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Windows 10's inquiring minds: How Hello and Cortana get to know you very, very well

Mark Hachman | Aug. 3, 2015
Your personal data: That's what Windows 10's Hello and Cortana features need to help you, assuming you're comfortable with that.

windows 10 hands on cortana
Credit: Mark Hachman

Your personal data: That's what Windows 10's Hello and Cortana features need to help you, assuming you're comfortable with that.

To be fair, it's nothing new--plenty of apps and services ask for your preferences, location, etc., to serve you better. Windows Insiders who opted in to the Windows 10 Technical Previews have already given Microsoft quite a bit of carte blanche in the spirit of improving its services. But Windows 10's efforts to get to know you--and tie you into its services--will be a new experience for those of you upgrading or buying new Windows 10 PCs.

The Hello authentication feature and the Cortana digital assistant are particularly inquisitive, seeking to know your face and your preferences in detail. Windows Hello isn't an issue for most of us, however, because its required camera technology will only be found in new PCs, and a very limited number of them. Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana, will be more ubiquitous, especially if you use her to help answer questions and perform simple tasks.

You don't have to use either service (we'll show you how to turn them off). But Microsoft will still try and use whatever information it can to build a profile on you--and assemble demographic information it could use elsewhere. If you're concerned, read Microsoft's privacy policy.

Here's what to expect from Cortana and Hello if you use them in Windows 10.

Cortana: She's listening

One of the first things Microsoft would like you to do after turning on your new Windows 10 PC is to set up Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant. Cortana can be a valuable assistant, answering quick questions--either spoken or typed--and setting reminders, playing music, and a host of other tasks. 

Keep in mind, however, that whatever data you give Cortana, stays with Cortana. And Cortana wants everything: "your device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device," according to Microsoft. "Cortana also learns about you by collecting data about how you use your device and other Microsoft services, such as your music, alarm settings, whether the lock screen is on, what you view and purchase, your browse and Bing search history, and more."

Microsoft portrays all this data-gathering as beneficial. For example, any favorite teams you specify in the MSN Sports app will be showcased in the Cortana summary screen. Some benefits are less obvious: Choosing to sign into Facebook within Cortana allows Microsoft to access certain Facebook information so that Cortana and Bing can give you more personalized recommendations, according to Microsoft.


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