Upcoming Windows 10 build offers improved privacy settings

As of last August, about two-thirds of gerbils who responded to our poll said they took Microsoft's offer of a free Windows 10 upgrade. In the comments section, though, some readers who were eligible for the upgrade turned it down, citing privacy concerns about Microsoft's new operating system. Microsoft is apparently listening to user feedback, and is rolling out some changes in an upcoming Windows Insider build that are intended to make the company's data collection practices more transparent and easier to adjust.

The primary feature in this initiative is a web-based privacy dashboard that gives users easy-to-use tool for managing how Windows 10 collects data. The site presents options about browsing history, search history, location activity, health activity, and information gathered by Cortana. There are also instructions on how to adjust privacy settings in Windows, Xbox, and Office, a list of apps and services allowed to access user data, and controls over marketing and advertising preferences.

Microsoft is also changing how users select their privacy settings during a fresh install or an upgrade to Windows 10. In the new build, even when users select "Express Settings," they'll be asked what kind of information they want to pass along to Microsoft, and informed about how those choices will affect them. For example, users who opt to turn off location data will be reminded that Windows won't be able to offer information on local weather. Current Windows 10 users will be prompted to review the same privacy settings through notifications.

Microsoft will also be adjusting settings for telemetry data collection. Users still won't be able to turn off telemetry completely, but can continue to choose between sending "full" or "basic" data back to Microsoft. Additionally, the company claims that it's reducing the amount of information collected at the basic level, and that devices will only pass along data that's "vital to the operation of Windows."

These changes might be coming just in time for those looking to purchase the next generation of hardware from Intel and AMD. Older versions of Windows won't run on Kaby Lake and Ryzen processors. Time will tell if Microsoft's changes were able to assuage our readers' privacy concerns.

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