Windows 10 Fall Creators Update: more transparent data collection

In the future, more privacy information will be displayed during the setup of the operating system. On top of that, apps will ask for permission to access your camera, contacts or calendar, thereby helping users restrict the collection of data to a greater degree – but they won't be able to prevent it entirely.

Windows 10 Wallpaper (Bild: Microsoft)

Björn GreifEditor

Since the launch of Windows 10 in mid-2015, Microsoft has been trying to refute allegations that its operating system collects too much data and and doesn’t adequately inform users. In answer to continuing criticism from consumer and privacy advocates, the first big Creators Update in April introduced a new setup process for privacy settings that informs users about important privacy options in greater detail. Today’s Fall Creators Update is another attempt by Microsoft to provide greater transparency by further tweaking the privacy settings in Windows 10.

On the one hand, users are now able to view the entire privacy statement during the setup process. But because hardly anyone is likely to read it in full, Microsoft also offers the option to jump directly to sections about individual settings, such as for location, speech recognition, diagnostics, tailored user experiences and relevant ads. Users interested in knowing how Microsoft handles speech data, for example, can simply click on “Learn more” when they get to the relevant item in the overview. In Microsoft’s words: “We want you to have all the information about your privacy setting options readily available so that you can make an informed decision about your privacy and how your data is used.”

The Fall Creators Update shows more detailed privacy information during the setup of Windows 10 (Source: Microsoft).
The Fall Creators Update shows more detailed privacy information during the setup of Windows 10 (Source: Microsoft).

Microsoft also promises users greater transparency and more control over their own data when it comes to third-party applications. The app permissions in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update are based on those of mobile operating systems. From now on, applications that are newly installed from the Windows Store will actively ask for permission to access the camera, microphone, contacts or calendar. Previously, permission was only requested for location data. Users will soon be able to define which functions or what device information each Windows app may access. It is important to note, though, that apps installed prior to the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update retain their permissions and will not actively ask for permission again.

Apps now ask for permission to access device functions like the camera (Source: Microsoft).
Apps now ask for permission to access device functions like the camera (Source: Microsoft).

However, Windows 10 users can change the app permissions and all other settings relevant to privacy at any time in the control panel’s “Privacy” section. This is also where users should check whether any privacy settings have been reset to the default values after the installation of the Fall Creators Update.

In their privacy statement, Microsoft openly admits to using the collected information for the purpose of “interest-based advertising” or “improving and personalizing” the user experience. Microsoft’s intentions therefore appear to be clear. What isn’t clear is what exactly is done with the data that is stored on its servers. Being a U.S. company, the software giant could be required by order of the court to disclose the data to authorities like the NSA, for example. In the interest of their privacy, Windows 10 users should therefore carefully consider whether it would not be better to forgo some of the operating system’s convenience features that require the transmission of data to Microsoft.