[Update 13.12.2018 – 17:26 CET] Microsoft reached out to us with a statement explaining the situation. The company also provides steps to prevent the bug from continuing:
“Microsoft is committed to customer privacy, being transparent about the data we collect and use for your benefit, and we give you controls to manage your data. In this case, the same term “Activity History” is used in both Windows 10 and the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard. Windows 10 Activity History data is only a subset of the data displayed in the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard. We are working to address this naming issue in a future update.” – Marisa Rogers, Microsoft
How to disable sharing Windows 10 apps and services Activity History with Microsoft.
If a customer wants to prevent their Windows 10 device from sending apps and service Activity History to Microsoft they need to use the following two Windows Settings configurations:
1. Under Settings->Privacy->Activity history: ensure the setting “Let Windows sync my activities from this PC to the cloud” is not checked (learn more here)
2. Under Settings->Privacy->Diagnostics & feedback: ensure Diagnostic data is set to Basic (learn more here)
Microsoft has been seemingly improving the privacy experience on Windows 10 to appease users and lawmakers alike. The company debuted new privacy toggles this year aimed at giving users more control over what they choose to share. However, it seems those controls are doing very little behind the scenes.
The problem stems from how Microsoft is tracking Windows activity and its new Timeline feature. Microsoft introduced Timeline earlier this year with the April 2018 Update. It ties with Windows 10 Activity History, which gives users the ability to jump back into previous activities on the OS.
Timeline is used as a map of sorts to show those activities in an easily viewable history. These are default features, but Windows allows users to disable them. Timeline works when device activity history, send activity to Microsoft, and show activity for accounts are all enabled.
In other words, when enabled, Timeline sends your Windows 10 activity to Microsoft. This is already known and is detailed by Microsoft. However, it seems even what the three options to start Timeline are disabled, Windows is still sending data to Microsoft.
Specifically, Neowin reports the data can be found on the Privacy Dashboard of a Microsoft Account. It seems tracking is only happening on Microsoft Office and Microsoft Edge. You can find this information yourself through the following steps:
- Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > OS Policies.
- Disable “Allow publishing of User Activities.
- Turn off “Enables Activity Feed”.
- Disable “Allow upload of User Activities”
This latest Windows 10 privacy issue comes just weeks after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made promises about user data. Nadella said Microsoft does not monetize data in a veiled swipe at Google and Facebook.
Sure, gathering user data for telemetry on Windows is not monetizing, but it does Microsoft little favors when the company continues to lack transparency in its methods.