Microsoft Revamps Windows 10's Privacy Settings in Creators Update

Microsoft is making a number of changes to the operating system's privacy controls, including the elimination of the Enhanced data-collection setting.

Creators Update Privacy

The Windows 10 Creators Update is shaping up to be big upgrade, particularly for creative professionals and virtual reality enthusiasts.

Customers concerned about their data privacy may also find reasons to like the update when it arrives this spring, although they'll have one less setting to setting to choose from while deciding how much diagnostic information to send to Microsoft.

Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft's Windows and Devices Group, announced in a Jan. 10 blog post that the company had reduced the number of diagnostic data collection settings from three to just two, namely Basic and Full. The middle-of-the-pack Enhanced setting will be eliminated once the company starts rolling out the Creators Update in the coming months.

In addition to providing configuration, performance and other "Basic" telemetry data that Microsoft considers vital to the operating system's health, the Enhanced setting also sends "data about how you use Windows, including Microsoft and third party software (apps, drivers, etc.) that run on Windows," according to an online support document.

"This data includes which apps you use most often, how long you use certain features or apps, how often you use Windows Help and Support, and which services you use to sign in to apps. Enhanced lets us collect diagnostic data related to system or app crashes," states Microsoft. The trade-off is a more personalized experience that adapts to a user's preferences, the company claims.

The Full setting enables enhanced troubleshooting options. It sends advanced diagnostic data including memory state information when system or app crashes occur, which Microsoft cautions "may unintentionally include parts of a document you were using when a problem occurred" and user content that triggers an issue.

After applying the Creators Update, the Enhanced option will disappear. Compared to the preceding Anniversary Update, the Basic level will transmit less data, Myerson said.

A revised privacy settings dashboard also awaits. It allows users to toggle their location, speech recognition and advertising settings on or off and shows the impact of those choices. For example, turning off the location setting alerts users that Windows and location-based apps won't be able to provide directions, local weather forecasts and the like.

Responding to user demand, Microsoft also launched a new web-based privacy dashboard that covers activity data collected by the company's online services, Myerson said.

When Windows 10 originally launched in 2015, the company faced criticism for its data-collection practices, which many viewed as invasive given the operating system's reliance on cloud-connected services like Cortana, the built-in virtual assistant technology.

"When you are signed in with your Microsoft account, you can go to account.microsoft.com/privacy to review and clear data such as browsing history, search history, location activity, and Cortana's Notebook–all in one place," Myerson said.

"This is our first step in expanding the tools that give you visibility and control over your data spanning Microsoft products and services, and we will continue to add more functionality and categories of data over time."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...