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Windows 10 and telemetry – what do you need to know?

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While telemetry certainly isn't new or unique to Windows 10, it is an issue which has risen to prominence recently, so it's time to talk through the main issues and how they might be addressed. Do you need to disable telemetry on Windows 10?
There has been much debate and conjecture about telemetry and Windows 10 and more specifically, if it should be disabled by security conscious users.While telemetry certainly isn’t new or unique to Windows 10, it is an issue which has risen to prominence recently, so it’s time to talk through the main issues and how they might be addressed.Do you need to disable telemetry on Windows 10?Let’s dive straight in with the question on the lips of many Windows 10 users: should I disable telemetry? Telemetry is there, primarily, to do an important job – namely, help Windows fix issues before they arise and improve user experience. But it has still had many IT managers a trifle concerned over its potential to leave privacy holes in a network. This is because, according to experts, it has the capability to index all the media files on your computer, send transcripts of what you type every 30 minutes, and anything you say into your microphone.You might, then, choose to disable it, but the problem with using the Microsoft Telemetry Removal Tool is that it can also limit your update settings at the same time. The option of less official tools is that they might pose more of a risk.Windows 10 Enterprise – the Group Policy TrickFor users of Windows 10 Enterprise, including the Education and Server editions, it is possible to apply the Group Policy Trick in order to disable the option of changing the security settings relating to telemetry, after ensuring the option for usage data collection level is turned to minimal. The bad news is that despite reports to the contrary, this won’t work on Windows Home or Windows Pro 10, essentially meaning that personal users won’t have the privilege – so don’t go to the bother of trying! This means that setting the level of Windows 10 telemetry to ‘0 – Security’ while it is set to ‘enabled’ will not achieve the desired effect of preventing the telemetry function.Some other things you might not know about Windows 10 telemetryThe data collected by Windows 10 telemetry is not personal data. It is designed to stay anonymous and impossible to connect to a particular individual or organisation. However, its processes when an app crashes does include the memory of the faulting itself, which has the potential to carry more sensitive information. It should be noted that this level of exposure only applied to the ‘Enhanced’ setting for telephony that you can select. With the ‘Full’ setting, you have the option of granting Microsoft permission, or not, to retrieve personal data from your device should it begin to experience problems. When such problems occur that do require personal data in order to solve them, Microsoft assures that its “privacy governance team, including privacy and other subject matter experts, must approve the diagnostics request made by a Microsoft engineer”.Disable what you don’t needOne of the most sensible pieces of advice for Windows 10 users eager to counter the effect of the Windows 10 telemetry function, but without affecting performance, is to disable services that they don’t really need. Coming under this bracket for the typical user is the Diagnostics Tracking Service, which is split between Diagnostics System Host and Diagnostics Service Host.The WAP Push Messaging Routing Service might also be a feature worth giving the chop to if you need to, and losing it can have the effect of disabling telemetry functions for non Enterprise users. Cortana, the virtual assistant, is another Windows 10 element which might come under the microscope for its telemetry capabilities. OneDrive and Windows Apps, which could be used by a bigger share of customers, also have the ability to ‘talk’ to Microsoft and send data.The function of telemetry means Windows is certainly justified in its motives, but it seems likely that there will be more demand for customisable settings in the future for Windows 10 Home and Pro users.
Philip Jones

Philip Jones

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