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Configuring Windows 10 Privacy Settings after Setup

You can configure any of the privacy settings that were displayed to you during setup after setup as well; plus, a lot more that were not exposed during setup.

This part of the guide looks at Privacy options in the Windows 10 Settings application. For detailed information on privacy options not listed under Settings, check out other resources on this site as you find those there, as well as options that are not in Settings > Privacy, and information on Group Policy and Registry settings.

You start the Settings application either with a click on Start > Settings, or by using the keyboard shortcut Windows-I.

Open the Privacy section once the Settings application opens.

Note: Some features come with a default list of applications that are allowed to use that feature. This list may vary slightly from region to region.

It is a good idea to go through these listings to disable permissions for applications that you don’t plan on using, or don’t want to have access to a feature.

Tip If you are not sure whether applications that you use make use of certain functionality, use trial & error to find out about it. Turn off a feature and use your PC for some time to see if you run into any issues.

General

privacy general

This is the start page of the Privacy category of the Settings application. You find the following options here:

  • Let apps use advertising ID to make ads more interesting to you based on your app usage (turning this off will reset your ID). If you have disabled the option during setup, it is already set to off. Turning this to off results in non-personalized ads, but not fewer ads. Basically, what this means is that Microsoft creates no profile of your interests to use it to display advertisement to you but you will still get the same number of ads.
  • Let websites provide locally relevant content by accessing my language list. Websites may look up supported languages to customize content based on these languages.
  • Let Windows track app launches to improve Start and search results. If this is turned on, Windows maintains a list of most used apps that it displays to you in Start and when running searches.
  • Show me suggested content in the Settings app. Windows 10 may display suggestions in the Settings application.

Suggestions: Turn off everything unless you find some of the options useful.

Speech, inking & typing

spech inking typing

You can turn speech services and typing suggestions on or off using Speech, inking & typing.

Some functionality requires that the setting is turned on. If you turn it off, you cannot speak to Cortana or use other speak services that rely on the cloud.

Your typing and inking user dictionary will be cleared automatically when you turn it off as well.

You may clear the user dictionary manually with a click on user dictionary and on clear dictionary on the page that opens.

Suggestions: If you don’t use Cortana, make sure the feature is turned off.

Diagnostics & feedback

diagnostics feedback

You can switch the Telemetry level between basic and full using the Settings page. If you have not switched the setting to Basic during setup already, you may do so here.

The other Telemetry settings — Security or Enhanced — can only be set using the Group Policy Editor or Registry. You may want to check the linked guide to understand the difference between Telemetry levels.

Basic collects and sends less data than Full to Microsoft. Without going into too many details here (read the linked article), Basic data includes the version of Internet Explorer, storage attributes, operating system attributes, networking information, and other sets of data.

Microsoft collects more data on full including usage of applications and browsers, inking and typing samples if not disabled, operating system health information, and other data.

You can configure the following features on the Diagnostics & feedback page in Settings as well:

  • Improve inking & typing recognition — If enabled, Windows will send inking and typing data to Microsoft.
  • Tailored experiences — If enabled, Windows will use the collected diagnostic data to display tips, ads, and recommendations to the user.

You may enable access to the Diagnostic Data Viewer here as well, and delete Diagnostic Data.

The Diagnostic Data Viewer is an application that lists all collected diagnostic data when run so that you can examine it.

Suggestions: Set the Diagnostic Data level to Basic. Set tailored experiences and improve inking & typing recognition to off.

Activity History

activity history

Activity History is a new feature of Windows 10 version 1803 — The April 2018 Update. It powers the Timeline function of the operating system which displays information about past activity on the device and if synced to the cloud, other devices you signed in with the same Microsoft Account.

Timeline is limited to select apps such as Microsoft Edge, News, and a few third-party applications.

If you use first-party programs predominantly, it is more useful but the use depends largely on how you use the PC.

If you like the idea of having a “browsing-activity” like feature that lists previously opened web pages, documents or music files then you may want to keep it enabled.

All accounts with activity are displayed. You may hide select accounts from Timeline and clear the history as well.

Suggestion: disable if you have no use for Timeline or don’t want Windows to record or sync your activity.

Location

windows 10 location

The Location settings allow you to manage location-based features and functionality.

Location may be used by applications such as Maps or Weather for personalized results. Cortana may use location information as well and the digital assistant “workst best” according to Microsoft if you grant it access to location and location history.

You find the following options here:

  • Change the status of the device’s location feature. You can turn the location feature on or off here for the device. This setting was part of Setup as well.
  • Set a default location. Windows uses the default location for its functionality, and apps may use it as well, if a more exact location cannot be detected.
  • Manage and clear the location history. Location history is stored on the device for a limited time. Apps and Windows may use it if the location cannot be determined otherwise.
  • Choose apps that may use location. You may enable or disable location use for applications individually as well if Location is enabled. Works only if location is enabled.
  • Manage Geofencing. Geofencing is a technology that apps may use to find out when you enter or leave places of interest.

