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Posted on September 16, 2015 by in Data Breach & Technology, Identity & Privacy, Personal

Every time a major new operating system (OS) is rolled out, privacy and security experts seem to be on edge. Even though companies like Apple and Microsoft do plenty of system testing, flaws, shortcomings, and security issues tend to emerge once the OS is being used by millions of people.

Windows 10 is already following this track, especially in terms of privacy controls. Launched in late July 2015, the OS had more than 14 million installations in the first 24 hours, and it wasn’t long before the negative comments on privacy began appearing on sites like Hacker News and Reddit.

Windows 10 Privacy Concerns

One of the main issues with Windows 10 privacy has been the collection and storage of user data, which Microsoft has noted is necessary for its built-in personal assistant, Cortana.

Similar to Apple’s Siri system, Cortana is designed to provide personalized answers and functionality. To give you that level of service, however, the OS collects data like device location, calendar entries, app usage, call history and even data from your emails and text messages.

That’s led some privacy experts to compare the system to Big Brother from George Orwell’s 1984, with Microsoft looking over your digital shoulder whenever you’re connected.

How to Opt Out

As experts and users raise valid concerns, Windows 10 privacy will likely continue to evolve as the OS progresses. But while Microsoft makes its tweaks, you can protect your information by following these Windows 10 security tips:

  • Take control of Cortana. The assistant isn’t on by default and can’t be accidentally turned on. Although it’s a useful feature, you can increase privacy by turning off Cortana when you’re not using it. Also, you can log into your Microsoft account through a Bing page and clear the data that Cortana is collecting.
  • Customize settings. Most people will do the express installation of Windows 10, which skips past privacy settings. But you can access those settings by clicking on “Customize settings” in the lower left corner of the main screen, and this will bring up two pages of options. Select “Privacy” and then you can set limits on calendar sharing, location tracking and other controls.
  • Wait for more updates. Although Windows 10 will be updated continuously, Microsoft plans to release two significant updates each year. The next one is expected around the end of October 2015, so some users are holding off on upgrading until then. Even though most aspects of Windows 10 privacy will likely stay the same, there may be specific changes that are worth the wait.

When it comes to security and privacy matters, it generally pays to take a more proactive approach. The OS default settings will result in lots of information being collected, so protect yourself by making sure you’re not giving away too many personal details. While the new OS has plenty of fun features, you shouldn’t have to put yourself at risk for identity theft.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Eli Christman.