So much for that “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” advertising campaign from Apple. I cannot help but note the irony that, in reality, apps are monitoring your every move and grabbing data to help with advertising campaigns. Not that this should come as any great surprise; if you aren’t paying for an app then you are the product. However, the sheer number of apps involved, the number of trackers used per app and both the volume and frequency of the data collection is cause for concern.
What is going on?
When the Wall Street Journal investigated the world of iPhone privacy controls it discovered that, frankly, those controls are about as much use as a chocolate teapot. The WSJ reporters looked at some 80 iOS apps, all recommended in the App Store as being “Apps We Love.” What they found was all bar one were using third-party trackers to collect data about the user. Most were using more than one tracker, the average being four per app.
What data is being collected?
What data is being collected by iOS apps? Would it surprise you to discover that as well as details of your device such as the model, name and phone number these trackers can grab your email address, the IP address that is allocated to your internet connection and even your precise location at any given time? Everything from music streaming and weather apps, through to news and storage apps are doing it. Maybe Apple should change the advertising slogan to “invading your privacy—there’s an app for that.”
Of course, it isn’t just iOS apps that do this. Android apps are just as bad. However, that doesn’t mean that Apple gets a free ride. Especially in light of that “what happens on your iPhone. ” campaign. Rumors are rife that Apple CEO, Tim Cook, will try and dampen the flames with an announcement tomorrow (June 3) regarding limiting these trackers when it comes to apps in the App Store “Kids” section. More than one information security and privacy expert have already told me, in off the record conversations, that they think this is unlikely to be workable.
What can you do to stop the spying?
So what can you do to stop the tracking yourself? Good question, to which the answer is nothing. If the question had been what you can do to limit the tracking problem, then things are somewhat more positive. Just don’t expect to be able to stop all the spying, because that isn’t going to be doable I’m afraid. You can start by heading to the Settings > Privacy > Advertising section on your iPhone and enabling the Limit Ad Tracking function. This will prevent advertisers from getting usage statistics including search history data. It will also mean you’ll see random adverts rather than targeted ones, but to be honest most of the “targeted” ads I see on any platform are pretty random anyway. While you are in the privacy settings, you may as well turn off location services for apps that you don’t want to be tracking your location.
I would also suggest disabling the Background App Refresh function which can be found in Settings > General for those apps that really don’t need it. This is meant to enable those apps that do need to perform update and content checks to do so while you are not actively using them and so provide you with notifications and the like. I’d recommend not taking the nuclear option with this one and take some care as to which apps you disable it for. There’s always going to be a balance required between usability and privacy at the end of the day. And during the night, for that matter, as the function is used by some apps to spy on you while you sleep.
The nuclear option
If you want to frustrate the collectors of this data as much as possible, there are other more drastic measures you can take. The obvious one is to uninstall all the apps that are not 100% essential to you. Such a cull, on a regular basis, is no bad thing anyway if only on memory and storage usage grounds. You can switch such things as Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth off when you don’t need them. Although “no such thing as a free lunch” applies as much to apps as it does anything, the truth is that even expensive app dining won’t guarantee you a tracking-free experience. Most paid-for versions of apps also collect this data, even if they are not actively serving you with advertising.
There are a few simple steps you can take to increase your cell phone security and stop anyone installing spy software on your mobile phone. This is part of my series of articles aimed at keeping your phone safe from cell phone spy and monitoring software, you might want to check out: How to Check for Spy Software and How to Remove Spy Software from Your Cell Phone. The focus of this article is Prevention.
Table of Contents
Who Needs to Secure their Cell Phone?
The most common group, who want to find out how to secure their cell phone are people who have suffered some sort of security breach on their phone. People who have previously had their phone hacked or been the victim of spy software programs such as FlexiSpy, MobileSpy , mSpy software or the Mobistealth program.
Most of us are pretty lax about securing our cell phones even though we use them for so many personal and confidential things. That is until something goes wrong. You may think you have nothing to hide or that no one would be interested in spying you but just think for a moment about how much information passes through your phone.
