Microsoft to appease privacy critics with Win10 update

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Microsoft to appease privacy critics with Win10 update

More control, less tracking by default.

Microsoft hopes to appease Windows 10 privacy critics with a new approach to telemetry and user tracking due in the next update to the operating system.

The software giant was hit with a wave criticism over the scale of telemetry data collected under the default settings build into the Windows 10 upgrade. This inlcluded a hefty rebuke from the French National Data Protection Commission.

In an effort to restore its reputation with users and regulators, Microsoft has announced the upcoming Creators update will feature a new approach to configuring privacy options at setup, to keep Windows 10 users in the loop on what Redmond is collecting and why.

“Many of you have asked for more control over your data, a greater understanding of how data is collected, and the benefits this brings for a more personalised experience,” wrote Terry Myerson, VP of the Windows and devices group overnight.  

New Windows 10 privacy options

The first time Windows 10 users open Creators - which is due in the northern hemisphere spring between March and June 2017 - they will be taken through a more detailed checklist of privacy options.

Users can pick whether Windows can track location data and use telemetry to tailor advertising, settings that were not available in the earlier “express” setup option for prior versions of the operating system.

They will also be able to pick between two telemetry transmission levels - down from the previous three - and select “full” diagnostic data collection, or a new pared-down “basic” level.

The basic telemetry option will now only collect what Myerson calls “data that is vital to the operation of Windows” - including “the capabilities of your device, what is installed, and whether Windows is operating correctly … [and] basic error reporting back to Microsoft”.

Back in November, Microsoft published a guide to how enterprise users can centrally configure their own telemetry options, but is doesn’t appear the latest announcements will change circumstances for business users.

Myerson also unveiled a new web-based privacy dashboard for Windows 10 users that will offer real-time visibility of the kinds of data Microsoft is capturing, such as location histories, search histories, browsing and Cortana Notebook data.

Registered Windows insiders will be the first to preview the changes as part of an Insider build expected to be released in the near future.

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