Windows 10: Activity may be recorded even if you disable it
The Privacy dashboard on Microsoft's website lists recent activity, e.g. visited sites or started applications, even if Activity History is disabled on a Windows 10 device.
Recent versions of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system support a feature called Activity History that is keeping track of some of the things that users are doing on the device so that they may "jump back".
Activity History powers the operating system's Timeline feature. Timeline, which you may invoke with the shortcut Windows-Tab, displays a timeline view of activity when opened.
Only some applications such as Microsoft Edge or Office applications support it at the time. The main idea behind the feature is to display a history to users similarly to browsing histories of web browsers.
It is easy to go back to a particular application or re-open a website using the feature.
Three main options are exposed to users and administrators in the Settings application:
- Store my activity history on this device.
- Send my activity history to Microsoft.
- Show activities for specific accounts.
The first keeps track of activity on the device, the second sends it to Microsoft.
Update: Microsoft contacted us and told us that the issue is not caused by a bug. Activity History in Windows 10 and the Activity History listing on the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard refer to two different things.
According to Microsoft, Activity History on the Privacy Dashboard is controlled by the Diagnostic & Feedback setting. The company plans to change the name to eliminate the confusion.
â€œMicrosoft is committed to customer privacy, being transparent about the data we collect and use for your benefit, and we give you controls to manage your data. In this case, the same term â€œActivity Historyâ€ is used in both Windows 10 and the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard. Windows 10 Activity History data is only a subset of the data displayed in the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard. We are working to address this naming issue in a future update.â€ â€“ Marisa Rogers, Microsoft
If a customer wants to prevent their Windows 10 device from sending apps and service Activity History to Microsoft they need to use the following two Windows Settings configurations:
1.Â Â Â Â Under Settings->Privacy->Activity history: ensure the setting â€œLet Windows sync my activities from this PC to the cloudâ€ is not checked
2.Â Â Â Â Under Settings->Privacy->Diagnostics & feedback: ensure Diagnostic data is set to Basic
Even if you disable all three options in Settings, activity may be listed on Microsoft's Privacy Dashboard website on the company's account.microsoft.com site.
A user on Reddit noticed this and published a question on the site about the issue. Sign in was done with a local account and a Microsoft Account was used only for the Store.
Even with all Activity History toggles disabled, Activity History was displayed on the Privacy Dashboard for the Microsoft account.
I verified the claim on a Windows 10 device. With Activity History disabled in the Settings application, Microsoft's Privacy Dashboard would still display records of activity on the device on which the change was made.
You can verify this as well by opening the Microsoft Privacy Dashboard website and selecting Activity History when it is loaded.
The disabling of Activity History in Windows' Group Policy did not change the collecting and display of data either.
- Visit Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > System > OS Policies.
- Disable "Allow publishing of User Activities.
- Disable "Enables Activity Feed".
- Disable "Allow upload of User Activities"
The changes have no effect on the collecting and display of activity data on the Microsoft Dashboard website under Activity History.
The leaking of Activity History data even when the feature is disabled is likely an, admittedly, serious bug.Advertisement