It’s not your imagination if you think we are fast approaching the world of George Orwell’s 1984. Just to be safe, today we’re going to talk about how to put small fuzzies on your keyboard. (Kidding. At least about the fuzzies.)
In a previous article, I showed you a bunch of ways to increase privacy on your computer, but I stopped short of discussing perhaps the most invasive feature of all: Cortana.
In case you haven’t been introduced, Cortana is the Windows 10 version of Siri (on your iPhone) or “Okay Google” (on your Android). And unless you take steps to restrict her power, she is always listening to your every word.
Let’s take a look at Cortana before we make any changes. To launch the app, search for and click Cortana in your Start menu.
You’ll see a search box at the bottom of the Cortana menu window. This can be a handy feature, since Cortana will search your entire computer, PLUS the entire internet.
If you click the microphone icon, you can talk to Cortana. Cortana will recognize any command or question, just like if you were using a voice assistant on your phone.
In out-of-the-box mode, you can skip the microphone icon and just say “Hey Cortana” to activate it. (Assuming, of course, that you have an operating microphone connected to your computer.)
But here’s where things could get dicey. Microsoft claims Cortana is only listening for you to say “Hey Cortana.”
Well, ok, but it’s still listening. And we wouldn’t know if they’re recording everything we say or not. I might sound paranoid, but why would you want to take that chance?
So let me show you how to put Cortana into the virtual cone of silence.
Changing Cortana’s Permissions
First off, I don’t want Cortana following my laptop around. This isn’t as much of an issue with a desktop, but I still don’t like other people (that I don’t even know) knowing where I am at all times.
I get creeped out when I get asked to review a restaurant right after I visit it. How do they know I was there? Because the Google Maps app on my phone knows I was there. If you’re with me on this, keep reading.
To deactivate Cortana’s locator, first click the Notebook icon in the left sidebar of the Cortana menu window and then click Permissions.
Under Location, click the toggle switch to Off.
While you’re here, I’d go ahead and turn off the Contacts, email, calendar, & communication history permission as well. Otherwise, if you’re using any Microsoft email product (like Hotmail or Live), Cortana will be reading your email and keeping track of your appointments.
Why does Cortana need to know that stuff? Ostensibly to make recommendations and suggest reminders. In reality, to invade your privacy and interrupt your trading day.
If you’re like most traders, you don’t want others to know what stocks you’re looking at. So it can be really important to keep Cortana’s fingers off your Browsing history.
Cortana’s story is that if she (he?) knows your browsing history, she can offer personalized suggestions. You know, the “if you like this, you may also like that” type of stuff. No thanks.
Changing Cortana’s Settings
Now look back at the left sidebar in the Cortana menu window and click on the gear icon to access the Settings menu.
Click Microphone and make sure Cortana can’t hear you.
Turn off Lock screen. Otherwise, you’ll get Cortana’s tips even when you’re device is locked. And if you’re device is locked, why should she be listening to you?
Turn off Taskbar tidbits. I mean seriously… do you want Cortana to “pipe up from time to time with thoughts, greetings, and notifications”? No thanks. I thought I got rid of such nonsense when I got rid of that stupid pop-up Paper Clip thing in the 90s.
But I’m not going to judge. If you just have to have it for some reason, there are sync settings here so you can selectively get some notifications.
As far as My device history and My search history goes, Google already keeps track of that (and I’m already clearing it periodically). This is just unnecessary duplication of effort. My advice is, shut it off.
I’ve just covered the basic Cortana settings here. You may want to Google these or some of the others and tweak the privacy settings just as you like.
Personally, I err toward caution. Even if I wasn’t a trader, I wouldn’t like someone keeping track of what I search for, where I go, and what conversations I have near the computer.
We may not be in the world of 1984 yet. There is no evidence Microsoft is using any of this information for nefarious purposes. But why open that door?
Just use these tips to keep Cortana out of your business.
We hope today’s Quick Tip helped you. If you found this helpful, you’ll want to check out the other computer How-To’s I’ve created on this page. You can always call us if you have questions: 800-387-5250