Windows 10 offers many useful features and user-personalized services, all by collecting huge amounts of data about you: what websites you visit, your location, the files you access, what you search for on search engines, and much more. However useful these personalized services may be, there has got to be a clean line between data usefulness and privacy.
How many of you are aware how much information Microsoft knows about you? How many of you know what kind of data the tech giant is continually storing about its Windows 10 users? Here is a list of such data just to give you an idea:
1. Windows 10 has a built-in keylogger which means Microsoft can record everything you type on the keyboard. Of course, this is not a malicious keylogger but nevertheless, the thought of Microsoft knowing what you’re typing is just scary.
2. Passwords — the company collects passwords, password hints and similar security information you use to access your account. Bad news: somebody else knows your password 123456789 now.
3. Content from emails, files, chats and so on. This could be the most annoying, privacy-breaking practice of all but all this is thoroughly explained in Microsoft’s Privacy Statement:
We collect content of your files and communications when necessary to provide you with the services you use. […]Examples of this data include: the content of your documents, photos, music or video you upload to a Microsoft service such as OneDrive, as well as the content of your communications sent or received using Microsoft services such Outlook.com or Skype, including the:
subject line and body of an email,
text or other content of an instant message,
audio and video recording of a video message, and
audio recording and transcript of a voice message you receive or a text message you dictate.
4. Contacts and relationships: this is done if you use a Microsoft service to manage contacts or to communicate or interact with other people or organizations.
5. Location data via GPS coordinates.
6. Usage data such as the items you purchase, the web pages you visit, and the search terms you enter, data about your device and the network you use to connect to their services, including IP address, device identifiers (IMEI number for phones).
7. Payment data, like the payment instrument number and the security code associated with it.
8. Interests and favorites: the teams you follow in a sports app or the favorite cities you add to a weather app.
The data collected can be divided into two categories: general, non-intrusive data and highly intrusive personal data.
Luckily, there are dedicated apps that allow you to limit the kind of data Microsoft can collect about you.
1.Cyber Ghost VPN (recommended)
Cyber Ghost VPN is one of the best IP cover programs because you will not have to upgrade to a paid version. The free version of the Cyber Ghost VPN will have all the pieces that a user wants. It is able to encrypt all online traffic, and it will ensure that information remains hidden from hackers when you’re on an open wireless network.
The free version does not feature a bandwidth limit, but you have to be aware of the fact that it disconnects every three hours and it is also limited to only one Windows device. You should use the service without creating an account.
The Premium and the premium plus version will offer better connection speed, multi-device support, and also an option to use OpenVPN, IPSec or PPTP.
2. Privacy Protector for Windows 10 (suggested)
This premium software comes with a 10-day free trial period, afterward costing $39.99. Given its plethora of options, this is a fair price. It blocks or removes more than 37 tracking services, disables keylogger, disables Cortana to prevent background collection and transmission of data recorded with your microphone and webcam, and lets you uninstall a series of non-removable Microsoft apps among many other things. Plus, it has a very easy-to-use interface.
It is fair to say this is the best Windows 10 privacy protection software out there and comes with a price tag that reinforces this idea. Quality always comes with a price tag and we guarantee that Privacy Protector for Windows 10 will not let you down.
3. Ashampoo Antispy for Windows 10
This free software lets you configure security settings, disable location services and prevents Windows 10 from sending diagnostics and usage data to protect your privacy. The user interface is very simplistic featuring a list of privacy settings and a short description for each. You can enable the privacy settings individually or all at once.
4. SODAT Privacy Protection Tool for Windows 10
This protection tool was launched on September 14 2015 and has been constantly update ever since. The developers added new languages and features to protect both users and data. SODAT uses a combination of the most powerful encryption, access control and user-behavior monitoring tools currently available. It does not require installation, you download it and the tool will do its magic.
This protection tool features:
- Disable and also Enable settings
- Easy interface, all user configurable
- Disable Microphones and Webcams
- Disable Cortana and Bing in Start Menu
- Disable Telemetry and Data Collection
- Disable Autologger and Diagnostic Tracking
- Disable WAP service
- Multilanguage support (5 languages)
- Supported OS: Windows 8.1 and higher, 32/64bit.
This is the most popular Windows 10 privacy software with more than 250K downloads. With optimized and elaborated algorithms, it runs smoothly on your OS. The software lets you choose whether you want to enable or disable updates, hides your IP address, removes spying apps and METRO applications, removes native Windows apps such as Solitaire, OneDrive, Calendar and cleans host files.
The app allows users to customize a few features and is rather suited for beginners since they can simply launch it without settings specific parameters.
The most surprising fact about this software is the long list of privacy features it supports: it disables automatic system updates, biometrics, the Lock Screen Camera function, location, OneDrive, Cortana, web search, application access to certain computer functions (camera, calendar, microphone) and others. Chances are your antivirus might block this software from downloading, so you need to turn it off during installation.
This free software receives constant updates in order to provide the best privacy protection experience. New features are added constantly. It comes in a portable version, there is no installation required. With a lively interface, it allows you to choose what data collecting apps you want to disable.
This free software it developed by a volunteer team who have been working in the internet security industry many years. It is a standalone tool and is very simple to use. All you have to do is click on the “Immunize” button and the app disables all tracking features Microsoft included in the operating system. If something goes wrong, you can quickly undo the changes by clicking the “Undo” button.
Although this software offers only eight privacy settings, it still remains a very useful app. We recommend it to those Windows 10 users who are mainly interested in blocking various tracking apps. In you want to also block Microsoft from collecting data via other means such as your laptop’s camera or your computer’s microphone, choose one of the privacy tool listed above.
10. W10 Privacy
This app is one of the best privacy software available taken into account the number of issues it can fix. The program is developed by a German company and comes in English as well. According to its developers, the primary focus is on Windows 10 settings and Windows 10 apps, especially on its Edge browser. The program will be expanded to Windows 8 in the future.
This software is very user-friendly, making it very easy for Windows 10 users to personalize the settings. The app is developed by a French company, Phrozen. If you want to activate your security settings, simply uncheck all the unsafe Red Fields to the safe Green Fields. The latest update was rolled out in January 2016, with functionality related to Cortana, advertisements and web search among many others. The developers regularly roll out updates soon after Microsoft launches a new OS version or update, so your privacy will always be protected.
As surprising as this choice may seem, users can control the kind of data Microsoft collects on them by personalizing the privacy settings in Windows 10. You have a step-by-step guide in the link above so you can easily check your settings and choose your privacy level. You can select the privacy settings you want for several categories such as microphone, speech & typing, contact, calendar, messaging, account info and other devices.
Unlike other privacy software that simply blocks updates, by manually personalizing the native privacy settings you choose how updates are delivered and installed.
No matter which Windows 10 privacy software you choose, remember that as annoying as Microsoft data collection practices might be, the company does not use it maliciously. The information collected from all Windows 10 users help the tech giant to improve its products.
The choice is yours.
Editor’s Note – this post has been originally published in April, 2016. Since then, we have revamped it with new privacy software for your Windows 10 device.
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