Think about bank account information, personal videos or photos, business information or your private web browsing history. How would you feel about a stranger having access to all this and more? They can and they do, very easily with cell phone spy software programs readily available on the Internet. So, what can you do to protect yourself?
Serious About Your Security?
Check out this new Ebook guide available for instant download. It covers everything you need to find spy
software, remove it and how to protect yourself going forward. Find out the details here.
Easy Steps to Protect Your Cell Phone
The first is the most obvious; never let anyone else have your phone. Someone with a little experience can install a spy app in less than 5 minutes. Don’t forget, that someone will most likely be a person that you know and trust!
Password Protect Your Phone and Lock It
This is by far the easiest and most effective way of keeping your cell phone safe from spy software. It is incredible how many people do not make use of even the basic password feature on their phone. How many of us still use # or * plus any key to unlock the phone?
Just using a simple locking password that only you know can secure your phone totally. So simple but this is your best defense. All
phones have this capability but you can take it a step further with some password management and phone locking apps.
Lock Your Phone with Apps
Make sure you have your phone set to lock automatically – avoid the chance of someone finding it unlocked and open. There are some great apps available for Android and iPhone to enable one click locking and automatic locking – if you want a little more than the original cell phone settings.
Check out: Screen Off and Lock and Lock Screen Widget – two free apps worth looking at to secure and totally lock your phone.
For better password management you might want to consider installing an app like Mind Wallet (free) or mSecure Password Manager (paid app). There are loads to check out some offering a high degree of security with encryption and secure password generation.
When choosing an app try to find ones with a high number of downloads and good user ratings. Have a search in the Google Play Store and in the Apple Store for phone security apps.
My Favorite Security Step
A simple app like AppNotifier available from Google Play can be a great, added level of security. This app will email you a notification if any new software or apps are downloaded on your Smartphone. The app is available for free but to avoid any annoying adverts the paid version is only about $1.
How to Secure an iPhone Against Spying Software
Most of the above measures will help you to make an iPhone more secure and there are various apps available to help. With the iPhone the one big weakness of spy apps is that they can only be installed on a Jailbroken phone.
If you make sure your iPhone is not Jailbroken it will be free of spy phone monitoring software. Also remember that by simply updating the OS, any Jailbreak will be removed – along with any spy software. If you think you are at risk – update your iPhone Operating System regularly.
Most of these security steps can be taken for free or very little cost. There are many paid cell phone security apps out there but I think that for most people these will do the job well and provide good cell phone security against spy
For most people, just making sure you have a secret password and setting your phone to lock automatically will be enough to stop someone installing spy software on your mobile phone.
Using apps for encrypting voice or sms text messages can add another level of security but it will not stop someone installing the spy phone software in the first place.
Remember that in most cases you will be targeted by an amateur, someone you know, and often the simple security measures will stop them.
I have added some other help articles and suggestions to our new Resources page – have a look!
If you liked this post you can help us out by bookmarking it using the buttons below. Tweet it, like it on Face Book or just tell a friend.
You can accuse Windows 8.1 of a lot of things, but one thing you can’t say about Microsoft’s latest OS is that it lacks web integration. Thanks to deep integration with Bing, OneDrive, and other Microsoft online services, Windows 8.1 is most definitely where the desktop meets the cloud.
Not everyone’s sold on the cloud, though. You could just use a local account to keeping Microsoft as far away from your PC as possible, but a lot of Microsoft’s services are actually pretty useful. What if you wanted to enable some and disable others? Here’s how to individually sever Bing and OneDrive’s deep tendrils into your system, along with info on how to keep general Windows apps from looking over your virtual shoulder.
Part of Windows 8.1’s comprehensive search feature in the modern UI, dubbed Smart Search, includes results from Bing.
Looking for something? By default, Microsoft expands your searches in Windows 8.1 to include Bing results and results from Windows 8 apps.
If you search for anything that isn’t an exact match with a file, option, or program already on your PC, Windows 8 launches Bing Smart Search, which searches for the term locally as well as on the web and within your Windows 8 apps themselves, then collate the results into a slick and helpful interface. It’s a convenient feature, but the downside is that for Smart Search to work some of the local search data on your PC gets sent to Microsoft.
