Microsoft is madly in love with Cortana, the digital personal assistant that comes with every copy of the year-old Windows 10 operating system.
Not only does Cortana slot right into Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s ambitions around artificial intelligenceand the future of technology, she’s also driving lots of folks towards Bing, Microsoft’s own search engine.
So it’s disappointing, but not surprising, that Microsoft is removing the ability to turn off Cortana once the Windows 10 Anniversary Update drops on August 2nd, as first reported by PC World’s Ian Paul.
Previously, Windows 10 users could turn off Cortana, leaving in her place a more basic search bar that could scan your own files and folders. That means forgoeing Cortana’s nifty features, including the ability to schedule reminders or see your calendar, but it’s been a worthy tradeoff for those users worried about Microsoft tracking too much user data.
Now, Microsoft is removing the option. Once the update hits, if you want to search your own computer, you’re using Cortana. And unless you’re using Windows 10 at work, there’s no way to turn down the Anniversary Update or any other Windows update.
There’s a big caveat here: While signing in to Cortana unlocks a bunch more features, including delivering personalised news stories and access to your contacts and calendar, you don’t have to. You can use her anonymously, not tied to any account. So if you are really concerned about privacy, you should simply sign out of Cortana — but Microsoft will still get anonymous data when you use it.
You can also hide the Cortana bar entirely from the taskbar.
Generally speaking, Windows 10 is pretty great, and Cortana is a big part of why I personally love it so much. But it’s always disappointing to see Microsoft take away user choice, especially for something that’s as central to their day as the Windows 10 PC.
This news comes after Microsoft disabled the ability to use Google when Cortana performs web searches, forcing the use of the Microsoft Edge browser and the Bing search engine. Just last week, Microsoft reported that Bing is doing better than ever, up 16% in the last quarter over the same time in 2015.
Here’s what a Microsoft spokesperson tells us:
With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the search box is now Cortana. Customers can expect the same great search experience powered by Bing and Microsoft Edge with the added benefit of Cortana’s personality.
We know consumers want choice and we make it easy to customise Cortana’s personalisation or opt-out of Cortana’s suite of personalised services. Cortana works best when you sign in, but if you choose not to, you can still use her to chat, search the web and your Windows device. If you like, you can also easily hide Cortana and the search box in the taskbar altogether.
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