Cortana and privacy

Applies to: PrivacyWindows 10

Cortana is a cloud-based digital assistant that works across your devices and other Microsoft services. Depending on the capabilities of your device and the version of Cortana you’re using, Cortana can provide a range of features, some of which are personalized.

Cortana on Windows is available in certain regions and languages. Cortana is also available as an app for other platforms, such as Android and iOS.

Cortana works best when you sign in and allow the use of data from your device and from Microsoft services, as well as from third-party services and skills you choose to connect. To provide you with personalized experiences, Cortana learns from certain data about you, such as your searches, calendar, contacts, and location. You’re in control of how much data you share with Cortana.

If you choose not to sign into Cortana on Windows, you can still chat with Cortana and search the web, as well as documents and emails stored in Microsoft services like OneDrive and Outlook and on your Windows device. See the section about Windows in the Microsoft Privacy Statement for more information. If you don’t sign in, or if you choose to sign out, your experiences will be more limited, and they won’t be personalized with your Cortana data. On iOS and Android devices, Cortana only works when you sign in.

To learn more about Microsoft and your privacy, please see the information in the Privacy Statement.

How Cortana uses data to work for you

On Windows, Cortana helps you search with Bing as well as your Windows device; offers quick answers, translations, and calculations; sets alarms and timers for you; and performs other tasks that don’t require personalization, even when you aren’t signed in and haven’t given Cortana permission to use your personal data.

When you provide Cortana with permission to access your information from a device or service, this information may be used to personalize your Cortana experience on any device or service on which you’ve enabled Cortana. Even after you’ve given Cortana permission to use certain data, whether upon initial setup of the device, skill, or app, or later as you start using Cortana, you can always manage those permissions so that Cortana will stop collecting data. The following sections provide more details about how to control Cortana’s collection and use of your data.

Signing in

Once you sign in, Cortana can keep track of what interests you, save your nickname or favorite places in the Notebook (Settings on mobile devices), give you your notifications from other devices, and share data you’ve saved across Cortana-enabled devices. On Windows, you can decide to give Cortana permission to use other data, including your location and location history, contacts, browsing history, calendar details, and content and communication history from messages, apps, and notifications. After opting into Cortana on Android and iOS, you can control some of these permissions through the app permissions in the device’s system settings.

To help you follow things that interest you, such as your favorite sports teams, stocks you’re tracking, local news, and favorite restaurants, you can add and remove items from the Notebook. When you’re signed in, Cortana displays and uses interests from other Microsoft apps or services, such as the Sports and News apps. You can also use Cortana to get services or skills from other companies such as Spotify, using data the other company has or that you provide through Cortana. On Windows, your employer’s administrator can allow or disable your ability to sign into Cortana with your work or school account. Learn more in the Products provided by your organization section of the Microsoft Privacy Statement, and about controls for organizations here.

Using Cortana when your device is locked

Cortana can help you with some tasks even if your device is locked, including setting a timer, playing music, and creating a reminder. 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, messages, and other data 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 > Settings.) If you don’t see Cortana’s icon on your lock screen on Windows, go to Settings > Personalization > Lock screen, set your background to Picture or Slideshow, and turn on Get fun facts, tips, and more from Windows and Cortana on your lock screen.

Search and ads

To give you search suggestions as soon as you start typing or speaking, Cortana sends what you type or say to the Bing service, which interprets your query in real time and provides auto-suggestions.

Cortana does not use the data you share to target ads to you. Ads may accompany search results that Cortana delivers, just as they do when you search on Bing.com. Even if Cortana does the searching for you, your web search queries will be treated as described in the Bing section of the Privacy Statement.

Voice input

When you use your voice to say something to Cortana or invoke skills, Microsoft uses your voice data to improve Cortana’s understanding of how you speak. This is to keep improving Cortana’s recognition and responses, as well as to improve other Microsoft products and services that use speech recognition and intent understanding.

If you use voice input with Cortana while signed in with your Microsoft account, you can manage the voice data stored by Microsoft by going to your Privacy Dashboard. Note that when the “Hey Cortana” feature is on, Cortana wakes up only when you say “Hey Cortana,” and only collects your voice input after she hears those keywords.

Location data

To help you get around when you visit places, learn which places are important to you, and get to know your location-based routines, Cortana needs your device location data. Cortana can save commonly visited places as favorites, which will then also appear in other Microsoft services such as the Maps app. Cortana can also learn your favorite places from the Maps app.