If you’d rather not have Bing results mixing with your PC-based searches, dumping Bing is easy. Open the Settings charm by tapping the Windows logo key + I. Then go to Change PC settings > Search and apps > Search.
Next, tap or click the slider to “off” that says “Get search suggestions and web results from Bing.” If you want to include Bing results, but would rather not have them personalized based on your search history and PC location, then under “Your search experience” tap or click the radio button next to “Don’t get personalized results from Bing.”
Cut off OneDrive
SkyDrive/OneDrive syncing is very customizable in Windows 8.1. (Click to enlarge.)
Windows 8.1 has deep OneDrive integration that can sync almost everything across multiple PCs, from commonly used files and folders, to your Internet Explorer tabs and settings, to your desktop background and Start screen apps. While most of the options are enabled by default, Microsoft gives you very granular control options over OneDrive’s syncing, so it’s really up to you how much you put in the cloud.
To adjust your settings, open the Settings charm again, and then go to SkyDrive > Sync settings (SkyDrive in Windows 8.1 will soon be renamed to OneDrive).
Here you’ll find a page filled with all your personalized sync settings. Simply read through the list and anything you don’t want to sync just tap or click the slider underneath it. If you’re looking for the nuclear option that stops any personal settings from syncing across PCs then turn off the slider at the top that says “Sync your settings on this PC.”
But we’re not done yet. Now go back to the main SkyDrive menu and tap or click on File storage. Turn off the slider that says “Save documents to SkyDrive by default” to prevent your files from being automatically saved to the cloud.
Now, go back to the main SkyDrive menu again and choose Camera roll. Select the radio button that says “Don’t upload photos.” Also make sure the slider that says “Automatically upload videos to SkyDrive” is turned off. These photo settings largely apply to tablet owners and the few PC users that like to take a lot of snaps with their Webcam.
But it’s not just Microsoft’s cloud hooks you have to worry about. Modern UI apps can also ask for data about you and your PC. Let’s dive into these settings by opening the Settings app again and selecting Privacy > General.
Microsoft provides many privacy tweaks in Windows 8.1.
Here you can control what third-party apps can access including your account info, “advertising ID” for personalized ads, and auto suggestions as you type.
Whatever you decide to turn off on this page, I would highly recommend leaving the SmartScreen Filter turned on just in case an app ever tries to direct you to a malicious website.
Now go back to the main privacy menu and this time select Location. Turn the slider off that says “Let Windows and applications use my location.” Alternatively, you can choose to limit specific apps from accessing your location. Just keep in mind that without location services available, apps for weather, news, and maps may not be as conveninent to use as they once were.
When you’re using a map app to find your way around, or if you want to check in to a location on Facebook to tell your friends where you have been; then location tracking is useful and seems benign. But apps and services can keep tracking your every move, and this can be a serious privacy issue. And aside from everything else, this also uses up your battery a lot faster than is ideal. If you don’t want companies to track you, read this guide and disable location tracking on your devices when you don’t need it.
You may not know it but Google tracks your location history unless you disable it yourself. It gathers this data from your usage of Google Maps. You can disable this, and even manually delete certain places from your location history. Here’s how.
2. Click the Pause button in the “Places you’ve been” tile on the right. To delete individual entries from location history, click Manage history.
3. You can pick any date from the calendar on the left > click Delete all history from this day. If you don’t want any of your location history tracked, just click Delete all history.
Turning off location settings on your Android phone is pretty easy, but it can affect the functioning of some useful services. Google Now for example relies on location data to provide you information you need without you even searching for it. If you still feel that you’d rather not report your location to Google, follow these steps.
1. Open Settings > scroll down to Location > Google Location Settings.
2. Now tap Location reporting > Off.
3. Go back, tap Location history > Off. You may also want to tap the “Delete location history” button below.
Several apps and system services use your location on iOS to provide features such as apps popular in your locality and even to serve advertisements based on the place you are in. Here’s how to disable all of that.
1. Open Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
2. The first option is to turn Location Services on or off. You can turn it off to disable tracking entirely, but that will mean that you will have to do several things, such as search for weather data, manually.
