Microsoft’s newest operating system raised a few eyebrows and ruffled a few feathers when it launched, largely in the way it was rolled out. While industry experts were excited about the new features and upgrades before Windows 10 went live, the public sentiment quickly soured after a lot of people found themselves forced to use the new system due to their computers’ automatic upgrades.
But it wasn’t just the arm-twisting into using the new software that has security advocates concerned. Windows 10 has become synonymous with requiring consumers to turn over a lot of information in the form of the permissions that the operating system requires. Fortunately, there are some steps that the system allows; users can make some privacy changes in order to reduce the amount of over-the-shoulder watching that Microsoft can do with its default setup. The trick is knowing which steps to take and where to find them.
If you can make your way to the Settings menu in Windows 10, you’ll find a tab for Privacy. Smartphone users who’ve grown accustomed to turning on and off certain features in their phones’ menus will probably recognize the same capability in this menu. Simply turn off the things that you don’t want “watched,” like your location settings within certain desktop apps. Remember, though, turning off the location settings can be a double-edged sword; your calendar app might not need to know where you are, but a map feature obviously does. And a few apps like Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant don’t give you the option to turn off those settings.
Speaking of Cortana…Microsoft launched an update to Windows 10 called the August Anniversary. This update no longer lets you stop Cortana from reporting your search history back to Microsoft. All of your internet searches and requests through this feature are tracked and stored, so be mindful of that fact when using Cortana.
You have to remember that altering your privacy settings will give you some peace of mind about your data, but it will also change how your computer functions and how certain apps work. In extreme cases, some apps won’t work at all if you change their settings. Just remember that you can turn them back on if you’re no longer happy with the functionality of your operating system.
One of the most important things that any computer user can keep in mind—regardless of what type of computer, what type of operating system, or what privacy settings are put in place—is that your technology is only as safe as your understanding of it. If you don’t know what permissions you’ve granted to a software company or if you don’t know the scope of your privacy settings online, you might be leaving the door open for someone to waltz in and steal your data. Safeguard your tech and your privacy by limiting what you share, where you share it, and what permission you give to software companies.
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