Windows 11 cares deeply about your data, and the operating system is full of options for privacy-minded users.
User privacy is an important aspect of every app, device and website we use today. Demands for stricter data privacy laws have pressured even the largest technology companies to be more transparent in the subsequent collection, use and distribution of their user data.
Microsoft gives Windows 11 users control over their data through an extensive list of privacy options.
The privacy options available in Windows 11 are some of the best we’ve seen. Users can configure individual app permissions, data collection preferences, and more.
Read on as we dissect everything you need to know to take control of your privacy in Windows 11.
Why Data Privacy Is Important
One website or app can collect and store the sensitive information of millions of people. In the wrong hands, this vast amount of data can have serious consequences for individuals. Data privacy is basically how organizations handle user information.
Most people won’t mind having their basic information (such as name and gender) shared with the company. However, put sensitive data like addresses, bank details, etc., into the mix, and you are suddenly in a very difficult situation.
In essence, data privacy laws allow users to take control of their data and prevent it from being misused. Apps that track browsing history, search queries, etc., often sell this data to third parties that you may not have heard of before.
These companies can then leverage this data for targeted advertising campaigns, market research, and more.
Windows 11 Privacy Settings
Now that you are refreshed with the importance of data privacy, let’s explore the various privacy settings in Windows 11.
General Privacy Preferences
Each Windows user has a unique advertising ID linked to their specific device; This advertising ID, when enabled, allows companies to use the collected data for their own purposes. You can stop personalized and targeted ads from apps by disabling Windows advertising ID.
To configure general privacy settings in Windows 11:
- Navigate to Settings > Privacy & security > General.
- To enable or disable the advertising ID setting, toggle the button Let apps show me personalized ads by using my advertising ID to the setting of your choice.
- Similarly, you can also choose whether websites can display relevant content by accessing your language list and whether Windows can track application launches to improve the Start menu.
Voice Recognition or Speech Recognition
For users who use voice recognition regularly on their PCs, we recommend setting the relevant privacy preferences.
If you choose to disable Microsoft’s online speech recognition technology, the applications and services that rely on it will not function. This will not affect the Windows Speech Recognition application.
Enabling Microsoft’s online speech recognition could allow Microsoft to improve its technology. You can even choose to donate your sound clip. Microsoft and its vendors will review the sound clips, but Microsoft assures its users that they protect their privacy and, ultimately, their identity.
You can set Speech recognition preferences by navigating to Settings > Privacy & security > Speech.
To help improve Microsoft’s online speech recognition software by submitting clips of your voice to Microsoft, go to Settings > Privacy & security > Speech and click Start contributing my voice clips.
Microsoft developers rely on diagnostic data to improve Windows and keep it working as expected. You have the option to choose between sending only the required diagnostic data or optional diagnostic data which includes how you use the app, the websites you visit, and more.
Here’s how to set up Diagnostic Data preferences:
- Launch menu Start, search Settings, and launch Best match.
- Navigate to Privacy & security from the sidebar then click Diagnostics & feedback.
- Expand tab Diagnostic data and choose your preference.
- Choose your privacy preference for Tailored experiences which allows Microsoft to use your data to provide you with targeted advertising and personalized recommendations.
- If you want to clear the diagnostic data that Microsoft has collected, expand the tab Delete diagnostic data and click Delete.
- To view the data collected, click on the group View diagnostic data and activate Turn on the Diagnostic Data Viewer, then click Open Diagnostic Data Viewer.
The Search permissions page allows you to configure search settings related to privacy options. You can access it via Settings > Privacy & safety > Search permissions.
By preparing SafeSearch, you can choose the amount of adult content filtered in the web preview. You can choose between filters Strict, Moderate, and off; Strict filter out adult text, videos, and images from web results via Windows Search. If you select a filter Moderate, Windows will filter out adult videos and images, but will still display text.
You can also decide whether Windows Search can personalize your search results by including content from Microsoft services like OneDrive, Outlook, and Bing. You can set these preferences under groups Cloud content search.
Adjusting App Permissions in Windows 11
Apps on your PC often require the use of location data, camera, microphone and more. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the most important app permissions.
Some applications require location data to function properly, and even Microsoft uses location data from users to improve their Windows location services.
Here’s how you can set location permissions in Windows 11:
- Navigate to Settings > Privacy & security > Location.
- Choose whether you want to enable or disable Location services. If you enable this option, you can then choose which apps are allowed to access your location data individually.
Camera & Microphone
Similarly, you can choose what apps can have access to Camera and Mic.
You can set Camera access privacy settings via Settings > Privacy & safety > Camera. You can then restrict individual apps from using the camera below Let apps access your camera.
Microphone access settings can be set via Settings > Privacy & safety > Microphone in the same way as above.