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Windows 10 Settings menu: The Privacy tab

Windows 10 attempts to make privacy settings -- for tablets and PCs -- accessible.

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The new Windows 10 Settings menu is sort of a mashup between the Windows 8 PC settings menu and the traditional Control Panel. The Privacy tab, however, has several privacy settings that are unique to the Settings menu -- settings that are designed for tablets and phones, as Microsoft tries to accommodate all devices in its universal operating system.

The Privacy tab is where you'll find most of your device's basic privacy settings, such as location settings and whether to send diagnostic information to Microsoft. You'll also see several sections pertaining to app control -- sections that let you choose which apps (if any) have access to peripherals and connected hardware (such as webcams and microphones).

General

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In the General section, you can quickly change basic privacy settings. Here, you can choose whether to let apps use your advertising ID, turn on SmartScreen Filter to screen URLs in apps downloaded from the Windows Store, and choose whether to send Microsoft information about how you write (to "help improve typing and writing in the future"). You can also choose whether to let websites access your language list, and click Manage my Microsoft advertising and other personalization info to go directly to Microsoft's website, where you can opt out of personalized browser ads and personalized ads in places where you use your Microsoft account.

In the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview Build (Build 14342), you'll see two new options: Let apps on your other devices launch apps and continue experiences on this device, and Let apps on your other devices launch apps and continue experiences on this device over Bluetooth. These options are related to Windows 10's new Handoff feature, which will be available for all users in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update and will reportedly work seamlessly with both iOS and Android.

Location

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The Location section concerns your device's physical location, so it's naturally more of a concern for laptop and tablet users. Here, you can toggle your location settings on and off and choose whether apps can access your exact location data (you can also toggle this access on and off for specific apps, such as the camera, Cortana, or the Maps app). Under General location, you can allow apps to use your general location data, such as city, ZIP code, or region, without allowing them to access your exact location as reported by your device. If you're using a device that doesn't have built-in GPS, you can manually set your default location.

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Under Location history, you can manually clear your location data from the device. You may want to do this periodically: Windows 10 stores up to 24 hours' worth of location data on your device, and that data can be accessed by any apps that have location permissions.

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There's also a Geofencing section, where you can turn off geofencing for specific apps.

Camera, Microphone, Account info, Contacts, Calendar, Call history, Email, Messaging, Radios

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The Camera, Microphone, Account info, Contacts, Calendar, Call history, Email, Messaging, and Radios sections are all basically the same, just for different devices and/or information. In each of these sections, you'll see a main toggle at the top that lets you choose whether to allow apps to access that device (e.g., the camera or the microphone) or that information (e.g., your call history or your contact list). Underneath this toggle, you'll see a list of apps that have asked permission to access that device or information. Here, you can turn on/off permissions for each individual app.

Other devices

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The Other devices section lets you give apps permission to share and sync info with wireless devices that don't pair with your PC (or tablet, or phone), such as your Xbox One. In this section, you'll also see a list of "trusted devices," or devices that you've already connected to your PC.

Feedback & diagnostics

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In the Feedback & diagnostics section, you can choose how frequently you'd like Microsoft to ask for your feedback: "Automatically" (default), "always," "once a day," "once a week" and "never." Feedback requests appear as little notification banners in the lower right corner of your screen. If you'd like to send Microsoft even more of your opinions, you can now download the Windows 10 Feedback Hub (previously only available to Windows 10 Insiders) in the Windows Store.

Here, you can also choose how much of your diagnostic and usage data is sent to Microsoft: "Full" (default), "enhanced," or "basic." There is no option to not send Microsoft diagnostic information and usage date, and this is one of several privacy concerns that has kept some people from upgrading to Windows 10.

Background apps

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Many apps downloaded from the Windows Store will run in the background -- receiving information, sending notifications, and updating. If you're using a limited connection (such as cellular data), this can be a big problem, because these apps will eat up your data when you're not using them. In this section, you can disable background-running for different apps, but there's a catch: You'll need to do this for each individual app, because there's no universal toggle that lets you turn background data off for all apps at once.

Editors' note: This How To post was originally published on March 5, 2015, and was updated on May 31, 2016, to reflect new information regarding Windows 10 Insider Preview 14342.