Microsoft's operating system comes with a variety of controls and options you can modify to lock down the use of your data, from the information you share with Microsoft to the access that individual apps have to your location, camera, and microphone. Check these privacy-related settings as soon as you've got your Windows 10 computer set up—so that you can decide what to share and how much control you want over your privacy.
Turn Off Targeted Advertising
Windows 10 comes with its own Privacy screen in the Settings panel; click the cog icon on the Start menu to find it. Right at the top of the General tab is an option to enable or disable apps' access to your advertising ID.
This is basically Microsoft's profile of you and what it thinks you're interested in. If you disable this toggle switch, you won't see fewer ads in Windows 10—in the Windows Store, for example—or in the apps you've installed, but they won't be specifically targeted toward you.
Flicking the switch to Off actually resets your advertising ID, so you can turn it off and on again to start with a clean slate, if you don't mind targeted ads but think the various tracking services Microsoft uses have you all wrong.
If you let it, Microsoft will monitor the websites you browse and the apps you use in order to personalise your Windows experience. You can read more about its policies here. It uses browsing data to improve Bing search results, for example, and app data to spot malfunctioning installs.
This sounds a little worrying, but you can at least see what data Microsoft collects: Under the Diagnostics & feedback tab in the Privacy section of Settings, turn on the option to view diagnostic data. You can also delete everything that Microsoft has collected so far if you choose.
If you think Microsoft is are being too intrusive, change the data collection from Full to Basic using the checkboxes at the top. On the Basic setting, your computer only sends back information about your device, how it's configured, and whether it's currently working properly. There's unfortunately not currently a way to turn it off completely.
Turning Off Activity History
Windows 10 wants to track everything you do on their operating system. Microsoft would argue that's not to check up on you but, rather, to enable you to jump back to whatever website or document you were looking at, even if you've switched computers. You can control that behaviour under Activity history on the Privacy page of Settings.
On the same dialogue you can turn activity tracking on or off for different accounts, if you've got multiple accounts set up on your computer, as well as clear all of the history that Microsoft has accumulated so far.
Turning Off Location Tracking
Open up the Location page in Privacy under Settings, and you can turn off location tracking for the device that you're currently using. You won't be able to use mapping apps, localised search etc, but this means that Microsoft won't be tracking your location.
Is this Microsoft giving you more options and providing a better customer experience or is it just over the top spying on its users?