3. Scroll down to see which apps have access to location data. You can decide which apps don’t need it and turn it off for that app. If you have Find My iPhone/ iPad enabled, we suggest you don’t disable location tracking for that because it may help you locate your device if you lose it.
4. Scroll down to the bottom and tap System Services. Here you can disable all options except Cell Network Search to stop tracking. Tap Frequent Locations and turn that off too.
Disabling location tracking on Windows 8 is quite simple. This is how you do it.
1. Hit Windows key+C > click Search > type PC Settings in the search bar > click PC Settings.
2. Go to Privacy > Location > Let Windows and apps use my location > Off.
The BB10 operating system makes it easy to prevent tracking. Just follow these steps.
1. Open Settings > scroll down to Location Services > turn off Traffic Data Collection and Location-based adverts. You may turn off Location Services entirely in the same place.
2. If you just want to disable location access by specific apps, go to Settings > App Manager > tap “Go to the Application Permissions screen to change permissions for individual apps”.
3. Now tap Permissions > select Location > tap any app that you want to cut off from using your location > Off.
That should have helped you disable location tracking on any device. If there’s any other way to disable location tracking that you prefer, let us know with a comment. As always, our How to section (https://gadgets.ndtv.com/how-to/features) will help you find more useful articles.
If you use a desktop or laptop to browse the Internet, you can disable location sharing in your Web browsers. Note that websites may still be able to identify your location using your IP address, but they will find it much harder to zero in on the place you’re browsing from. Here’s how you can disable it.
1. Click the Google Chrome Menu icon (three horizontal lines) > Settings.
2. Now scroll down and then click on Show advanced settings >
Content Settings 3. In the pop-up, scroll down to the Location section > Do not allow any site to track your physical location.
1. Type about:config in the address bar > hit Enter > click I’ll be careful, I promise.
2. Search for geo.enabled and double-click it to change its value from ‘true’ to ‘false’. This will disable location sharing.
1. Click the Opera button on the top-left > Settings. Alternatively, you may use the Alt+P keyboard shortcut.
2. Click Websites on the left sidebar > scroll down to Location > select Do not allow any site to track my physical location.
1. Open Safari > Preferences > Privacy.
2. Click Deny without prompting.
1. Go to Tools > Internet Options, or use Alt+X.
2. Click Privacy > check Never allow websites to use your physical location.
There isn’t one place where you can easily disable specific background tracking without disabling location services entirely in Windows Phone. Here’s what you can do if you don’t want to turn off location services.
1. Head to Settings > swipe right to Applications.
2. Manually open each app here and disable location wherever it is an option.
3. Swipe left (back to System) > WiFi > Advanced > uncheck Send information about WiFi connections to help discover nearby WiFi.
4. Head back to System > Feedback > Off. You can also go to Settings > Find My Phone > Off but that is a useful anti-theft feature that you may not want to turn off.
For a more thorough option, open Settings > Location > Off.
That should have helped you disable location tracking on any device. If there’s any other way to disable location tracking that you prefer, let us know with a comment. As always, our How to section will help you find more useful articles.
For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.
This is how to stop Microsoft from tracking your every move on Windows 10
Ever since Windows 10 was introduced by Microsoft, it has been notorious for spying on you, the users. Windows 10 installed with Express Settings can track a very large amount of data. Windows 10 Home can track and share the websites you visit, your purchases, the searches you make, contacts, calendar details, location and the voice commands you use with virtual assistant, Cortana.
According to Microsoft, your personal information is sent back to its servers as it is rarely recorded and there is always an opt-out, whenever it does. However, those who are uncomfortable with the operating system’s exceptional thirst for data can rest.
A new third-party app assures to stop all of the background data collection in Windows 10, including the features that Microsoft does not let users to disable from within the settings.
Nicknamed Spybot Anti-Beacon, this one-click solution slows down the process on your operating system’s telemetry data.
The Spybot Anti-Beacon tool, that operates independently has now be updated so that it can work across Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.
