How To Stop Windows 11 From Spying On You
Today I am going to show you how you can stop Windows 11 from spying on you, Windows 11 just recently came out as a free upgrade and one thing that you might not have known is that windows 11 talks back to Microsoft and share data with how are you’re using your PC. So, how do I know this? Well, I used to work at Microsoft and I saw this data come in firsthand.
For example, Microsoft knows the exact GPS coordinates of your PC the apps that you launch, and even the websites that you visit, and let’s be honest I’m sure many of us would not be proud to have that list publicized. they even know the music that you play and the videos that you watch.
Now before I scare you too much the good news is that Microsoft believes you should have control over your data at least most of your data and Microsoft uses all of this data that it collects to make its products and services better
For example, with Windows 11 that just recently came out, there was an issue with AMD processors where they weren’t performing as well as they should and Microsoft used all of this collected data to identify the issue and then fix it.
When I worked on office.com if we moved a button to a new location and people couldn’t find it well, we used the data to identify that and then we fixed it. So by letting Microsoft collect some of this data, you get a better computing experience, but at the same time you might not care for that, and maybe you don’t want to share any data back,
In this article, we’ll look at what data Microsoft even collects from you and we’ll also look at how you can opt out if you would prefer not to share that data back with Microsoft, Microsoft offers two different tools that show you everything that’s tracked about you, the first one is called the Privacy Dashboard and you can access it right here
The first time that I logged into the privacy dashboard I was a little surprised about how much was tracked about me, here, for example, I could see my PC’s location I could look at my browsing history I could look at all of the media that I consumed and I could even see the ads that interest me I don’t even know what ads would interest me, but Microsoft seemed to know.
Now the good news is not only can I view all of this information, but if I want to clear it, I can very easily do that and when I clear it’ll remove all of this information from Microsoft’s servers.
The second way that you can see what’s shared with Microsoft is by using a tool called the Diagnostic Data Viewer, to access this within settings Click on Privacy and Security and then click on the diagnostic data viewer you can turn it on so your PC also keeps all of the data that’s shared back with Microsoft right down below.
You can also get the diagnostic data viewer if you don’t have it yet you’ll have to download it through the store, once you download the tool you can see all of the different telemetry and data that are shared back with Microsoft, you might be thinking, wow that’s a lot of information that shared back with Microsoft and maybe you’re not completely comfortable sharing all of that information back.
Next, we’re going to look at ways that you can limit how much data is shared with Microsoft, first, I’d recommend setting up a local account, and what is a local account? well, everything will be stored locally on your computer so the apps that you launch the websites that you visit all of your files will just be on your computer
If you value your privacy, this may be a very good option, of course, it does come with a few downsides you lose access to the various Microsoft services, for example, you won’t be able to sync with one drive if you log on to another computer, you won’t find your files and your settings synced also you won’t have access to the Microsoft store.
So you’ll have to make a call on whether these downsides are worth the tradeoff, to set this up go into Settings, click on Accounts then Your info, and then use local accounts instead
Next, we are going to look at how you can specify what exact data is shared back with Microsoft, and to do that, let’s go into settings and then click on privacy and security now we’re going to start at the top of the list and we’re going to work our way down
First, let’s click on Windows Security, and here click on the virus and threat protection there are two separate toggles one of them is for cloud-delivered protection and automatic sample submission with both of these, your PC shares data back with Microsoft, and in return, Microsoft will tell you if you’re visiting a malicious website or if you’re trying to open a malicious file but if you don’t care for that type of assistance you can turn both of these off
Now we go back to privacy and security, the next option is for Find my device and the obvious benefit of this is if you lose your device you’ll be able to go into the privacy dashboard and you can see exactly where it is but if you don’t care for that you can also turn it off, back on privacy and security
Next, let’s click on General and here the first option is personalized ads when you visit websites like outlook.com or Bing, or MSN you’ll see ads that are tailored to your interests, if you turn this off you’ll continue to see ads but they just won’t be targeted to your interests
Below that, you’ll see a language list and here windows will share your preferred language with websites. And the benefit here is that you’ll see the content on a website in your preferred language Last, you’ll see an option to start and search and here windows can personalize your start menu and search results based on the apps that you use most often
But to do this it relies on a service and you have to share data back with Microsoft, you’ll also have the option to turn on or off online speech suggestions and also to customize your inking and typing experience to use both of these it’ll share data with an online service and you’ll get better suggestions as a result but once again you can turn that off if you don’t want to share data back.
Next, let’s click into the category titled diagnostics and feedback, and here at the very top you’ll notice that there’s a category called required data, and there’s no way to opt-out of this,
Your PC will send some data back to Microsoft for example, What type of CPU do you have? How is your computer running? What security updates do you need? It does not contain any personal information and this is pure to make sure that your computer continues to run smoothly
Down below, there’s something called optional diagnostic data, this contains information like the apps you launch and the websites that you visit and you can opt-out of this if you want, Microsoft will use this data to make improvements to the product. For example, the apps you launch that could influence what types of changes they make to the way the taskbar works,
With both of these once again, you can use the diagnostic data viewer to see what type of information is shared back with Microsoft, down at the bottom there are also some additional options, one of them for sharing inking and typing data back with Microsoft and also tailored experiences you can take a look at these to see if you’re comfortable sharing that data back with Microsoft
Down at the very bottom of privacy and security, you’ll see a category for app permissions and here you can define what should have access to let’s say your location, your camera, your microphone, and so forth, here you can see the list of all of the different options
When I click on the location I could decide if should windows have access to my location and here I can see all of the different apps on my PC that currently have access to my location where I could revoke access or I could grant access to my location, you can go through all of these other categories and you can decide what the PC should or should not have access to
Next, we’re going to shift categories on the left-hand side, click on network and internet, next click on Wi-Fi and at the very bottom, you have the option to randomize your hardware address when you search for wi-fi signals it’ll share your physical hardware address or your mac address and people can use this to track you if you randomize it makes it harder to track your activity.
Those are all of the different ways that you can limit what’s shared back with Microsoft from directly within windows, but there are also third-party tools that you can use to ensure your privacy. Perhaps the most private web browser you can use is the Brave Browser
Also, you can download a tool for ten dollars made by Spybot called an Anti-beacon, and with just one click you can turn off all data sharing with Microsoft including required diagnostic information, to get that tool you can find it via Google Search by typing its name
That was a quick overview of all of the different ways that you can gain control over your data, and also limit what is shared. Now at least for me personally, I’ve decided to share my data with Microsoft. I used to work at Microsoft, and I saw firsthand how that data was used to improve experiences, however, it’s your call and now you have all the tools you need to decide what you’re comfortable with sharing