Privacy Tools Adds Transparency to Microsoft Windows Data Collection

The upcoming Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer app and revamped Privacy Dashboard will allow users to see the data Microsoft has collected on them.

Windows 10 Privacy Update 2

Wondering exactly what kind of data Windows is sending to Microsoft? A new tool, called the Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer, lifts the veil on the previously opaque communications between Windows PCs and Microsoft's telemetry-gathering operations.

To many Windows users, particularly those concerned about the privacy of their data, it comes as no surprise that Microsoft's operating system can collect and transmits data regarding a PC's configuration, device health, application usage and other information.

Microsoft analyzes this data to shed light on how the system software is faring across a wide variety of hardware combinations and usage patterns, information that the software maker then uses to address issues, improve the OS and help guide the software giant's ongoing OS development efforts.

It's a practice that stoked privacy concerns when Windows 10 first hit the scene. Privacy advocates were alarmed by breadth of information Microsoft collected on people who used its operating system software and cloud services.

Soon, with the Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer, users will be able to see exactly what kind of data their Windows 10 PCs are sharing with Microsoft, announced Marisa Rogers, the Windows and Devices Group Privacy Officer at Microsoft.

"Our commitment is to be fully transparent on the diagnostic data collected from your Windows devices, how it is used, and to provide you with increased control over that data. This is all part of our commitment to increase your trust and confidence in our products and services," she wrote in a Jan. 24 blog post, authored just days before Data Privacy Day (Jan. 28).

"You are able to see and search all Windows diagnostic data that's in the cloud related to your specific device," continued the executive. Users will be able to view information on their devices and their configurations, including connected peripherals, settings and the network information pertaining to a given device.

Delving deeper, Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer can show reliability and performance information, along with data on a user's file queries and movie consumption. Alarming as it may sound to some users, Rogers claimed that the "functionality is not intended to capture user viewing or, listening habits."

Users can also explore their application usage, along with an inventory of installed applications and device updates.

Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer will be released to the Microsoft Store app marketplace as part of the next major Windows 10 update. Members of the Windows Insider program can take the app for an early spin.

In addition to the viewer app, Microsoft has revamped its Privacy Dashboard, providing users with a clearer view of the data that is saved to their Microsoft accounts.  More updates are on the way, stated Rogers.

An updated Activity History page will soon allow users to access and manage their media, product and Microsoft services activity information. Additionally, users will be able to export their dashboard data and delete specific items.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...