Cortana and privacy

Cortana is made to be your truly personal assistant, providing you with personally relevant suggestions and alerts. To do these things, Cortana needs to understand certain data about you, such as your interests, location, and preferences. You are in control of how much data you share. Cortana is available in certain regions and languages. If your device is not set up for supported regions and languages, you can still search for files on your device in the search box on the taskbar.

Cortana works best when you sign in and let her use data from your device, your personal Microsoft account, other Microsoft services, and third-party services you choose to connect. If you choose not to sign into Cortana, you can still chat with Cortana and use her to help you search the web and your Windows device. But if you don’t sign in, or you choose to sign out, your experiences will be more limited and they won’t be personalized with your Cortana data.

Whenever we collect data, we want to make sure it’s the right choice for you. That’s why we provide information and choices, like the controls described on this page. To learn more about Cortana and your privacy, please see the information in the Cortana section of the Microsoft Privacy Statement.

How Cortana uses data to work for you

If you don’t sign in and don’t give Cortana permission to use your personal Cortana data, Cortana will still be there to help you search the web and your Windows device; to offer quick answers, translations, and calculations; to set alarms for you; and to perform other tasks that don’t require personalization. When you use the taskbar search box, you’ll start to get search suggestions as soon as you start typing or speaking. To do this, Windows sends what you type or say to the Bing service, which interprets it in real time to provide auto-suggestions.

Even after you allow Cortana to use some of your data, if you ask Cortana to do something that requires more data, she’ll ask you for permission and you can decide then what to allow going forward. Once you’ve given Cortana permission to use certain data, you can always manage those Permissions to stop collecting data. See below for more details on How to control Cortana’s collection and use of your data.

Cortana does not use the data you share with her to target ads to you. Ads may accompany search results that Cortana delivers, just as they do when you do a search on Bing.com. And your Bing search suggestions and queries—even if Cortana does the searching for you—are treated like any other Bing search suggestions and queries and used as described in the Bing section of the Microsoft Privacy Statement.

Using Cortana when your device is locked

Cortana can help you out with some tasks even if your device is locked, including setting a timer, playing music, or taking a quick note. This feature is on by default, but you can turn it off at any time in Cortana > Settings. In addition, in Settings you can choose to allow Cortana to access your calendar, email, messaging, and Power BI when your device is locked.

To use Cortana on the lock screen, tap Cortana or say "Hey Cortana." (The “Hey Cortana” feature allows you to access Cortana with your voice and can be turned on in Cortana’s settings.) If you don’t see Cortana’s icon on your lock screen, go to Settings > Personalization > Lock screen, set your background to Picture, and turn on Get fun facts, tips, and more from Windows and Cortana on your lock screen.

Voice input

When you use your voice to ask or tell Cortana something, Microsoft uses your voice data to improve Cortana’s understanding of how you speak to keep improving Cortana’s recognition and responses and to improve other Microsoft products and services that use speech recognition. When the “Hey Cortana” feature is on, Cortana wakes up when she hears the words “Hey Cortana,” and only collects your voice input after she hears those key words.

Your Microsoft account

Once you sign in with your account, Cortana can keep track of what interests you, save your nickname or favorite places to the Notebook, give you your notifications from other devices, and share data you’ve saved between devices. You can also then give Cortana permission to use other data, including your location and location history, contacts, searching history, calendar details, and content and communication history from messages and apps.

To help you follow things that interest you, such as your favorite sports teams, you can allow Cortana to use data from other Microsoft apps or services like the Sports app. Similarly, you can allow other Microsoft apps and services to use interests in your Cortana Notebook to customize your experience within those apps. Using Connected Accounts, Cortana can also connect you to services from other companies, like Uber, for additional personalized experiences using data you shared with the other company.

Location data

To help you get around when you visit places, learn your routines by collecting changes in your location, and learn which places are important to you, Cortana needs your device location data. Cortana can save commonly visited places as your favorites. This feature will let Cortana help you by giving you traffic alerts before you need to leave or sending reminders based on location like “You’re near the grocery store, where you wanted to buy milk.” Cortana collects your location periodically even if you’re not interacting with her, as in when you connect to Wi‑Fi or disconnect from Bluetooth. When using Cortana, she also has access to your device location data and will automatically send it to Bing when Cortana suggests web search terms and results for Bing to use as described in the Privacy Statement.

Browsing History

If you choose to allow Cortana to help you pick up where you left off on websites when using Microsoft Edge and provide you with more personalized suggestions, Cortana will use your browsing history in Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft Health

If you choose to connect Cortana to Microsoft Health, Cortana can provide insights and recommendations that help you reach your fitness and wellness goals. To do this, Cortana can access data associated with your Microsoft Health account, like your profile data, activity history, location, steps and calories, plans, goals, and insights such as how your activities compare to people like you.

Cortana and kids

Users have to be a certain age to use Cortana. When a user tries to sign into Cortana, she checks the age setting for that particular Microsoft account, and users she identifies as too young cannot sign in or have a personalized Cortana experience. But Cortana will still be there to help those users search the web or perform other tasks that don’t require any personal data.

Contacts, calendar details, and content and communication history from messages and apps

To personalize your experience and provide the best possible suggestions, Cortana accesses your email and other communications, and collects data about your contacts (People) like their title and/or suffix, first name, last name, middle name, nicknames, and company name. If you receive and/or call, email, or text someone, Cortana collects that person’s email address or phone number.

Cortana helps you bridge the gap between text messaging on your phone and instant messaging on your PC (mobile messaging rates may apply). When you’ve signed in on your PC and your phone with the same Microsoft account, you can create a new text message on your PC and Cortana will help you send the text from your phone. In the same way, Cortana can notify you on your PC when you miss a call on your phone and help you reply to the caller with a text message right from your PC.

