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Microsoft Launches Privacy Dashboard

Microsoft Building

Microsoft this week launched a web-based dashboard for users interested in reviewing the data collected by the company, and also announced changes to Windows 10’s privacy features.

The newly released web-based privacy dashboard allows users to view and control all of the data Microsoft has collected about their activity. This includes location, search, and browsing details, as well as Cortana Notebook data across multiple Microsoft services.

The new dashboard, Microsoft says, comes as a response to user complaints and requests for increased visibility and a better way to manage the data collected by Microsoft’s services.

Windows 10’s data gathering practices event determined France to serve the software giant a notice to stop collecting excessive data and tracking browsing without consent from users. The National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) in July gave Microsoft three months to comply with the French Data Protection Act to ensure user data security and confidentiality.

To take advantage of the dashboard, users simply need to log in with their Microsoft accounts, then head to account.microsoft.com/privacy to review the collected data and clear it if they want to.

“Today, we’re taking a step forward in supporting our privacy principle of transparency with the introduction of a new Microsoft privacy dashboard on the web that lets you easily see and manage your activity data. 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,” Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President, Windows and Devices Group, says.

In its attempt to improve the trust users have on Microsoft services, the tech giant also decided to make Windows 10 more secure than before, along with increasing the level of privacy users enjoy when using the OS. As part of the update, a new privacy set up experience will be introduced in the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update, aiming to simplify Diagnostic data levels and reduce data collected at the Basic level.

“These Windows 10 changes are being introduced in a Windows Insider build soon for feedback first and will be rolled out to everyone when the Windows 10 Creators Update becomes available,” Myerson said.

The Creators Update won’t just simplify the privacy settings, but will also improve the manner in which these settings are presented to the user, Microsoft says. Users will have the option to choose the settings that are right for them and will no longer be presented with the previously available Express Settings.

These settings will be different between Windows versions. For users upgrading from Windows 7 or Windows 8 or doing a fresh install of Windows 10, “simple but important settings” will be presented to them, so that they can select the needed ones before completing the setup. Existing Windows 10 users, on the other hand, will be served notifications to prompt them to choose privacy settings.

The Diagnostic data collection will feature only two levels instead of three: Basic and Full (those who previously selected the Enhanced level will be able to choose either of the two when Windows 10 Creators Update arrives).

Additionally, the data collected has been reduced to Basic level, which includes only data “vital to the operation of Windows.” This data, Myerson says, is used to “keep Windows and apps secure, up-to-date, and running properly,” provided that the user shares with Microsoft information on the capabilities of the device, installed applications, and whether Windows is operating correctly. Basic error reporting is included here.

“We have made this new set up experience voice-capable providing greater accessibility for customers. Voice data remains on the device as part of this set up process. As you make your choices in the new set up experience, we’ll share additional information about what impact each choice will have on your Windows experience,” Myerson continues.

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