Suggestion:Check which apps have access to location by default. You can keep the service enabled afterward as you will receive permission prompts whenever apps or sites in Edge request permission to access the device’s location. If you don’t use apps, Cortana or Edge, disable all options.

Camera

Camera lets you control whether applications may use camera hardware, a connected webcam for instance. The following options are provided:

  • Let apps use my camera hardware. You can turn the feature on or off here for the device. Note that turning it off here won’t impact the use of the camera in desktop programs but it blocks Windows and apps from accessing the camera.
  • Allow apps to access your camera (Windows 10 1803). Set this to off to block apps but not Windows from accessing the camera.
  • Choose apps that may use the camera. You may prevent select applications from using the camera. This works only if camera is enabled on the device.

Suggestion:If no camera is connected, turn everything off. If you don’t use apps, turn “allow apps to access your camera” off, and if you don’t want Windows to access the camera, disable that feature as well. You can still use desktop programs, e.g. a webcam software.

Microphone

Microphone works identical to the Camera option, only that it controls connected microphones. The following options are available:

  • Let apps use my microphone. You may enable or disable the use of the microphone by apps here. Note that turning this off won’t impact microphone use in desktop programs.
  • Allow apps to access your microphone (Windows 10 1803). You may use the setting to disallow apps to access the microphone but allow Windows to access it.
  • Choose apps that may use the microphone. You can prevent select applications from using the microphone. The microphone feature needs to be enabled for this to work.

Suggestions: If you use only desktop programs with a connected microphone disable all of the options. If you use some apps, allow only those apps to use it.

Notifications

notifications windows 10

This page provides you with options to disable access to notifications by applications. The following options are provided:

  • Let apps access my notifications. This enables or disables the notifications system for applications system wide.
  • Choose apps that can use notifications. If notifications are enabled, you may use this setting to prevent select applications from using notifications.

Suggestion: If you don’t want to be bothered by notifications, turn the feature off. If you use apps that require the permission, allow only those apps if you need notifications.

Account Info

account info

Here you may select whether apps may access account related information such as your name or picture. The following options are provided on this page:

  • Allow access to account info on this device. If access is allowed, people who use the device may choose which apps have access to their account.
  • Allow apps to access your account info (Windows 10 1803). If you allow access, you may select which applications may access account information.
  • Turn off access to Account information for select applications. Note that this works only if Account Info is turned on.

Suggestion: Turn this off if you don’t require the functionality.

Contacts

The Contacts privacy settings allow you to define whether applications may access contacts on the device. Some apps, Mail and Calendar, People and Phone, have access to contacts even if the feature is turned off.

The following options are provided:

  • Allow access to contacts on the device. Determines whether users on the device may choose if apps have access to contacts.
  • Allow apps to access your contacts. This setting determines whether Windows Store applications may access contacts if you allow them do to so (or if Windows allows them to do that by default).Powers the next setting.
  • Turn off access to Contacts for individual applications.

Suggestion: Turn the functionality off if you don’t use apps that require access to contacts.

Calendar

This page controls which applications may access calendar information. The Mail and Calendar application has access to calendar data even if this is turned off. The following options are provided:

  • Allow access to calendars on this device. Determines whether calendar functionality is enabled.
  • Allow apps to access your calendar (Windows 10 1803). Blocks application access to the calendar if set to off or unlocks the next setting if set to on.
  • Turn access to Calendar data on or off for select applications.

Suggestion: If you don’t use apps that require Calendar functionality, turn the feature off.

Call History

call history

Control access to the Call History by applications on this page. The Phone application has access to the call history even if the feature is turned off.

  • Allow access to call history on this device. This setting determines whether users may allow apps to access the call history.
  • Allow apps to access your call history (Windows 10 1803). If set to off, blocks all apps from accessing the call history. If set to on, apps may be whitelisted to access the call history and may request access to it.
  • Turn off access to the Call History for select applications. This works only if the setting is enabled. The following applications are configured for access automatically.

The following application has hardcoded access to the Call History

  • Phone

Suggestion: If you don’t use call functionality on the device, turn off access to the feature.

Email

The Email section of the Privacy Settings on PCs running Windows 10 controls whether applications may access email on the device.

The following options are provided:

  • Allow access to email on this device. Apps need permission to access or transfer emails and this setting allows users of the device to give apps that permission.
  • Allow apps to access your email. Set this to off to turn off email access. If set to on, define apps that are allowed to access email using the setting below.
  • Choose apps that can access and send email. This relies on the general setting to work. The following application is setup by to access and send email by default.The following applications have hardcoded access that cannot be revoked:
  • Mail and Calendar

Suggestion: if you don’t use apps for email, disable the feature.

