Privacy and Windows 10 - What You Need to Know

Windows 10 has become the standard for both home and business users around the globe ever since it launched as a free upgrade from previous versions, and Microsoft's newest operating system is, by most metrics, a major success. As Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8 users migrate to the newest version, many parts of the OS have remained the same, but there are of course some key differences. This holds true as well for the software's privacy settings and functions, and while some privacy options remain older than many of the OS's users, some new features have also since been added to the list. Here are some of the most important things to consider about your privacy when using Windows 10.

Microsoft's Information Collection

Although the tech company has been doing this for some time in Windows 8 and some parts of 7, Windows 10 collects a vast amount of user data passively, sending it to remote Microsoft servers for processing, analysis, and to extract useful data. While some of this is quite innocuous, such as language, region, and demographic information, some of the data collection can get to be very intrusive.

By default, Windows 10 collects and sends off typing and keypress data to its own servers, with the intent of improving text and speech recognition across all of its software platforms. However, this is of course very undesirable to many users, who feel that these functions are merely Microsoft's prying eyes into their everyday activities. Similarly, Microsoft's new Cortana assistant passively collects and sends off data about voice, search, and preferences, so as to personalize the system's attitude towards the user. All of these settings are on by default in Windows 10, but can be toggled off by going to the Privacy section of the Settings panel.

Information Shared with Websites and Programs

Windows 10 is actually remarkably good at protecting user privacy when it comes to third-party applications. The usual Windows text-based confirmation boxes are still present when installing or running software, but there are also additional behind-the-scenes security checks and blacklists related to your privacy and outside software. This also holds true for calendar, call logs, account information, and many other privacy metrics.

Windows 10 also blocks websites and applications not owned by Microsoft or affiliates from accessing cameras and Microphones as well, should the user desire. For untrusted sources, manual confirmation is required even if the user allows applications to use those functionalities by default.

Windows Firewall and Antivirus

Although not technically privacy functions, these programs earn themselves a mention due to their continual improvement and relative importance to privacy protection. Antivirus software is essential for fending off and keeping gone malicious spyware and adware, and Microsoft's suite has a lot to offer. Windows Defender is a lot better overall now compared to its situation several years ago, and Microsoft continues to improve detection and security features in both its firewall and antivirus portions. For most users, a third-party antivirus isn't even recommended any more in many cases, simply due to the free and effective nature of Windows Defender. For commercial clients or those with valuable data, however, it may still lack the heavy-duty security of premium suites from Norton, McAfee, and others.

Network Security and VPN/Proxy Systems

Not much has changed with how Windows handles VPN systems, although it could be argued that they are a bit more accessible with a fresh and welcoming UI. VPN and proxy systems are still very much viable for Windows-based machines, and those using them can expect business to continue as usual.

Conclusion

To examine the full extent of Windows' privacy options, functions, and potential concerns, it's generally recommended to at least briefly examine the privacy and other settings panels inside the OS to get a good feel and customization applied. While Microsoft seems to have outdone itself protecting information from third-party prying eyes, some may still question the ethics behind some of their own data collection methods. At the end of the day, it is up to the individual user to decide what information does or does not get shared, and being aware of it is the first step towards responsible privacy.