Lock down Windows 8 privacy leaks and stay safe

When did you last look at the privacy settings in Windows 8? Six months ago? When you bought your computer? Never? Oh dear, best check them as soon as you can! Here is how to plug those leaks.

You may never have realised that Windows 8 had privacy settings, but the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system is a sort of tablet-desktop hybrid operating system and this means that it has some mobile-style privacy settings.

Open the charms bar on the right by holding down the Windows key and pressing C. Click the Settings icon and then Change PC settings. Select Privacy on the left.

The General section has several settings you might want to customise. This section is concerned with apps (Start screen apps) and you might not want them to be able to access your name, picture and other account information. There is an advertising tracking switch too and turning it off prevents tracking across devices and computers.

 Windows privacy settings

The SmartScreen Filter is very useful for blocking bad websites, although the URL you are trying to access is sent to the SmartScreen service to be checked. Switch it on if you want to be protected, but switch it off if you value privacy more. It’s a tough decision.

Show text suggestions based on what I type is similarly difficult to decide. Text suggestions can be useful, but everything you type must be recorded in order to suggest anything useful. It is another functionality vs privacy feature.

Select Location on the left and there is a global on/off switch at the top. It is best to turn it on and then turn off access for individual apps (Start screen apps). It is obvious why some apps want to know your location, such as Maps, but some of the others might not need to know. Why give them access? You can try apps both with the location switch on and off and see if there is any difference. If there isn’t, then turn it off permanently.

 Windows privacy settings

The webcam setting, if you have one, is very strange. Why would Calendar need to access the webcam? Why woul HP AiO Printer Remote need to access it? Obviously if you have a webcam app or photo app, then turn it on, but for everything else you can probably deny access and the apps will run just fine.

 Windows privacy settings

Select the Microphone section on the left. All the ones listed here have valid reasons for accessing the microphone, but look for anything strange and make sure only the apps you want can turn on the microphone and listen.

 Windows privacy settings

Other devices. I don’t have any, so I’m not sure what could appear here. Check it and make sure there is nothing strange.

 Windows privacy settings

Click the back button in the top left corner and select Search and apps. There are two options and one is to clear the search history. If someone got on your PC they could look at the search history and discover your search for the perfect apple pie recipe, or whatever your search for in Windows and on the web. Clear it.

 Windows privacy settings

When you search in Windows 8 (press Windows+S to open the search panel on the right), not only is a search performed on the PC, but also on the web. Your search query is sent to Bing and the results appear below the PC search results. It is functionality vs privacy again. It is useful to search everywhere on the PC and on the web in one go, but if you value privacy more then select the option at the bottom Don’t get personalised results from Bing. It is your choice.

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