Can You Trust Your Operating System’s Privacy Settings?

Photo by Thomas Windisch on

Today we are going to be taking a deep dive into your Operating System’s privacy. Piggybacking off my episode last week, I want to explore different popular operating systems consumers own and see which one protects your privacy the most.  Maybe it is time that you change up your computer. 

Continuing with our theme of privacy, I wanted to take a deeper look at how our operating systems are protecting our privacy.  I had heard a lot of things about Windows 10 spying on their users.  For this episode, I’m going to stick to discussing just computer operating systems.  In a future episode, I’ll compare iOS with Android.  We spend a lot of time on our phones, and I think it’s worth going deeper and discussing how our phones track our every move.

The three main operating systems I’m going to be discussing today are: Windows 10, Mac OS and Ubuntu.  The first two are pretty well known, but the third one is one of the more popular Linux distributions that most people use.  Similar to my last episode, I’ll be reviewing privacy settings and policies that each operating system has.  You might be surprised with what I find.  I haven’t done the research yet, so I’m expecting my research to confirm my suspicions.  I predict that Windows 10 will be the worst operating system in terms of protecting your privacy.  I predict Ubuntu to be the one that protects your privacy the most.  Let’s see if I’m right.

Windows 10: 

Let’s start with the most popular operating system of them all.  Windows 10.  Microsoft started doing a very interesting thing with Windows 10.  If you’ve been around computers for a while, then you probably remember service packs.  It would take years to develop an operating system and every once in a while, you’d download a massive update.  These updates were far and few.  With Windows 10, Microsoft releases an update twice a year now.  Usually in the form of a Spring and Fall update.  With each update, Microsoft revises their privacy policies and opt users back into configurations that they have had changed before.  Windows 10 comes with an advertising ID.  You can turn this ID off if you do not want to receive personalized ads.  Windows 10 is also consistently sending data back to Microsoft so that they can improve your Windows experience.  If you are jumping between multiple Windows 10 computers that you own, Microsoft has something called activity history that allows you to switch computers and pick up where you left off.  A great convenience feature that comes with a significant cost to your privacy.  If you have a laptop, you can bet that Microsoft is tracking your location as well.  Windows 10 also has access to your camera and microphone.   This means that Microsoft can potentially hear and see you.  As you can see, Microsoft does a lot of tracking.  There is a privacy setting that allows you to toggle all these settings, but I’ve heard that Microsoft has the tendency of reverting these values back to their default (opt-in) values every time you update.  I personally haven’t seen this happen, but I’m going to keep an eye out for future updates. Let’s talk about Mac Os next.

Mac OS:

Apple does things a little differently here.  While Mac OS is tracking you a bit, it does so with a little more finesse.  Location tracking is enabled on your mac, but you have to allow apps to use the data.  Even within the Find My ecosystem, Apple claims that only you can see the location of your personal devices.  This means that Apple and other 3rd party entities can’t see your computer’s location.  Similar to Windows, Apple does collect some data to help improve the overall experience. And that’s about it.  Mac OS isn’t trying to make money off of you and Apple encourages you to use Safari since it will also work to protect your privacy.  Apple has their voice assistant and they do not associate your requests with your identity.  Every request is from a random identifier.  Apple can’t read your iMessages either. It’s all encrypted.  Apple’s newest computers come with an onboard machine learning chip that allows Apple to enhance the user experience without ever having to send data back up to Apple for processing.  Overall, Apple values your privacy a lot.  Let’s see how these two OS’s stack up against the free Ubuntu.


Similar to the other two, Ubuntu collects data from your computer to help improve the overall experience.  Like with the other two, you have the option to opt out of this.  Ubuntu is transparent with what they collect and nothing too personal is ever collected from you.  And that’s it.  Like Apple, Canonical, the makers of Ubuntu, really do care about your privacy.  

There you have it.  Your operating system 101 guide. Which operating system are you currently using? Are you thinking of making a switch based on the information presented?  I know that I use all three operating systems and I’m going to be reviewing my Windows 10 settings to make sure Microsoft stays away from my private data.  

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