Security company Avira, best know for its antivirus products, launched Privacy Pal yesterday which promises to reveal privacy issues on Windows, prevent (select) tracking on the device, and remove digital traces it finds from the system. Think of CCleaner meets a Windows 10 Privacy tool.
Avira Privacy Pal is a free software program that you may download from the company website. The program is available for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and newer versions of the operating system including Windows 10.
Download and installation should not pose any issues. Note that Avira advertises its other products during installation but won't download or install those automatically, or display opt-out choices to you that install programs if you are not careful.
Privacy Pal displays the protection status and options to change it in the main interface on launch. The protection status is set to personalized in the beginning, and you may click on the level to find out what it entails and to switch to one of the other protection levels provided by the software program.
The configuration screen reveals little about what each of the privacy levels does. You can click on the edit icon next to Personalized to check out all privacy related options that Privacy Pal supports.
Avira launches a simplified view which you may (and should) switch to expert view. Expert view lists privacy options in the categories operating system, network, user privacy, browser and apps.
Available options are quite extensive and range from disabling certain Windows features that may transfer data to Microsoft to disabling Remote Registry, hiding the last used username on the login screen, or preventing apps on the system from using certain functionality or tracking you.
You can go through the five categories one by one, which I would suggest as it gives you full control over available privacy features.
A click on change to on the page displays quick change options that give you options to select a certain privacy level right away. The levels are not explained in the menu, however, which means that you will have to go through the categories to make sure that nothing was changed that may impact functionality.
Since it is not really clear what each preset does, it is better to go through the listings of options manually.
You may hover the mouse cursor over any option to get a short description of what it does. While many are self-explanatory, e.g. "disable Windows automatic driver updates", "disable Universal Plug and Play", or "don't get metadata from the Internet", others may not be clear right away.
Avira displays a yellow icon next to options that may impact functionality on the system. If you disable the Windows search service for example, search may not work at all anymore.
You can run a cleanup of data using Privacy Pal as well. Just click on the start button on the program's start page and select the areas that you want to clean.
Only the browser cache is selected by default but you may add the browsing and download history, cookies, chat logs, application usage, and browser session and input to the process.
Avira Privacy Pal supports Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Edge at the very least. A click on the edit icon displays the installed programs or locations that you may clean.
Avira Privacy Pal is a surprisingly powerful privacy tool for devices running Windows. You can use it to make privacy related changes on Windows machines, and clear some of the data as well.
The program does not have to hide behind other popular privacy tools for Windows, and the integration of privacy clean-up options gives it an edge over many of the programs that are available currently.
While you should not expect CCleaner-like cleaning and customization options, it is quite good what Privacy Pal has to offer in the initial version.
Usability, especially transparency of what features do but also navigation, is an issue. While you get used to the interface and functionality quickly, the software would benefit from clearer instructions and help texts (or tooltips) that explain what particular levels do.
Now You: Do you use privacy software?
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