There are many things to like about Windows 10, but the user tracking is not one of them. Turning off Windows 10 tracking is a multi-step process involving checking or un-checking settings across multiple screens, disabling “features”, running batch files, and editing the hosts file. If you found the whole process a bit tricky, a bit frustrating, and a PITA then rejoice, there is now a utility that automates many of the steps.
Safer-Networking, the company who made the venerable Spybot – Search & Destroy program, has come out with a new utility, Spybot Anti-Beacon. It is available as a “portable app”, meaning that there is no installer, you just download and run it. When I downloaded it, it was on version 1.3, and I got a program named “SDCutTheLine-1.3.exe”.
There are some basic protections on the default tab, and some additional optional productions on the optional tab. Clicking on the “options” button at the bottom of the screen puts a check-box next to each option, so that it is possible to selective apply the protections.
The knee-jerk reaction when you learn about the user tracking functions in any software or website is to block it or turn it off as quickly as possible. However, pause and consider that you are also turning off or disabling some convenience features that you may want or need. Many people will want to leave enabled some of the options in order to use the related features. Personally, I’m fine making a decision to possibly trade some convenience for some privacy, but I don’t appreciate default settings that put my personal information at risk.
Wait, do you think you are safe because you are still on Windows 7 or Windows 8.x? Microsoft has announced that they are going to be adding “telemetry”, aka user tracking, to these previous versions of Windows as well. The good news is that the Spybot Anti-Beacon tool also works on those versions to help disable unwanted tracking.