Tasks

tasks

You may allow or deny Tasks access to applications. The Mail and Calendar application has access to Tasks regardless of setting. You can change the following preferences here:

  • Allow access to tasks on this device. Defines whether users of the device may allow apps to access tasks.
  • Allow apps to access your tasks (Windows 10 1803). If the above setting is enabled, turn this setting to on to allow certain apps to access tasks or to off to disable task access completely.
  • Control Tasks access for individual applications.

The following applications have hardcoded access to Tasks; this cannot be turned off:

  • Mail and Calendar

Suggestion: If you don’t use apps that require Task functionality, turn the feature off.

Messaging

messaging

Here you may define if applications may read or send messages using text or MMS.

The following options are provided:

  • Allow access to messaging on this device. This determines whether users may allow apps to access messaging data on the device.
  • Allow apps to read or send messages (Windows 10 1803). Blocks application access to messaging if set to off. Enables individual application access if set to on.
  • Choose which apps can read or send messages.

Suggestion: Turn off if you don’t use apps that require messaging functionality, e.g. Cortana.

Radios

Radio functionality may be used by apps to send or receive data using Bluetooth or other features.

The following options are provided:

  • Let apps control radios. Enable to manage application access to radios on a per-app basis. Disable to turn the feature off.
  • Choose apps that can control radios.

Suggestion: Turn off if you don’t use apps that require radio access.

Other Devices

Windows 10 may share and sync data with devices, e.g. beacons, that are not paired explicitly with the device.

The following options are provided:

  • Communicate with unpaired devices. Windows may communicate with devices that are not paired with the device running Windows 10. Set to off to turn the feature off.
  • Other devices. Lists devices that you may control using the Settings page.

Suggestion: Unless you have good reason to keep the feature enabled, turn it off.

Background Apps

Applications may run in the background so that they may send notifications, stay up to date or receive data updates even when they are not actively used.

Background apps may increase power usage on the device. The following options are provided:

  • Let apps run in the background. Apps may run in the background if the feature is set to on and may not run in the background if set to off.
  • Choose which apps can run in the background. Manage background application access.

Suggestion: Try running Windows with the feature turned off. You may want to allow some apps, Windows Defender for instance, to run in the background.

App Diagnostics

Some apps may access and use diagnostic information provided by other applications.

Microsoft lists the name of running apps, user account name that launched an app, applicatio memory, CPU, disk and network usage specifically.

The following options are provided:

  • Let apps access diagnostic information. The global permission switch. Set to off to disable access to diagnostic data or to on to manage apps that are allowed to access it.
  • Choose apps that can access diagnostic information about other apps.

Suggestion: Make sure the function is disabled unless you run apps that require the access.

Automatic File Downloads

automatic file downloads

Windows may download “online-only” files from online storage providers such as OneDrive if apps request thesefiles.

If you block apps from doing so, you may use the page to unblock them again.

  • Unblock apps that you blocked previously from downloading files automatically from storage providers.

Documents

You may allow applications to access the document library on the device. The privacy settings give you control over the access. The following options are provided:

  • Allow access to document libraries on this device. Determines whether device users may allow or disallow access to the document libraries on the device for apps.
  • Allow apps to access your documents library. Set to off to disable access and set to on to manage access on a per-application basis.
  • Choose which apps can access your documents library.

Suggestion: Disable, unless you use applications like OneNote or Voice Recorder that use the functionality.

Pictures

The Pictures privacy settings gives you control over application access to the pictures library on the device.

  • Allow access to pictures libraries on this device. Determines whether users on the device may control application access to pictures libraries.
  • Allow apps to access your pictures library. Set to off to disable access for all apps, set to on to manage access on an individual application basis.
  • Choose which apps can access your pictures library.

Suggestion. Disable if not required. If you use apps that require access allow only those apps.

Videos

The privacy setting manages application access to the device’s video library. The following options are provided:

  • Allow access to video libraries on this device. Users of the device may manage application access to video libraries on the device if enabled.
  • Allow apps to access your video library. Set to off to disable access for all Store apps, and set to on to manage individual app access.
  • Choose which apps can access your videos library.

Suggestion: Disable access unless you use applications that require access.

File System

The setting controls file system access for applications on the device. The following options are provided:

  • Allow access to the file system on this device. Set to on to allow users to manage file system access for apps on the device.
  • Allow apps to access your file system. Set to on to allow apps that you select to access files on the device, turn off if you want to disallow access.
  • Choose which apps can access your file system.

Suggestion: Turn off unless you use apps, e.g. OneDrive, that require access.

Updated on May 8, 2018

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