Software

Windows 10 snooping: Microsoft wants to know if new privacy controls go far enough

Microsoft asks Windows 10 Insider users for feedback on its new privacy settings menu, revamped to be more upfront about what data is collected.

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The new privacy settings screen in Windows 10.

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft is asking Windows 10 users whether the OS offers enough control over the personal data it collects.

The firm is consulting Windows 10 users testing early builds of the OS under the Windows Insider program, who will be asked for feedback on a new privacy settings menu.

The data collection toggles are designed to make it easier for users to choose which information they are comfortable being sent back to Microsoft. The new menu will be shown to all users before Windows 10 upgrades them to the Creators Update, which is expected to rolled out in April.

The privacy settings page appears to be unchanged from when it was revealed in January, allowing users to choose broadly which data should sent to Microsoft, for example, location data when using maps, voice recordings when using the Cortana virtual assistant or diagnostic information related to what they type and write, and the apps they use.

Insiders can give feedback on the new privacy settings page via the Feedback Hub application, where they will be able to see a prototype of the settings menu, shown above. By default the settings all appear to be toggled on to collect the maximum amount of data.

The new privacy controls will be introduced alongside an option for Windows 10 Home and Pro users to dial back data collection further than is possible today, with Microsoft pledging that Windows 10's 'Basic' telemetry setting will ensure the OS "only collects data vital to the operation of Windows".

Many of the privacy-focused changes to Windows 10 appear to address concerns raised by the French privacy watchdog, the chair of the National Data Protection Commission (CNIL), last year.

At the time CNIL said the amount of data Windows 10 collected from users was "excessive" and that Microsoft needed to do more to seek users' permission before downloading advertising cookies to Windows 10 machines. It gave Microsoft until January 20 to set out how it would make Windows 10 compliant with the French data-protection act.

In January, CNIL said it was evaluating whether Windows 10 would comply with French data-protection law following these changes. At the time this article was published, CNIL had not responded to a request for comment about whether a compliance decision has since been reached.

While the changes caused Swiss data protection and privacy regulator FDPIC to drop its lawsuit, Microsoft still faces official questions about how Windows 10 handles data collection. Just last month, an EU watchdog, the Article 29 Working Party, said that, even with the changes to how Windows 10 handles personal data, it "remained concerned about the level of protection of users' personal data".

Read more on Windows 10 and privacy

About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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