Cortana, Search, and privacy: FAQ

Cortana

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When I use Cortana, what information is collected and where is it saved?

When you use Cortana, Microsoft collects and uses information including your device location information and location history, contacts (People), voice input, searching history, calendar details, content and communication history from messages and apps, and other information on your device. In Microsoft Edge, Cortana collects and uses your browsing history.

This information is saved on your device, in your Cortana Notebook, and in the cloud on the Bing.com dashboard.

How do I turn Cortana off?

To turn Cortana off, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then turn the Cortana setting off. When you turn Cortana off on a device, she won’t give you suggestions, reminders, alerts, or ideas when you’re using that device.

Turning off Cortana clears the interests and information on your device, but won’t clear the information that’s saved on the Notebook or in the Bing.com dashboard.

Why is Cortana still running even after I turn Cortana off?

When Cortana is off, you may still see the name "Cortana" on some related apps and tasks in Windows 10. Rest assured that if Cortana is turned off in Cortana > Notebook > Settings, Cortana is actually turned off, and Windows 10 will not collect any Cortana-related information from the device.

How do I manage the information Cortana knows about me?

You can add or remove individual items in the Notebook, such as interests or places that Cortana shows you, or clear all your information on the Bing.com dashboard. The Cortana Notebook will sync with the information in the Bing.com dashboard, and you can manage them in either place.

Bing.com and Microsoft apps may adjust their behavior based on the changes you make to your interests or favorites in the Cortana Notebook, the Bing Interest Manager, or on the Bing.com dashboard.

To add or remove information or interests to your Cortana Notebook, go to Cortana > Notebook, and then select About me.

To add or remove information on your Bing.com dashboard, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then select Manage what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.

Can I clear what Cortana knows about me?

Yes. You can clear individual items such as interests or places, or clear all information that Cortana has stored in the Notebook and Bing.com dashboard.

To clear any interest or information from your Cortana Notebook, go to Cortana > Notebook, and then select About me or another service category (e.g. news, finance) to clear your specific information. Scroll down to the service settings, select the individual item or preference being used by the service, and then select the trashcan icon to clear it.

To clear all of your information that’s saved online in the Bing.com dashboard, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then select Manage what Cortana knows about me in the cloud. Then do one or all of the following:

  • Under Interests, select Clear.

  • Under Saved places, select Bing Maps and follow the instructions to clear your saved places.

  • Under Search history, select Search History page and clear specific items, or select Clear All.

  • Under Other Cortana Data and Personalized Speech, Inking and Typing, select Clear.

Why do I have to opt-in to data collection and personalization to use Cortana?

Cortana is a truly personal assistant, providing personally relevant suggestions and alerts. In order to do that well, Cortana needs to understand certain information about you, such as interests, location, and preferences.

Can I control what data Cortana collects?

For each device, you can turn off some of Cortana's data collection from your messages, such as the extraction of flight numbers and other information, in Cortana settings. You can also turn off Cortana’s collection of browsing history in Microsoft Edge in Microsoft Edge settings.

Turning off tracking for a particular event will stop Cortana from notifying you proactively, but Cortana will keep access to info from your communications. To completely turn off Cortana’s capability to track flights, packages, and other information from your messages, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then, under Find flights and more, turn the Detect tracking info, such as flights, in messages on my device setting Off.

To turn off Cortana’s collection of browsing history in Microsoft Edge, while you’re in Microsoft Edge, go to More actions More actions > Settings, and under Advanced settings, select View advanced Settings, and then, under Privacy and services, turn the Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge setting Off.

How does Microsoft use the voice data it receives?

When you interact with Cortana with your voice, Microsoft uses your voice data to learn how you speak and to correctly recognize and execute your voice commands. This information is also used to improve Microsoft products and services that use speech recognition.

How do I manage my voice data?

You can turn off the Speech, inking, & typing setting to stop Cortana from accessing your voice data. Go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings > Other privacy settings > Speech, inking, & Typing, and then, under Getting to know you, select Stop getting to know me. Cortana won’t work without access to voice data, so this also turns off Cortana. Any voice data that was already sent to the cloud will be dissociated from your device.

To clear the personalized speech models that Cortana created to understand your speech better, as well as other data Cortana has collected about you, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, select Manage what Cortana knows about me in the cloud, and then, under Other Cortana Data and Personalized Speech, Inking and Typing, select Clear.

I use Cortana on multiple devices. If I turn off Cortana on one device will that turn Cortana off on my other devices?

Turning Cortana off on one device doesn’t turn it off on other devices. You have to turn Cortana on or off for each device you use.

Why can’t I turn off location for Cortana in location settings?

As your personal assistant, Cortana learns about the places that are important for you and when you visit those places. This allows Cortana to give you personalized help, such as traffic alerts before you leave for your next appointment or location reminders if you’ve asked her to alert you when you’re near a certain location.

Cortana can’t work without device location information.

How often does Cortana collect my device location information?

Cortana collects your location periodically even if you’re not interacting with Cortana, for example, when you connect to Wi‑Fi or disconnect from Bluetooth.

How does Cortana know when I leave for work or home when that information isn’t in my Calendar?