How to control Cortana’s collection and use of your data

In general, to control what’s in Cortana’s Notebook, you can add or remove individual items in the Notebook, such as interests or places that Cortana shows you. You can clear your interests and some other info Cortana has stored about you in the cloud on the Bing.com dashboard. To make it easier, the Cortana Notebook will sync with the data in the Bing.com Personalization dashboard, and you can manage your Notebook data stored in the cloud in either place when you’re signed in with your Microsoft account. Note that managing My interests does not clear any associated data already stored in the cloud. To clear data that Cortana uses, refer to the details below.

Bing.com and Microsoft apps may adjust their behavior based on the changes you make to your interests or favorites in the Cortana Notebook or the Bing Interest manager on the Bing.com Personalization dashboard. For example, if you take a particular sports team off your My interests list, Cortana and your Sports app will show you less information and fewer suggestions about that team.

Here is some information about how you can manage the data you allow Cortana to use or stop the use altogether.

You can manage what data Cortana collects and uses by adjusting your Permissions in your Notebook at any time. Note that the Permissions are device specific, so if you choose to turn off individual Permissions on one device, Cortana may still have access to that data on another device if you have given her those Permissions on the other device. Note also that if you use Cortana without signing in, your searches in the taskbar search box are treated like any other Bing search.

To stop Cortana from using your location:

  1. Go to Cortana > Notebook  > Permissions.
  2. Turn off Location .
  3. Note

    That some location data may still be collected by other apps and services. For example, location accompanied with your searches will continue to be collected and used as described in the Privacy Statement.

To stop Cortana from seeing data in your calendar, email, contacts, and text messages:

  1. Go to Cortana > Notebook  > Permissions.
  2. Turn off Contacts, email, calendar, & communication history.
  3. Note

    That turning off Contacts, email, calendar, & communication history has no effect on the Connected Accounts you may have set up—in particular, any that themselves allow Cortana to access the same or similar communication data.

To stop Cortana from using Browsing history:

  1. Go to Cortana > Notebook  > Permissions.
  2. Turn off Browsing history.
  3. Note

    That turning off Cortana’s use of browsing history has no effect on the use of browsing history for page prediction by Microsoft browsers. For more information, see the Microsoft browsers section of the Privacy Statement.

To stop Cortana’s tracking of flights, packages, and other data:

  1. Go to Cortana > Notebook  > Permissions.
  2. Turn off Contacts, email, calendar, & communication history.

To stop Cortana from accessing your voice data:

  1. Go to Cortana > Notebook  > Permissions.
  2. Scroll down, and select Speech, inking, & typing privacy settings to go to Getting to know you in settings.
  3. Under Getting to know you, select Stop getting to know me.
  4. Note

    Any voice data that was already sent to the cloud will also be dissociated from your device.

To clear data from Cortana’s Notebook about a specific interest:

  1. Go to Cortana > Notebook .
  2. Select the category you want to clear data from, like News or Finance.
  3. Select the individual item, interest, favorite, or preference that you want to clear.
  4. Select the trash can icon to clear it.

To turn off Cortana’s personalization, to stop data collection and to clear all of the data Cortana has associated with a particular device:

  1. Go to Cortana > Notebook  > About Me.
  2. Click to select your Microsoft account.
  3. On the Account page, click again to select your Microsoft account.
  4. Select Sign out.
  5. Signing out of Cortana clears the data Cortana has associated with that device. Your data associated with other devices will remain intact until you sign out from Cortana on those devices as well. Signing out of Cortana on your device stops Cortana’s data collection and use on that device and clears the interests and data on that device, but signing out won’t clear the data that’s already saved in the Notebook or in the Bing.com dashboard. Even after you’ve signed out of Cortana, characters you type into the taskbar search box are automatically sent to Bing and offer search recommendations. Your typed characters and searches will continue to be collected and used as described in the Privacy Statement. If you prefer not to send any character data to Microsoft, choose not to use Cortana. If you like, you can even hide Cortana. And if you want to search for files on your device, such as documents or photos, you can always use the search feature in File Explorer.

To hide Cortana:

  1. Right-click on the Taskbar.
  2. Select Cortana.
  3. Select Hidden.

To clear data that’s saved online in the Bing.com dashboard:

  1. Go to Cortana > Settings .
  2. Select Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.
  3. Then do any or all of the following:
    • Under Where else is Cortana saving data about you, select Bing Maps, then select the star icon. Choose Edit in the My Places box that appears, and then choose the X next to any location you’d like to clear.
    • Under Where else is Cortana saving data about you, select Search History page. Then clear a specific item by selecting the X next to it, or select Clear all to clear all search history items.
    • Under Clearing your data, select Clear. This setting clears other data Cortana collects and uses about you such as your browsing and communications history and includes the Microsoft Health data that Cortana has about you. Note, clearing it will clear your Microsoft Health data from Cortana, but Microsoft Health may still retain and use this data. Learn other ways to manage your Microsoft Health data in the Microsoft Health FAQ.

To turn off Cortana’s help in Microsoft Edge:

  1. Open Edge.
  2. Go to Settings.
  3. Go to Advanced Settings and press View advanced settings.
  4. Turn off Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge.

To manage which notifications you receive on a device:

  1. On the device where you don’t want to see notifications, go to Cortana > Settings .
  2. Under Send notifications between devices, select Edit sync settings.
  3. Select the device you want to edit.
  4. Turn off the kinds of notifications you no longer want to receive.

To turn off all notifications for a particular device:

  1. On your phone, go to Cortana > Menu > Settings .
  2. Turn off Send notifications between devices.

To disconnect Cortana from Microsoft Health or any other Connected Account:

  1. Go to Cortana > Notebook  > Connected Accounts.
  2. Select the desired account and select Disconnect.