Microsoft Outlines Fall Creators Update Privacy Improvements

Microsoft revealed several privacy improvements arriving with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update in October. Soon you'll be given more information about how the company gathers data and offered more control over the information that apps can access. Enterprise customers will also be given the option to restrict data sharing to the minimum required for Windows Analytics, the company's business-focused diagnostics service.

These updates build on the changes made with the Windows 10 Creators Update. That release made it clearer how much information Microsoft can gather from your device, minimized data collection, and required users to affirm their privacy settings when they installed the update. (Provided, of course, that they waited for the official rollout instead of manually installing the update.) All of these changes were a good start.

But it seems Microsoft didn't think it did enough to ease its customers' concerns about their privacy. In a blog post, the company outlined several improvements planned for the Fall Creators Update, which is set to debut on October 17. Perhaps the most pertinent will be easier access to information about how Microsoft gathers information, what data is collected, and how it might be used. The company explained:

First, we are giving users direct access to the Privacy Statement within the setup process. Second, as you set up a new device, the Learn More page on the privacy settings screen enables you to jump to specific settings for location, speech recognition, diagnostics, tailored experiences, and ads while you choose your privacy settings. You no longer need to sift through the privacy statement if you only want to read about a specific feature, simply click the Learn More button for easy access.

Another update—the ability to choose information Windows Store apps have access to—should be familiar to anyone who owns a smartphone. Android and iOS both offer granular controls regarding an app's ability to access your contacts, photos, and other information. Windows 10 previously restricted those controls to your location, but the Fall Creators Update will expand those capabilities to other data.

Microsoft didn't list all of the settings arriving with this update, but it did say that you'll be able to control access to "key device capabilities or information such as your camera, microphone, contacts, and calendar, among others." The company also noted that this change will affect only Windows Store apps that are installed after you upgrade to the Fall Creators Update; previous installations won't show these privacy setting prompts.

Finally, the company said "our Enterprise customers asked us to provide them with greater control over which data is shared with us to enable new services," so it's introducing a new setting that "limits diagnostic data to the minimum required for Windows Analytics." That should be welcome news to privacy-conscious businesses, although the inability to stop all data collection will still put some sensitive information at risk.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • JonDol
    Well, seems a good step forward to improve user privacy but I doubt it will be enough to completely stop using tools like DoNotSpy10 or W10Privacy. Another good thing is that users will be allowed to install the uBlock Origin extension on Edge and which could stop auto playing HTML 5 videos. And why do I care about Edge ? Because is a league above in terms of speed, compared to all the other major web browsers...
  • shrapnel_indie
    It appears to be a step in the right direction. However, if the privacy statement has no real revisions compared to the last one that actually spelled out what it was they collected, then there is no real improvement in privacy, as "minimum" is still a considerable amount, and more than it really needs to be. I see no mention of Cortana's nose being pulled out of everything it is stuck in, nor do I see mention of a way of shutting Cortana off in such a way that it doesn't try to kill the function of the start menu, file searches, and some apps that also seem to be relying on her running (and spying) on your activities.
  • alextheblue
    "although the inability to stop all data collection will still put some sensitive information at risk."

    Would you care to back that up with some facts, Mott? No, no I didn't think so.
    Despite all the pushback, it's still taken 2 years to reach this level of transparency. How much longer will it take before users can force them to enable all privacy options with full disclosure? They could have done so on day 1, and their unwillingness to do so coupled with cryptic (and creepy) user metrics announcements (Over 82 billion photos viewed within the Windows 10 Photo app.) do not inspire confidence.
  • cherry blossoms
    In other words you will STILL have to disable/delete a lot of services and apps, set group policies, block access at a firewall/router exterior to the system,. and use the registry to cut back, and even then it will be questionable what is actually getting sent out
  • randomizer
    A decent update if you're an Enterprise customer. Everyone else just gets quicker access to the privacy policy.
  • fmyhr
    I refuse to buy an OS that spies on me and shows me ads. These days, I guess that makes me weird. Strange times we're living in...
  • Roger Wilco
    I just want them to collect whatever they can for diags. And get rid of any ad crap.
    Don't care if they collect all my info, it's not accurate.