Cortana learns your routines by collecting your location changes throughout the day so she can give you relevant recommendations at the right time. For example, Cortana can try to determine where you live and work, and if you verify those locations, she may give you a traffic report at the time you usually leave for home or work. These location identifiers are saved in your favorite places.

What information does Cortana collect from my contact list (People)?

In order to personalize your experience and provide the best possible suggestions, Cortana collects information about your contacts (People) such as their title and/or suffix, first name, last name, middle name, nicknames, and company name. If you communicate with someone by email, phone, or SMS, Cortana collects that person’s email address or phone number.

I don’t want Cortana to track flights or other things for me. How can I turn that off?

To turn off Cortana’s ability to track flight information, packages, or other things, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then, under Find flights and more, turn the Detect tracking info, such as flights, in messages on my device setting off.

I don’t want Cortana to notify me on my PC when I miss calls on my phone. How can I turn that off?

Cortana can notify you on your PC when you miss a phone call if you sign into Cortana with the same Microsoft account on your phone. When you are notified on your PC that you missed a call on your phone, you can reply to the caller with a text message right from your PC. You can also create a new text message directly from your PC and Cortana will help you send the text from your phone (mobile messaging rates may apply).

  • To disable missed call notifications from being sent from your phone, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings on your phone, and then, under Missed call notifications, turn the Let Cortana tell you on your other devices when you miss a call on this phone setting off.

  • If you want your phone to send the notifications, but you only want to see the missed call notifications on some PCs and not others, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings on the PCs which you do not want to see the notifications, and then, under Missed call notifications, turn the If you’ve allowed it on your phone, Cortana can let you know on this device when you miss a phone call setting off.

Does Microsoft or Bing plan to use any of the data that Cortana gathers to sell advertising or otherwise mine information?

No, Cortana doesn’t use the information you share with Cortana to send you targeted ads. Ads may accompany search results that Cortana delivers—just as they do when you do a search on Bing.com.

Does Cortana share data with other Microsoft apps or services?

Cortana uses data from other Microsoft apps or services, for instance from the Bing Sports app to help you follow your favorite team. Similarly, other Microsoft apps or services can use interests in your Cortana Notebook to customize your experience within those apps.

Does Cortana share data with third party apps or services?

Cortana allows you to connect to services from other companies, such as Uber, for additional personalized experiences using info you shared with the other company.

Can children use Cortana?

Anyone who uses Cortana has to sign in with a Microsoft account. When Cortana is turned on, she checks the age setting for that particular Microsoft account. If the age is too young, Cortana will say that the person must be a bit older before she can help them, and then turn off.

How do I manage the data Cortana has about Microsoft Health?

If you have connected Microsoft Health to Cortana to provide insights and recommendations that help you reach your fitness and wellness goals, Cortana has access to things like your profile information, activity history, location, steps and calories, plans, goals, and insights (such as how your activities compare to people like you) associated with your Microsoft Health account.

To clear all your Microsoft Health information that Cortana has about you, go to Cortana > Notebook > Settings, and then select Manage what Cortana knows about me in the cloud. Then do the following:

  • Under Other Cortana Data and Peronalized Speech, Inking and Typing, select Clear.

You can disconnect Cortana from Microsoft Health at any time by clicking on the Disconnect button. Note that if you revoke access via another method (e.g., the Microsoft Account dashboard), Cortana may be still able to access some information for a short period of time before the revocation takes effect.

To manage data Microsoft Health has about you, please review the Microsoft Health FAQ (in English).

Search

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When I use Search, does it always include web results and send information to Bing? Or can I turn the Search online and include web results setting off?

The Search online and include web results setting is turned on by default. To help you find the content you want more quickly, Search automatically suggests search terms as you type. These suggestions are provided by Bing, and can come from apps, settings, or files on your device, as well as from OneDrive and the Internet. When the Search online and include web results setting is on, Windows sends what you type or say to the Bing service, which interprets it in real-time to provide auto-suggestions.

To turn the Search online and include web results setting off, go to Search > Settings, and then, under Search, turn the Search online and include web results setting off.

To clear previously typed Bing search terms, go to Bing.com > Settings > History, and then select Clear All.

How do I provide feedback and suggestions for improving Search? And does Microsoft really pay attention to my feedback?

You can send feedback directly from Search. Go to Search, and then select the Feedback icon. Type your feedback and include a screenshot—or if you’re using Speech, use your voice to dictate your feedback, instead.

We do listen to your feedback and are always working on improving our products and services. The ability to change between Celsius and Fahrenheit when you’re looking at the weather in Cortana came from customer feedback. So did the ability to download the Bing.com homepage image.

How does Search use my device location information?

If Cortana is turned on, the Search app has access to your device location information and will automatically send it to Bing when Cortana suggests web search terms and results. Bing also uses your device’s location as described in the Bing privacy statement.

If you want to turn off the device location service for the Search app, turn off Cortana and then turn off location for the Search app.

To turn off device location services for the Search app, go to Start Start icon, then select Settings > Privacy > Location, and then, in the Choose apps that can use your location list, turn the Search app setting off.

Learn more about Windows and privacy

Cortana is only available in certain countries/regions, and some Cortana features might not be available everywhere. If Cortana isn't available or is turned off, you can still use search.