Spybot, who have been in the privacy business since 2000 offers Anti-Beacon that is small, easy to use and free of charge. Windows 10 users who do not wish to have details about their PC usage sent to Microsoft, this lightweight app was built to address the privacy concerns of such users.
All you need to do is to just tap “Immunise” on the main screen of the app to disable any known tracking features included by Microsoft in the operating system.
While using Anti-Beacon if any there problems that occur with your PC , undoing the changes made can be done by clicking the “Undo” button in the main window. Although, this will re-enable all tracking services.
Windows 10 – which is being installed on thousands of computers automatically in the latest adoption push by Microsoft – is continually being updated and tweaked by Microsoft.
Nicknamed Threshold 2, which is the latest update is scheduled to roll out later this month. It includes twists to the failed Microsoft Edge browser, several patches, and some visual changes.
In a move to appeal to businesses to choose the new unified Windows operating system, Microsoft recently relaxed its stance on data collection for enterprise customers. The ability to turn off telemetry tracking was recently gained by Windows 10 Enterprise, even though Microsoft strangle suggests you to leave it on.
Speaking to PC World, Vice President Joe Belfiore said “We’re going to continue to listen to what the broad public says about these decisions. Ultimately our goal is to balance the right thing happening for the most people – really, for everyone – with complexity that comes with putting in a whole lot of control.”
He added: “And in the case of knowing that our system that we’ve created is crashing, or is having serious performance problems, we view that as so helpful to the ecosystem, and so not an issue of personal privacy, that today, we collect that data so that we make that experience better for everyone.”
In the name of convenience, Windows 10 takes a lot of decisions out of the hands of its users.
The next-generation functionality included in new operating system is whether or not worth the trade-off, could finally decide whether or not you opt for the free upgrade.
Microsoft does let you to control some of its data collection policies by navigating to Start > Settings > Privacy, even if you can’t disable all of the telemetry data in the consumer editions.
Following the upgrade to Windows 10, users have reported annoyingly slow boot-up speeds, privacy concerns, trouble with wifi connections and problems with child safety features.
Currently, Windows 10 is a free operating system upgrade to customers running original versions of Windows 7/8/8.1.
Location tracking is enabled by default in Windows 10, but you can Disable Location Tracking on your computer, both globally and for specific apps.
Disable Location Tracking in Windows 10
The Location Tracking feature in Windows 10 is basically designed to allow maps and other location based Apps to provide you with shopping, restaurant and other recommendations based on your location.
However, if you are concerned about your privacy, you can either totally disable Location tracking on your device or disable Location Tracking for specific unwanted Apps.
Steps to Disable Location Tracking in Windows 10
Open Settings on your computer and click on Privacy .
On the next screen, select Location in the left-pane. In the right-pane, click on the Change button and move Location for this device toggle to OFF position.
This will completely turn OFF location services on your Windows 10 computer.
Disable Location Tracking For Specific Apps in Windows 10
The other option is to allow location tracking by Maps and other necessary Apps, while disabling location tracking for specific unwanted Apps.
Go to Settings > Privacy > select Location in the left-pane. In the right-pane, scroll down and disable Location Services for specific apps by moving the toggle next to the Apps to OFF position.
As you can see in above image, we have enabled Location Services for the Maps App, while disabled Location Services for the Camera App.
Clear Your Location History in Windows 10
Since, Location Tracking was previously enabled on your computer, all your Location Data is still stored on your device and needs to be cleared.
Go to Settings > Privacy > select Location in the left-pane. In the right-pane, scroll down to ‘Location History’ section and click on the Clear button.
This will clear all your Location History that was stored on your computer.
The Off-Facebook Activity tool reveals which websites send information about your online activities to the social network, while Facebook's Privacy Checkup tool helps you review and tighten your privacy.
Facebook is notorious for tracking your online behavior—both on and off the platform—in order to personalize your experience and send you targeted ads. Fortunately, the social network also offers you tools to review and modify your privacy settings. The Off-Facebook Activity tool tells you what Facebook knows about your online activities when you leave the site. And the Privacy Checkup tool allows you to determine how much or how little information you reveal, and to whom. Here’s how to use both features.
