Does Microsoft spy on you with Windows 11? No…Not really. But you do need to change your configuration settings to make sure they fit with your privacy goals. This article will discuss the top Windows 11 privacy settings to change.
This topic should concern everyone. There have been major privacy issues recently with BigTech and how they have used, stored, and protected personal data. Take for example, the Investigation from Wired published in November of 2021 which revealed how Amazon failed to protect customer data from some of the lowest level customer service employees that worked there. Employees were able to lookup customer shopping history of virtually anyone, including celebrities, politicians, and ex-lovers who made embarrassing purchases. For all the heat that BigTech gets from consumer watchdog groups, Windows 11 has a decent score.
Does Windows 11 Have Good Privacy and Security?
Windows 11 has better privacy and security than Windows 10 and a lot of others in BigTech for a couple reasons. First, Windows 11 has a lot of privacy and security settings that can be configured. Microsoft gives you the choice. Second, Microsoft has good documentation and statements around privacy. They are very transparent in their data management practices compared to others in BigTech like Android and Apple. For every privacy-related setting, Microsoft provides a link with a statement on how they use your data, how they protect it, and how long they retain it.
Windows 11 Privacy Settings You Should Change
For private people, Windows 11 can seem like a privacy nightmare when looking at the telemetry services turned on by default during the installation process. Here are two of the most invasive privacy settings to turn off:
- Tailored experiences include ad recommendations and data collection for Microsoft and third-party providers.
- Optional diagnostic data includes information about the websites you browse, device activity (sometimes referred to as usage), and enhanced error reporting
Who would actually want this? You can visit Microsoft’s page about Windows 11 privacy here: Diagnostics, feedback, and privacy in Windows (microsoft.com)
Windows Privacy Settings
- Online Speech Recognition is another service in Windows 11 that could be looked at as an issue with privacy—but it’s actually fairly safe. Microsoft encrypts your voice data, removes data that could be sensitive like social security numbers, credit card information, and e-mail addresses, and only stores it for up to two years. Nonetheless, you are giving Microsoft your voice and potentially sensitive information, which could in theory be compromised and somehow used against you. Learn more here How does Microsoft protect my privacy while improving its speech recognition technology?
- Location Tracking is a service which is not needed if you have a stationary device like a desktop or laptop that never moves from its spot. Even if you have a mobile device, keep in mind that all a thief would have to do is turn off the device and wipe the hard drive and location tracking would be useless. If you don’t view location tracking as a value-add, then it is wasteful of computing resources.
- OneDrive is fairly safe to use for documents that are not sensitive. Do not store sensitive documents in OneDrive because data here is not encrypted. Otherwise, OneDrive is a useful feature that can mitigate the risk of data loss from a hard drive failure.
- Activity History stores data about application use and browser activity (excluding InPrivate mode). This is turned on by default and can be turned off.
- Search History stores your search history locally on the device and in the cloud (excluding searches performed InPrivate mode). This can also be turned off.
- Let apps show me personalized ads by using my advertising ID can be turned off
- Let apps show locally relevant content can be turned off
- Let Windows improve Start and search results by tracking app launches can be turned off.
App Security is one of the best features about Windows 11 security and privacy settings. You can select which applications have access to things like your Microphone, location, camera, file system, pictures, music, and other devices. The three below could represent the most important services to review, but all applications and services should be reviewed.
- Camera settings should be reviewed which are turned on by default for applications. Depending on the applications you use you may want to turn it off for some. For example, let’s say that you have used it once in a web browser but you don’t want to always let your web browser to have access. You can turn that off here.
- Microphone Is one service to review. For example, you may not want your web browser to have access to your microphone if you don’t plan on doing meetings or voice call over your browser.
- Location is another service that applications can access. You can turn this off for all applications or select specific applications that can have access.
Windows 11 has a good foundation for personal security and privacy. This is due to the fact you can configure the settings you desire to have and their transparency and documentation. This is especially true when you compare it against others in Big Tech. You need to configure it properly which takes time, effort and consideration. Windows 11 is not properly configured by default for the personal privacy goals of every user.