Surveillance programs incorporating cameras, border checks, and law enforcement questioning once elicited the common response, “I have nothing to hide.” But the landscape has been transformed with the proliferation of tracking devices and invasive technology. Our Windows lives are now inundated with data collection, where information is traded or exploited for targeted advertising.
Privacy was formerly upheld as a widely respected principle, with occasional adjustments to regulations in the name of the greater good. However, government-led surveillance, ISP censorship, bulk data collection, legislative battles against encryption, and incessant cyberattacks have eroded privacy as a fundamental right for many, shifting it into a luxury exclusive to a select few. I suggest changing the settings on my computer together, as well as using additional data protection tools.
Turn Off Ad Tracking
Windows 10 employs an advertising ID to gather data not only from web browsing but also from using Windows 10 apps. The advertising ID operates independently of a Microsoft account and is not synced with other computers.
If desired, you can disable the advertising ID. Open the Windows 10 Settings app by clicking on the Start button in the lower-left corner of the screen, followed by the gear-shaped Settings icon. Navigate to the Privacy section, with “General” highlighted on the left. In the main window, under the “Change privacy options” title, you will find a list of choices. The first option allows you to control the advertising ID. Switch the slider from On to Off. This change will result in receiving generic ads instead of targeted ones, and your interests will no longer be tracked.
Use a VPN
The principle of VPN operation is the inclusion of an additional server in your connection chain. This provides many advantages. If you use a VPN for Windows, it will be difficult to establish your real location, identify your real IP address, see data, etc. For those who have Windows VPN software installed, companies or ISPs cannot see either the data that is transmitted or the real addressee. The main thing is to find a fast VPN for PCs since all VPNs affect speed to a greater or lesser extent. I use VeePN, which has worked well for me, but ultimately it’s your choice.
Choose an HTTPS connection
When you visit a website, you will encounter either Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). The latter uses encryption to establish secure communication between a browser and a server.
Generally, it is advisable to use HTTPS for browsing. For online shopping, HTTPS is essential to safeguard your payment information against eavesdropping and theft.
To check if a website has HTTPS enabled, look for “https://” in the address bar and a closed padlock icon, which most browsers display. If a retailer or e-commerce site lacks HTTPS, consider shopping elsewhere.
Hide Private Data in Images or Videos
Steganography is the term used to describe a technique where a secret message is hidden in a way that not only conceals the message but also its very existence, drawing inspiration from ancient Roman art. Using stego, it is now possible to conceal data in multimedia files that appear completely ordinary. These files can range from a picture of your children, a recording of your karaoke session, or a video from your birthday party – types of files that no one would suspect to contain private data or messages.
The process of hiding data in a carrier file is quite simple. For instance, to hide text in a picture, follow these three steps: provide the path of the JPEG file, then specify the location of the data you wish to hide (in this case, your text), and finally, enter a password.
Turn Off Location Tracking
Windows 10 recognizes your location wherever you go. Some users appreciate this feature as it provides relevant information like local weather and nearby restaurants. However, if you wish to prevent Windows 10 from tracking your location, you can disable it.
To disable location tracking, open the Settings app and navigate to Privacy > Location. Under “Allow access to location on this device”, click on Change. On the following screen, move the slider from On to Off. By doing so, you will disable location tracking for all users on the PC.
If you log into most sites, they will still be able to tell you your approximate location. To improve privacy for Windows, you can use a VPN. For example, if you download Chrome VPN, you can quickly change your region and hide your real location. The traffic will pass through an additional server and it is its IP location that the sites will determine.
Turn Off Activity History
Windows stores all the information about your PC when you browse, including your activity such as websites visited, apps used, and other actions. This can raise privacy concerns for many people. If you’re one of them, you probably need to turn it off. To do this, go to Settings > Privacy > Activity history. You will find a checkbox labeled “Store my activity on this device.” Simply uncheck it, and Windows will immediately stop storing your activity history.
Turn Off Diagnostic Data
Windows states that it collects diagnostic data to ensure the security and updates of the system. So, upgrade your Windows now, no more excuses, and learn how to upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 for free!
There are two types of diagnostic data gathered:
- Required Diagnostic Data: This type includes device information, settings, and capabilities. You cannot prevent this data from being collected and sent to Microsoft.
- Optional Diagnostic Data: This type includes browsing history, app usage, and other activities on your PC. You have the choice to allow or disallow Windows from collecting and sending this data to Microsoft.
As shown above, you cannot stop the collection of required diagnostic data. However, you can prevent Windows from gathering the optional diagnostic data. To do this, go to Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics & feedback. On this page, select the checkbox labeled “Required diagnostic data.” Consequently, Windows will only collect the necessary diagnostic data.
If you value your privacy and don’t want your whole life at the mercy of big companies, you’ll have to take extra steps to protect yourself. You won’t find that companies themselves will stop tracking you. Only if you prevent them from doing this or exclude the possibility of collecting data, you can feel more secure.