What Is Off-Facebook Activity?
Facebook not only has access to your activity when you use the social network but also when you visit certain third-party websites. To help you manage that information, the Off-Facebook Activity tool lets you review and delete the data collected about you when you’re using other websites. You can also stop the off-Facebook activity from being saved with your account entirely and download the data to analyze it offline.
Off-Facebook activity includes any information that websites, apps, and organizations share with Facebook about your actions with them. This may be something as simple as visiting a specific website or app, or a more involved task such as searching for an item or purchasing a product. Facebook uses this information to serve you targeted ads.
By capturing your activity and choices on supported websites, Facebook can show you coupons and promotions you may find useful. For example, you might buy a pair of shoes from an online clothing store. That store shares your activity and purchase with Facebook, which saves it to your account. Facebook then serves you an ad with a 10% off coupon on your next purchase from that store.
Manage Off-Facebook Activity
If you’re uncomfortable with this type of tracking, especially since it occurs when you’re not on Facebook, you can use the Off-Facebook Activity tool to manage this information. Access this feature by clicking the down arrow in the top right and selecting Settings. Select Your Facebook Information and click the option for Off-Facebook Activity.
Facebook displays the names of sites that have shared your activity and informs you how it gains access to this kind of information. Get more details about your overall off-Facebook activity by clicking the “Learn More” link at the top.
To view your off-Facebook activity, click the icon for any site in the list and then enter your password. You will then see all the sites that have provided information on your activity to Facebook. Click a site to view specific details about it.
A line at the top poses the question “How Did Facebook Get This Activity?” The first drop-down menu will tell you how the site was sent the data to Facebook, such as by using Facebook’s business tools. The second drop-down menu lists examples of interactions with other sites, such as opening an app, visiting a website, searching for an item, or purchasing an item.
If you wish to flag a site as inappropriate content or a misuse of your information, scroll to the bottom of the Activity Details screen and click the Give feedback about this activity link. Select a reason for the feedback and click Send.
If you no longer want this site to share your activity with Facebook, click the Turn off future activity link. A confirmation message explains what will happen if you turn off this activity. If you wish to proceed, click the Turn off button. A message tells you that future activity from this site has been turned off, but keep in mind that your past activity has not been disconnected.
Manage Past and Future Activity
You can manage both past and future activity from the Off-Facebook Activity screen by clicking Manage Future Activity. Read the information on how off-Facebook activity is used, then click Manage Future Activity to take control.
At the next page, you can view the activity that has already been turned off. You can also turn off all future activity by turning off the switch next to Future Off-Facebook Activity.
You can also remove your entire off-Facebook activity history. Return to the main Off-Facebook Activity page. Click the Clear History button at the top and then select Clear History.
Download Off-Facebook Activity
To download your Off-Facebook activity, return to the Off-Facebook Activity page and click Download Your Information on the right.
By default, the Download Your Information page selects all your Facebook data for download. At this point, there is no specific setting just to download your off-Facebook activity information. But certain categories, such Ads and Businesses, do include off-Facebook activity. You may want to select just Ads and Businesses as a first step to see what information it provides, or keep all categories selected to view all your Facebook data. After choosing the categories, click the Create File button.
The page tells you that a copy of your information is being created. You also receive a notification by email. After the file is compiled and ready for download, you will receive another notification email. At the Download Your Information page, click the Available Copies tab, then click the Download button to save the information as a zip file on your computer.
Unzip the file and open it to review the information. From the extracted files, open the index.html file. From there you can access and view whatever categories of information you downloaded.
To run the latest version of Facebook’s Privacy Checkup tool, click the down arrow icon in the upper right, go to Settings & Privacy, and select Privacy Checkup. At the Privacy Checkup window, click the first topic for Who can see what you share.
Click Continue. At the Profile Information window, review the settings for your phone number, email addresses, and birthday. Click the button next to each one, and choose whether to change it to Public, Friends, Only Me, or a specific Facebook list. You probably want this information to remain private or only visible to friends or a specific group. When done, click Next.
