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Microsoft data tracking
© Tomasz Śmigla |
Security & privacy

How to see everything Microsoft knows about you and shut down tracking

There are very few apps and services that don’t require you to sign in or create an account. You typically have a few options like signing in with your Google, Facebook, or Microsoft credentials.

But the more you use your details on various sites, the more information that company gathers on you. Eventually, Facebook or Microsoft compiles the data into a neat bundle unique to you and uses it to serve you personalized advertising.

There is more than enough reason to ditch Facebook. Tap or click here to do it the right way. Don’t stop with Facebook. Read on for steps to tighten up the security of your Microsoft account.

What is a Microsoft account?

Like Facebook or Twitter, an account with Microsoft lets you access online products like Office 365, Microsoft Teams and Xbox gaming services. It is also the core component for access to features and functions in the Windows operating system.

For example, without a Microsoft account, you can’t register a license key or, in some cases, prevents you from updating your computer. Integration with other websites lets you use your Microsoft credentials to create an account or log in to services easily.

View your data

If you have been using a Microsoft account for a while, it probably knows a considerable amount of your data. This can include anything from Bing and Cortana searches to Microsoft Edge browsing and services activity.

You can take a look at your data through the Privacy Dashboard and control how Microsoft handles it in the future. For example, the dashboard lets you clear your search history, review your location data, change your advertising settings and edit your marketing preferences.

Turning off data collection

The best way to limit the data a company can gather on you is to use privacy settings to limit their reach.

  • Personalized advertising

Microsoft uses your searches and purchase history to serve you with personalized advertising. You can turn this off in the privacy dashboard by scrolling to the bottom and clicking on Review ad settings. Then, toggle the slider next to See ads that interest you to the left to disable it.  

  • Accessing diagnostics from other apps

Unless you turn it off, Microsoft collects diagnostic data from apps you use “to help improve our products and make them work better.”

To delete the data, scroll down to the App and services tab in the dashboard. Click View app access details and it will show you recent app activity. Next, click on Clear all app and service history to delete it.

  • Access to your location

There might be instances where your location is important for apps and services to work correctly. But you don’t want Microsoft to know where you are all the time.

On the dashboard scroll, to Location activity. When you click on it, it displays all the places where Microsoft tracked you. Click Clear location history, then Clear to remove the data.

  • Browsing history

If Microsoft’s Bing is your preferred search engine, you can delete your data through the privacy dashboard. Microsoft explains that it collects information on the sites you visit to personalize your experience. To stop it from tracking your activity, click on Browsing history and delete the data.

You can also manage the data that Microsoft collects through the Windows operating system. To do this, right-click on the Start button, click on Settings, and click on Privacy.

Select General from the left panel. Under Change privacy options, toggle the switch to the left under Let apps use advertising ID to make ads more interesting to you based on your app activity. This prevents apps from using your ID to offer targeted ads. Review the other options and make the desired changes.

Keep reading

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Sneaky new spyware is hiding in Microsoft help files – What to watch for

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