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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.

How do you keep track of Cortana? A couple of ways. First, you can use the Notebook within Cortana to specify what you'd like to see. Click the Cortana "Ask me anything" bar, then the Notebook icon (the little square with a hole through it, three icons down). This allows you to pick your favorite activities. 

To erase all the information that Cortana knows about you, visit the Bing account personalization page and start tapping the "Clear" button in various categories. You should also visit the Microsoft privacy dashboard.

Finally, to turn off Cortana, go to the Cortana page, click the Notebook, then Settings. The first menu option is a toggle switch to remove Cortana entirely.

Windows Hello often wants to say... hello

Windows Hello is a minor factor at Windows 10's launch, given the relatively small number of PCs using it. But little has been written about how it works.

Hello uses special depth cameras to illuminate your face, specifically, the Intel RealSense cameras that we tried out earlier this year. Microsoft has demonstrated the technology at public events: Users can simply walk up to a PC and wait a second or so for their face to be recognized.

Here's where it gets a little tricky. If you lock your PC and walk away from it (or it locks automatically after a certain period of sitting unattended) the Hello depth camera will constantly scan the room. 

"The camera sensor is based on infrared technology, so it's looking for shading and light refraction," according to a Microsoft spokeswoman, in an email. "It is looking for images in IR that look like a human face. Once it finds a face, it identifies landmark locations such as eyes, nose, etc. It uses those landmark points as a reference location to analyze  the shading and light intensity around them to differentiate you from someone else."

Does that mean you've just introduced a Windows 10 spy camera into your office? Microsoft says no. However, the camera is "always on when the lock screen is active," she added. "The camera turns off when the user is authenticated and transitioned to the desktop or when the screen turns off due to power settings/screen saver."

Here's what Microsoft's privacy statement says about Hello: "If you turn it on, Windows Hello uses your face, fingerprint or iris to identify you based on a set of unique points or features that are extracted from the image and stored on your device as a template--but it does not store the actual picture or image of your face or iris. Biometric verification data that's used when you sign in doesn't leave your device. You can delete your biometric verification data from within Settings."


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