Microsoft Edge may be sending search information to Microsoft! Here is how you turn that off
Microsoft Edge may send search results from any search that is run in the browser to Microsoft by default. The feature is not limited to Bing Search, it will inform Microsoft about searches on all search engines, including Google, DuckDuckGo, or StartPage, that users of Edge make, if the setting is enabled.
If you are using Microsoft Edge, either as the main browser on the system, as a secondary browser, or only when it is open as the default browser for certain links on the system, then you may want to check the settings of the browser to find out if search data is being sent to Microsoft.
When I opened Microsoft Edge today, Assistance from Microsoft Edge displays a popup shortly after start. It told me that I could help Microsoft make search better and that Microsoft "will collect results from searches that you perform in the browser to improve Microsoft products and services". The data that is collected by Microsoft is "never associated" with the user or the device, Microsoft added reassuringly.
A quick check of the setting revealed that Microsoft Edge turned it on, as it was turned off previously. The setting in question is called "Help improve Microsoft products by sending the results from searches on the web", and you find it in the privacy section.
How to check if Microsoft Edge is sending search data to Microsoft
- Load edge://settings/privacy#searchServiceImprovement in the Microsoft Edge web browser; this should load the relevant setting right away. Microsoft's prompt has a "manage setting" button, but it does not reveal the name of the setting and you are taken to the top of the privacy and security settings page of Edge.
- Toggle "Help improve Microsoft products by sending the results from searches on the web" to off to disable it (under Search and service improvement).
A support page on the Microsoft website explains what Microsoft is collecting and how it uses the data.
Microsoft may collect:
- the search term
- the search results that are displayed.
- the interaction with the search results, including links that are clicked on.
- demographic data.
Other data may be collected, but the four items above are listed explicitly by Microsoft. All the data is collected to improve the user experience in Edge, Bing, Microsoft News and other company services according to Microsoft.
Microsoft claims that it scrubs and de-identifies data by "removing data identifying the person or device from which it was collected", that it does not use the data to "personalize or provide ads", that it never associates the data with an account or device, and that the feature is not available on managed devices.
Microsoft, like many other browser makers, is making setting changes to its browser, which many users would object to, if asked correctly. The change is made automatically, and users need to become active to disable it, provided that they fully understand the implications of having the feature enabled. The popup text is worded cleverly, who would not want better search results?
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