How to delete your voice data collected by Microsoft when using Cortana?

August 9, 2018 |

greater than 8 minutes

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished

by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”

— Dale Carnegie

One of the greatest issue users are experiencing with Windows 10 is privacy. Normally, it is a concern everywhere, whether you are using Mac OS, Android, or simply browsing the internet.

Privacy issues in Windows 10 and what data Microsoft is collecting from you

We will explore the privacy and spying nightmare in Microsoft Windows 10, and how to stay safe using Cortana. You will discover what data you have legally agreed to share with Microsoft, plus what the sexy Cortana knows about you and is sharing with third-parties and Microsoft. Let’s start by saying Windows 10 is unsuitable if privacy is of utmost importance to you. However, if you have just a general concern for privacy, Windows can be manipulated into not sending out data but you’re going to find it’s an ongoing battle as new updates are introduced, and new functionalities that require communicating out of the operating system.

Windows 10 is a cloud-based operating system with cloud functionality like synchronization, sharing, and virtual assistant. It is designed to communicate out to enable these features. You need to have a Microsoft account (internet account) in order to use these cloud features like Cortana, and all this is completely opposed to the goals of privacy. Windows 10 in the traditional sense is an operating system with many cloud-based extra features. Let us go through how Windows 10 can affect your privacy so you can make an informed decision on whether to share all that information with Microsoft or not. There are benefits to Windows 10; it has many great features. But we have to be aware that there is a lot of privacy sacrifice to it.

In Windows 10 data syncing is the default setting. Your private data and software settings will be synced with Microsoft by default, this includes websites that you visit, your browsing history, a software setting, Wi-Fi hotspot names, and passwords, etc. This can be disabled though.

There is the advertising ID, Windows 10 assigns each instance of the operating system a unique advertising ID. This is used to customize ads that are sent to you by third-party companies, such as ad networks and advertisers. You can opt out of this and we will show you how. There’s the Cortana data collection. Now, if you go to the Cortana FAQ, you can find out a lot more information from Microsoft themselves on what Cortana does and what information is collected by Cortana and where is it saved.

If you’re not familiar Cortana is like Siri on the iPhone. It is a type of voice assistant introduced in Windows 10. It or she collects all the data that you use and when we say all data, we mean all data. So, we are talking about browser history, keystrokes, listening to your microphone, search history, calendar data, location and movements, your contacts and relationship with the contacts, payment information like credit and debit card details, data from email, text messages, your call history, movies you watch, music you listen to, everything you buy, and the list goes on and on. To provide a good service, Cortana needs to learn about you. But this does seem excessive and it’s definitely something you should be aware of so you can make an informed choice whether you want to use the Cortana service.

The Cortana service needs to be of sufficient value to you for you to give up that amount of personal information to Microsoft. This is the new world we are living in and this is a new world we’re moving into. The word privacy will have a very different meaning for the next generation as things like Cortana potentially become indispensable to the next generation. A couple of other things you need to read if you want to use Windows 10 and you care about privacy is the Privacy & Cookies page in Microsoft’s official website. The first one is the Microsoft privacy statement and the second is the Microsoft Services Agreement. When you download Windows 10, you sign these agreements that you are authorizing Microsoft to collect your information and share it with third-parties. In these documents, Microsoft outlines their intentions with your data and how they intend to track you. They are open, honest, and straightforward about it which is good because they have learned from the past that people do not care about it. And users are ready to exchange their personal data for potentially great features.

So, let us give you a taste of the sort of data you’re agreeing to have collected and shared with third-parties. If you read the documents under Privacy & Cookies on Microsoft’s website, you will understand that you are letting them collect information about your name, your email address, your postal address, phone number, passwords, password related information, account access information, interests, stocks that you might be interested in, your favorite places and cities, your age, gender, preferred language, payment information like credit cards, security codes, features you use, contents of your documents, your photos, your music or your videos that you have uploaded to services like OneDrive, etc.

How to fix the privacy issues and protect personal data when using Cortana search voice?

Now that you understand how much data Microsoft is collecting from you, we are going to show you how to enable the most privacy settings in Windows 10 so that Microsoft collects as little data as possible if any at all.

