May 7, 2021

How to update your Microsoft privacy settings

Windows is the most popular operating system for Laptops and PCs, so it’s about time to make sure your Microsoft privacy settings reflect your needs. Here are steps you can take to protect your privacy – from turning off location tracking to making Startpage your default search engine.

Microsoft’s Privacy Settings Dashboard

Microsoft has it’s own Dashboard that you should have a look at to keep an overview of the privacy settings of your Microsoft account.

So before we go into detail, check your account here →

The rest of this article will focus on the settings for each individual device.

Turn off ad tracking and personalized ads

Windows 10 has an individual ID to track your online activity as well as when you use Windows 10 Apps. If you don’t want to give this data to Microsoft, you can turn off the advertising ID. You will still receive advertisements, but they will be generic or context-based

Settings – Privacy – General – Move the slider from On to Off.

Turn off your location tracking

If you don’t want Windows 10 to track your location, you should turn off location tracking. It might help with weather forecasts or maps, but it’s still a valuable personal information, that you might not want to share.

Go to Settings – Privacy – Location – Click “Allow access to location on this device,”  – Change – Turn the slider from On to Off

You can turn off the location tracking for each app individually, if  you need to. Just make sure, that you trust the app and check the settings from time to time.

When you turn off location tracking, Windows 10 will still keep a record of your past location history. To completely clear your location history, go to the Privacy Dashboard and delete your Location history.

Change your app permissions

Some windows apps have access to quite a number of personal information, including your camera and microphone. If that bothers you, you should check each one.

Go to Settings > Apps – Apps & features – Check the list of installed apps –  Check the individual permissions

Not all apps give you the options to turn off individual settings though. To make sure that no app has access to private information, go to Settings – Privacy – App permissions

There you can turn off certain features, like the microphone, for all apps.

Turn off Timeline

Timeline lets you resume activities and open files you’ve started on your PC, as well as any other Windows PCs and devices you have.

If you don’t Windows to track all your activities, you should turn off Timeline.

Settings > Privacy – Activity History and turn off “Store my activity history on this device” and “Send my activity history to Microsoft”.

Note that you’ll have to take these steps on all of your PCs and devices to turn off the tracking of your activities.

Turn off Cortana

The personal assistant Cortana needs personal information to work. If you don’t want that, you should check your settings.

Go to the Cortana Symbol right next to the Windows search bar – click the three-dot icon – Settings – Revoke permission and sign out  – adjust further settings as needed

Control and delete diagnostic data

As you use Windows 10, data is gathered about your hardware and what you do when you use Windows. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can turn these data streams off.

Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics & Feedback. In the “Diagnostic data” section, you can choose between two settings – Required diagnostic data and optional diagnostic data – If you don’t want Windows to log the websites you visit, programs you use, etc you should choose “Required diagnostic data” Sadly, there is no way to stop Microsoft from collecting diagnostic data entirely.

Make Startpage your default search engine

You can turn Startpage into your standard search engine on almost any browser out there. If you don’t know which one to use, check out our browser guide.

To make Startpage your default search engine on Microsoft Edge, Chrome, or Firefox, download the Startpage Privacy Protection extension.


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