Microsoft's New Privacy Dashboard Helps Users Control Their Personal Data

 

Microsoft's Windows 10 has been criticized a lot in three key areas during its 18 month existence.

The first was the year long aggressive free upgrade campaign to get users moving from Windows 7/8.1 to Windows 10.  In fact, Chris Capossela Microsoft's Executive VP and Chief Marketing Officer, recently admitted the company just pushed too hard to get users to upgrade for free during that program. Of course, this is now a mute point because the free offer has now expired.

Secondly, its reliability and the fast pace release of updates under the premise of Windows as a Service (WaaS) has been a constant point of contention for many users and bad updates have resulted in some system level issues for some users however, just as many Windows 10 users have told me they have systems that perform reliably despite this new updating process.

The third and final issue is one that has likely generated the most written words over the last 18 months and that is privacy and Windows 10. Microsoft collects telemetry from Windows 10 and other user information for many reasons and that is all detailed in their commitment to privacy statement and policies. The biggest issue many had from a consumer perspective is that telemetry collection could not be turned off completely unlike higher SKUs of Windows 10 like Professional, Education and Enterprise which can turn that feature off using Group Policies.

I have looked at the Privacy Settings in Windows 10 on a few different occasions and they are extensive and very granular. That allows the end user to exercise a tremendous amount of control over what information is shared with Microsoft and apps on their Windows 10 systems.

Well this week Microsoft has taken another step in reinforcing their commitment to privacy by unveiling a new centralized portal under each users Microsoft Account page that provides the ability to delete any information Microsoft has collected from their usage of Microsoft products and services.

This new privacy controls page allows users to review and/or delete information in the following areas:

  • Browsing history
  • Search history
  • Location history
  • Cortana's Notebook
  • Health activity

Now, there has always been other locations that this information could be dealt with but by bringing it all under the Microsoft Account it is now in one place for quick and easy access.

In addition to providing controls to delete this data, Microsoft is also using this portal to explain to end users the value added nature of Microsoft knowing the data collected in each area.

Browsing history

If browsing history in Cortana is turned on, your Microsoft Edge browsing history is sent to Microsoft so that Microsoft features and services may use this data to provide you with timely and intelligent answers, proactive personalized suggestions, or to complete tasks for you.

Search history

Like other search engines, Bing uses your search history to give you better results, including personalization and autosuggest. Cortana also uses that data to give you timely, intelligent answers, personalized suggestions, and complete other tasks for you.

Location history

To give you directions to the places you want to go, and show you data relevant to where you are, we use locations that you provide or that we've detected using technologies like GPS.

Cortana's Notebook

To help you avoid traffic, remember anniversaries, text the right “Jennifer” in your contact list, and in general do more, Cortana needs to know what you’re interested in, what’s on your calendar, and who you might want to do things with. The Notebook is where Cortana keeps track of your interests. When you don’t want to reach for a keyboard, Cortana can use your speech and handwriting patterns to help translate what you say or write into documents and text messages.

Health activity

Microsoft Health, HealthVault, and devices like Microsoft Band can help you collect, understand, and manage your health data. Your data can include activity and fitness data like heart rate and daily steps taken. It can also include any health records you store in HealthVault and HealthVault gives you the ability to share health records with caregivers.

In addition to providing direct access to these areas of information, the new Privacy Portal in your Microsoft Account also has a collection of direct links to other parts of the Microsoft ecosystem for managing privacy and data.

Those include:

  • Windows Privacy Settings
  • Xbox Privacy and Online Safety
  • Skype Privacy Settings
  • Apps and Services
  • Office
  • Advertising Preferences
  • Marketing Preferences

One last area that Microsoft is making some changes when it comes to privacy is the Out of Box Experience, aka OOBE, when installing the upcoming Creators Update release that is expected in April of this year. During that installation process, you will be offered the following privacy options:

  • Location
  • Speech recognition
  • Diagnostic (Full or Basic)
  • Tailored experiences with diagnostic data
  • Relevant ads

Of course, even with this new clarity and control options there will still be some who are not happy with the collection of telemetry and other information and that is simply reality.

However, Microsoft does provide an extensive collection of controls that help you manage that information. When you combine that with the explanations on why that information is useful and enhances the user experience in Windows 10 and other parts of the Microsoft user environment/services it really should help the user decide what they leave turned on or off when it relates to privacy.

But, wait...there's probably more so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Google+.

 

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