At the Posts window, set the option for who should see future posts. You’ll likely want to set this to Friends. The Limit Past Posts option changes past posts that were seen by the public or friends of friends to only friends. To do this, click the Limit button and click OK. Then click Next.
At the Block screen, you can block specific people from seeing things you post, starting conversations with you, or trying to add you as a friend. To do this, click Add to Blocked list and type the name of the person or account you wish to block. From the list of suggestions, click the Block button for the correct person, then click Next.
Windows 10 is many things to many people but what it is to all of us is a privacy risk. It collects, collates and uploads a whole host of data about how you use Windows, browse the internet and generally work with your device on a daily basis. If you want to take back control of your computer, you’re going to want to disable the keylogger in Windows 10. You will also want to tweak a few more settings while you’re at it.
Windows 10 was free for most of us so we can’t really blame Microsoft from wanting its money back. But, even if you bought a retail license you are still being monitored. That seems a little unfair to me. Regardless of that, our privacy is one of the few things we retain a semblance of control over so we should all exercise that control before we lose it completely.
Why is Windows spying on me?
The Microsoft blurb says: ‘We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders) when we have a good-faith belief that doing so is necessary to.’
And: ‘When you interact with your Windows device by speaking, writing (handwriting), or typing, Microsoft collects speech, inking, and typing information—including information about your Calendar and People (also known as contacts).’
Windows will then upload this information to Microsoft for them to do with as they will. But why? Two reasons, one is to help make Windows better and the other is to make money.
Microsoft collects typing, writing and speaking data to improve how Windows 10 interprets our input. The more they know, the better they can tweak Windows 10 to work more to how we like it. That makes a kind of sense.
The other reason is to make money to help pay for Windows 10. As we got it for no financial cost, the actual cost is our data. Microsoft collects browsing information, user habits, app purchases and other data to help it market its own products to us and to help third parties market their products to us.
You can read the Windows Privacy Statement here if you have the time and patience.
If you don’t want to be tracked, followed and studied, you need to perform a few tweaks in Windows 10. Starting with the keylogger.
Disable the keylogger in Windows 10
First, let us disable that pesky keylogger. It is designed to study your typing habits so Windows 10 can refine how it works.
- Navigate to Settings and General.
- Toggle off ‘Send Microsoft info about how I write to help us improve typing…’.
- Navigate to Speech, inking & typing.
- Select ‘Stop getting to know me’ and switch it off. It should change to ‘Get to know me’ once off.
Don’t close Settings yet though as there are a few more privacy tweaks you can make to ensure much less data is captured by Microsoft.
- Select General and toggle off most of the settings in there.
- Do the same for Location, Account info, Call history and Feedback & diagnostics. Essentially, you want to turn off anything that says allow app/Microsoft or whoever to access data.
Some apps need to access your data to work, such as Mail but others like your webcam do not. Use your judgment to decide what permissions you allow.
Improve privacy further in Windows 10
There is more you can do to improve your privacy if you use Windows 10. Perform as few or as many of these as you like.
- Press Windows key + R, type ‘regedit’ and hit Enter.
- Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, SOFTWARE, Policies, Microsoft, Windows, DataCollection.
- Right click in the right pane and create New, DWORD (32-bit) Value.
- Call it AllowTelemetry and give it a value of 0.
You can turn off Cortana to seriously upgrade your privacy.
- Press the Windows key + R, type ‘regedit’ and hit Enter.
- Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows.
- Right click the Windows folder, select New, Key and call it Windows Search.
- Select New, DWORD (32-bit) Value, call it ‘AllowCortana’ and set it to 0.
Use Spybot Anti-Beacon to stop any telemetry not included in these tweaks. I regularly use Spybot Anti-Spyware and Anti-Beacon and it does what it says on the tin.
as an administrator on your Windows 10 computer.
- Check the immunization levels and click Immunize at the bottom.
- Select the Optional tab and select to immunize other elements depending on your needs.
There are other apps available to stop Windows 10 spying and they all do much the same thing. I just prefer Spybot Anti-Beacon because it is low key and I have used Spybot products for over a decade and they haven’t let me down yet.
