to collect information on you and your computing habits. It allows Microsoft to deliver a unique advertising experience to you across different platforms.

It’s annoying as hell.

If you sign in to Windows 10 with a Microsoft account, you’re going to get personalized ads following you all over your PC. You’ll see them in apps and even in the OS itself, like in the Start Menu. Thankfully, you can stop the madness and get off the advertising merry go round.

To turn off ads in Windows 10, follow these steps,

1. Go to Settings – Privacy – General
2. Turn off Let apps use advertising ID to make ads more interesting to your based on your app usage.

You may still see ads on your PC, but they won’t be personalized. Turning this feature off prevents personalized ads from polluting your Windows 10 computing experience. However, as I mentioned, it won’t keep you from seeing ads when you use your Microsoft Account on other platforms. If you wish to remove ads on other platforms as well, you can either use an ad blocking utility or you can head over to Microsoft’s advertising opt out page.

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