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Microsoft Opens Up About Privacy In Windows 10 Creators Update

Microsoft offered another peek at the privacy settings you'll be asked to manage before you install the looming Windows 10 Creators Update. The company said in a blog post that it will collect less information than before, offer more details about what each setting does, and respect the decisions you've already made with previous versions of Windows 10 when the Creators Update starts to roll out between April 5 and April 11.

Privacy concerns have plagued Windows 10 for a while. Microsoft previously encouraged you to share information when you got started with the operating system, and when the Anniversary Update debuted in August 2016, it removed the ability to easily disable the Cortana virtual assistant. You could still control what it could access--ranging from your emails and installed apps to your speech and location data--but not turn it off.

That problem remains in the Creators Update. Now, though, Microsoft requires you to set each individual setting before you get started, which means its data collection should come as less of a surprise, and the company has worked to reduce the amount of information it collects. These reductions are particularly noticeable in regard to diagnostic info, as Windows and Devices Group EVP Terry Myerson explained in the blog post:

Aside from sharing new information to inform your choices, our teams have also worked diligently since the Anniversary Update to re-assess what data is strictly necessary at the Basic level to keep Windows 10 devices up to date and secure. We looked closely at how we use this diagnostic data and strengthened our commitment to minimize data collection at the Basic level. As a result, we have reduced the number of events collected and reduced, by about half, the volume of data we collect at the Basic level.

Microsoft doesn't allow you to opt out of sending diagnostic information from the Settings app. You can choose from only three levels: Basic, Enhanced, and Full. The company recommends the Full setting, but the other two are still options. (The biggest problem with choosing Basic is that it prevents you from submitting comments via the Feedback Hub.) Limiting the amount of data you're required to share is a welcome change.

The Creators Update will also make it easier to figure out what each setting does. Why does Microsoft want you to provide your location, enable speech recognition, and let it use your data to offer "tailored experiences" and targeted ads? Right now that isn't clear, but this update will offer more details about each item and provide a "Learn more" link that lets you get even more information about how the settings affect your privacy.

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Operating system updates offer companies a good chance to reset user settings. You might prevent Windows 10 from accessing your location or showing relevant advertisements now, but if you weren't paying attention while setting up the Creators Update, perhaps those settings could have been changed to help Microsoft earn some more ad revenue. Free operating system updates aren't going to pay for themselves, you know.

Microsoft didn't go that route. Instead, the company said that each setting will respect the choices you've already made. You'll still have to go through the setup process--the whole point is making sure people are clear on what data Windows 10 shares--but you won't have to disable each individual setting another time. This is a small decision, to be sure, but it still helps to highlight Microsoft's renewed commitment to user privacy.

Or at least that's the idea. We'll have a better understanding of Microsoft's approach to user privacy in this new era of Windows-as-a-service after we've spent a little time with the Creators Update. For now you can check out Microsoft's updated Privacy Statement to learn more about what data is collected and how it's used, and if you have a hankering for the Creators Update, you should be able to install it at some point later today.