Finally, turn off open hotspot connection if you use a laptop or mobile device. By default and for some crazy reason Windows 10 defaults to automatically connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots. Even insecure ones. That’s something you are going to want to turn off right away.
- Navigate to Settings and Network & internet.
- Toggle off Connect to suggested open hotspots.
- Toggle on Use random hardware addresses if you have the option to.
That last setting is optional but if you regularly use hotspots, this prevents your being tracked while you do it.
The cost of privacy
Improving the privacy in Windows 10 will stop your data from being shared quite so readily but it will also affect how Windows 10 works. For example, if you turn off Cortana, Windows search doesn’t work properly. Turn off telemetry and Microsoft cannot use your data to help improve Windows 10.
Some of these privacy settings also affect how Windows Store and some apps work too. If you turn off ‘Let apps use my advertising ID…’ you will still see ads but they will be generic ones instead of ones tailored to your interests. In rare instances, Windows services can stop working properly too. Much depends on the system you’re running and how Windows 10 is set up.
Despite popular belief, Windows 10 isn’t designed to take away your identity or steal your personality. It is just there to make itself better and to make money off your data. There is no grand conspiracy and most of your data is anonymized anyway. That said, it is your data so it’s up to you to protect it.
Got any other tips to stop Windows 10 spying on users? Tell us about them below.
Follow these three steps to protect your privacy—they only take a few seconds.
- Apps could be secretly accessing your smartphone’s microphone and camera to spy on you, or collect data to serve you targeted ads.
- To protect yourself, you can download an app that lets you know when the microphone or camera are turned on.
- You can also invest in some hardware to block out the microphone and camera.
If you’ve Zoomed at all over the last four-plus months, you’re certainly familiar with that pop-up box that requests permission to use your device’s microphone or camera. How else are you supposed to see or hear the person on the other line?
But there can be a more sinister side to these permissions: Some apps don’t bother asking for your consent at all, turning your device into a pocket spy, loaded with cameras and microphones at the ready.
👀 Protect yourself. Get the smartest expert-backed cybersecurity tips you can’t find anywhere else—plus unlimited access to Pop Mech, stat.
Back in 2018, for example, over 250 apps across the App Store and Google Play market were listening in for background audio through smartphone microphones, allowing the apps to figure out what you watch or listen to in order to serve up better targeted advertisements. And then, of course, there’s the long-standing conspiracy theory that our smartphones are actively eavesdropping on us.
The good news: You can take a few simple precautions to always maintain your privacy and ward off any watchful apps. The following tips just take a few seconds to complete.
Strategy #1: Figure out which apps already have permission to use your camera and microphone.
This is a pretty quick exercise in personal security, and it might actually surprise you. For example, when I checked out which apps have permission to use the microphone on my Google Pixel 3a, I found out 16 out of 52 possible apps had access.
While none of the apps that already have permission really surprised me—Android Auto, the native camera app, and Google Duo were among the culprits—some of the apps that I denied, but could have given permissions to, were alarming. Why would I really want to give up those privileges to the American Eagle app, or the HelloFresh app, for example?
⚠️ To figure out which apps have permission to use your microphone or camera:
Settings > Apps & Notifications > Scroll down and click Advanced > Permission Manager > Select which settings you’d like to examine, from call logs, to camera permissions, to microphone permissions > Once you’re under a category, you can click on any of the apps to toggle the permission to Allow or Deny.
Settings > Privacy > select Microphone or Camera, depending on which you’d like check up on > toggle permission on/off for certain apps.
To be clear, I’m not saying these apps are inherently malicious—just that they’re asking for permission to use tools that can garner the most data possible. You should be wary of these things. When going through your list of apps that have permission to the microphone or camera, ask yourself a few basic questions:
📲 Do I actually record or post videos or images with this app? What about listening to playback audio or recording audio? If none of these things apply, don’t give the app access to the camera or microphone.
📲 Can I wait to turn permissions on until I need them? If it’s your native camera app, you’ll probably want permissions turned on at all times so you never miss the shot. But if it’s something like WhatsApp, consider turning off all permissions to the camera until you actually need it.