Tip: Review Your Microsoft Account’s Privacy Settings

Posted on January 12, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Cloud, Microsoft Consumer Services with 6 Comments

Tip: Review Your Microsoft Account's Privacy Settings

Earlier this month, I wrote about the proper care and feeding of your Microsoft account. Since then, the Microsoft account website has been overhauled with a new dashboard that lets you manage your privacy settings and even delete the data Microsoft has saved. You should examine this new interface immediately.

Microsoft announced this change a few days ago, but news about the new privacy dashboard probably didn’t get the attention it deserved because Microsoft also described a coming change to the way it handles privacy settings in Windows 10.

But you don’t need to wait for the next version of Windows 10 to examine and configure your Microsoft account privacy settings. That is available right now, on the web, to anyone with a Microsoft account. (Basically, Microsoft has separated the Security & Privacy area on the Microsoft account website into separate Security and Privacy interfaces.)

The new Privacy dashboard can be found on the Microsoft account website at account.microsoft.com/privacy. As you can see, it looks nothing like the rest of this site, and is instead visual, with thorough explanations of what data Microsoft collects, and why. It’s actually pretty impressive.

Here’s what’s available.

Browsing history. Microsoft Edge saves your browsing history on a per-device basis, but if Cortana is configured to save your browsing history (which I believe it is, by default) then your collective browsing history will be saved to the cloud. You can view that browsing history and use a Clear browsing history option to remove it, too.

Search history. Bing uses your search history to improve search results, so that is saved to the cloud too. You can view this search history if you’d like and, as with your browsing history, you can delete it with a Clear search history option.

Location activity. Microsoft tracks your location activity across devices so that it can show you information that is relevant to you based on that location. And yes, you can view your location history and delete it as required. Don’t want to be tracked? You can turn off Find My Device in Windows 10 (in Settings, Privacy, Location).

Cortana’s Notebook. Microsoft’s personal digital assistant uses a notebook to store information about you so that it can better serve your needs. You can view the contents of this notebook in the cloud and delete everything in it if you no longer wish to use Cortana. (Or simply want to start over, I guess.)

Health activity. Microsoft stores your health-related data in its HealthVault and Microsoft Health services, so you can access that information from those places, respectively. Which means you need to visit those sites individually: Microsoft HealthVault and Microsoft Health.

Other privacy settings. At the bottom of the main Privacy dashboard site, you will find links to the privacy settings for Windows, Xbox, Skype, and Office, plus apps and services, marketing preferences, and advertising preferences. Some are just informational—the Windows and Office items, for example, just tell you what information Microsoft collects and where you can configure it—but others are live dashboards where you can configure the related settings. Each is absolutely worth visiting.

Looks like I need to update First Steps: The Proper Care and Feeding of Your Microsoft Account to address this major change.


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