If you want the best privacy settings, you probably want to use a local account as opposed to a Microsoft account to log in. But, the only downside with that is you can’t use Cortana with a local account. So, if you want to use Cortana and all the features, you’re going to need a Microsoft account to log in and there are some downsides to this in terms of privacy. This is because to use Cortana, she must collect data about you to make her understand your preferences. So, if you don’t want Cortana, then your best bet is to use a local account to log in for maximum privacy settings.

Now, when you first install Windows, do not use the Express settings. Instead, use Customized settings so that you can change the privacy settings before you even get into Windows 10. But we going to assume you want to change these afterwards.

We’re going to start off in the Privacy panel. Use these steps to open it:

  • Press the Windows logo key + I on your keyboard to open the Settings app.
  • Select Privacy from the list of options and you will be taken to the Privacy panel.

On the left side of the window, you have all the various privacy main settings.

In the General tab

  • The first thing you want to do is disable the advertising ID. Microsoft uses this ID to identify your PC to send ads based on the information they have collected from you.
  • The next option is for websites to access your language list and provide you with relevant content; turn it off. If you are just one language and you’re not changing languages, then there’s probably no need for this option. Websites can usually tell where you are anyway.
  • Also, turn off the option to let Windows improve Start and search results by tracking app launches.
  • Also, turn off the Show me suggested content in the Settings app option.

In the Speech, inking and typing tab

You should turn off the speech services and typing suggestions. This option helps you to talk with Cortana, collects your handwriting patterns and typing history and sends to Microsoft to make a local user dictionary, with the aim of giving you better suggestions and improve on your speech services.

When this feature is turned off, you won’t be able to speak to Cortana or give her voice commands. All the data from the typing and inking user dictionary will be cleared. But speech services like Speech Recognition that do not rely on the cloud will still be functioning. You will also still receive typing suggestions and handwriting recognition from the system dictionary.

Delete your voice data from Microsoft servers

To delete all your voice data Microsoft has already collected and stored on their servers while you were using Cortana, follow the instructions below:

  • Click on the Start or Home button and select the gear icon to open the Settings app.
  • Select Accounts from the list of options.
  • Navigate to Your info tab and click Manage my Microsoft account. This will take you to your Microsoft account online.
  • Go to the Privacy tab and click Activity history. You will be prompted to sign into your account.
  • Under the Explore your data option, click the Voice tab. You will see all the voice commands you have given to Cortana from all your Microsoft devices (PC, phone, Xbox) in a chronological order. You are even able to listen to them.
  • Click Clear activity to delete all the data from Microsoft’s servers

Next, we are going to go to the Diagnostics & Feedback tab

  • Select Never under the Feedback frequency option.
  • For Diagnostic data, it is set to Full by default and you should set this to Basic. The only way to turn it off completely is if you have an Enterprise version of Windows 10. On Windows 10 Pro it only gives you the option to set to Basic. That’s as good as we’re going to get at this point. At least it decreases the amount of data collected by Microsoft.
  • Turn of the Improve Inking & typing recognition and Tailored experiences.
  • Under the Delete diagnostic data option, press the Delete button. This will remove all the diagnostic data Windows has collected from your device.

Now, we’re going to go to Other devices tab

This feature allows you to sync with devices that you don’t normally pair with your PC. So, if you don’t use beacons or you don’t know what it is used for, then it’s best to turn it off. You can always turn it on later

Messaging tab

If you don’t have a Windows Phone or if you don’t let apps read or send messages, you can turn it off. It might actually be useful if you use apps that require you to send messages.

Calendar

You can turn this On or Off depending on how useful it is to you. You can even select the apps which you want accessing your calendar. There you will find Cortana, Mail and Calendar, People. These are the default apps that come with Windows 10. Other apps may be present on this list depending on the apps you have installed on your PC.

Location

You can turn off the location services if you do not want Windows to know where you are. When it is on, you can decide on which apps are using the service.

Recommendation: Privacy and Security are issues which need to be taken seriously when dealing with your personal data. We have given you tips above on how to protect your privacy. For security, we recommend you to download and install Auslogics Anti-Malware. This tool will protect your data against hackers. It will also prevent infections from viruses and other malware. It is effective and scans your system regularly for infections. You will be able to surf the internet in a safe environment.

We hope this article has helped you with the privacy issues. Share it with others who require similar info.

We appreciate your ideas and comments and we are ready to answer all your questions regarding the above topic.

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