The Windows 10 Creators Update is going to introduce new settings and controls for Windows 10’s privacy and data collection capabilities.
These changes have two parts. Available immediately is a Web-based “privacy dashboard” that gives access to, and the ability to delete, information collected by Cortana (if you choose to enable Microsoft’s digital assistant and share the information with her in the first place): browsing history, search terms, location history, interests, contacts, and more.
Coming later this year in the Windows 10 Creators Update is a reworking of the operating system-level privacy controls. The main thing these will do is to make the choice more explicit; instead of being able to pick “Express settings,” which sets a bunch of privacy-related options but does not enumerate them or fully describe them, the Windows 10 out-of-box experience will show a bunch of privacy-related options. To complete the process, particular settings must be chosen explicitly. The settings page will be more descriptive about what each setting controls and what features will be disabled when a given option is disabled.
As such, this moves the Windows 10 privacy settings from a model of tacit consent—most people pick Express settings because it’s an easy default, without really considering what the implications are—to explicit affirmation.
In tandem with this, the Windows 10 telemetry and diagnostic data collection is changing. Currently it has three settings—basic, full, and enhanced. These settings are being reduced to two options—basic and full—and Microsoft says that it is further reducing the amount of data collected by the basic setting. However, the company still isn’t explicitly clear about what data is collected, only that it includes information about device “capabilities,” error reports, and what’s installed.
Still missing, however, is the ability for most Windows users to disable telemetry entirely, meaning that the central criticism of Windows 10’s approach to privacy—that there’s no way to disable data collection entirely—remains. Currently, only Windows 10 Enterprise users can fully disable telemetry, and it’s likely that this will continue to be the case. While the move to requiring positive consent is certainly a step forward, the fact that telemetry collection remains compulsory means that the biggest privacy complaint about Windows 10 is going unanswered.
Listing image by Mike Mozart