Location data will let Cortana help you in a variety of ways. For example, Cortana can give you traffic alerts before you need to leave for work, or send you reminders based on location, such as, “You’re near the grocery store where you wanted to buy milk.”

Cortana collects your location periodically even if you’re not interacting with the service. To provide location-assisted information, Cortana will periodically download and use the GPS location from your device. Cortana can also download and use other location-related signals, such as when you connect to your Wi-Fi network, and its name, or when you disconnect from Bluetooth. Cortana will also automatically send your location 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, Cortana will use your browsing history in Microsoft Edge, and provide you with more personalized suggestions.

Cortana and kids

Users must be above a certain age to use Cortana. When a user tries to sign in, Cortana checks the age setting for that particular Microsoft account, and users that are identified as being too young cannot sign in or have a personalized Cortana experience. Cortana on Windows will still help younger users search the web, or perform other tasks that don’t require any personal data.

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

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

By accessing your email, Cortana can help keep track of your commitments, and by accessing your calendar, can provide you with traffic notifications and alert you when it's time to leave for your next calendar appointment. By accessing your contacts, Cortana can help you easily and quickly identify which contacts you'd like to communicate with, and can learn how you prefer to communicate with them.

Cortana also 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. Similarly, 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 sent from your PC.

Connected services and skills

You can give Cortana access to data collected by other Microsoft and third-party services, or provide your information to those services, by enabling or connecting those services and skills with Cortana. When you request a connected service or skill, Cortana provides your request to that service or third party to enable it to fulfill your request. When enabled, Cortana can send additional information to help with your request, such as your location, email, or phone number.

Note that some services or skills may save information you provided in previous conversations with that service or skill, to provide you with better information in the future. For example, a skill that recommends restaurants in your area might remember your cuisine preferences, so it can offer you more relevant restaurant suggestions.

You can manage connected services and skills in Cortana’s Notebook. Note that if you share your Cortana-enabled device with other people, they might be able to use your connected services and skills, which may include sharing your information with third parties.

Cortana may also store and use your conversation history with connected services and skills. This can help improve Microsoft speech recognition and intent understanding services, which benefit Cortana and other Microsoft offerings that rely upon speech and intent technologies. Cortana may use this information to provide you with more personalized recommendations.

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, such as interests or places that Cortana shows you. You can manage your interests and other information Cortana has stored about you in the cloud by going to the Privacy Dashboard. Cortana’s Notebook syncs with the data in the privacy dashboard, so you can manage data stored in Cortana’s Notebook in the cloud in either place when you’re signed in with your Microsoft account. Note that managing your interests in Cortana’s Notebook does not clear any associated data already stored in the cloud. To clear data that Cortana uses, refer to the details below.

Bing.com, Microsoft apps, and skills may adjust their behavior based on the changes you make to your interests or favorites in Cortana’s Notebook, or on the Privacy Dashboard. For example, if you remove a particular sports team as a favorite in Cortana’s Notebook, Cortana and your Sports app will show you less information and fewer suggestions about that team.

You can manage the data Cortana collects and uses by adjusting your permissions and the information in Cortana’s Notebook. Note that some of these 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 permissions are still enabled on the other device. Note also that even if you use Cortana without signing in on Windows, your searches in the taskbar search box are treated like any other Bing search. On Android and iOS, refer to the app permission settings in the system settings.

To manage or clear data that’s saved by Microsoft in the cloud:

  1. On a Windows 10 device, select the Cortana icon in the taskbar.
  1. Go to Settings, then select Permissions.
  2. Select Manage the information Cortana can access from other services.
  3. Select the account linked to Cortana and then select UNLINK.

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

  1. Go to Cortana > Notebook > Manage Skills.
  2. Select the category you want to clear data from, like News or Sports.
  3. Click the “x” to delete the individual item, interest, favorite, or preference that you want to clear.

To manage skills:

  1. Go to Cortana > Notebook > Manage Skills.
  2. Select the skill you would like to disconnect.
  3. Select Disconnect.

To stop Cortana from using your location:

  1. On a Windows 10 device, select the Cortana icon in the taskbar.
  2. Go to Settings, then select Permissions.
  3. Select Manage the information Cortana can access from this device.
  4. Turn off Location.

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

  1. On a Windows 10 device, select the Cortana icon in the taskbar.
  2. Go to Settings, then select Permissions.
  3. Select Manage the information Cortana can access from this device.
  4. Turn off Contacts, email, calendar & communication history.
  5. Go back.
  6. Select Manage the information Cortana can access from other services.
  7. Select the name of any account you use for calendar, email, and contacts (such as Outlook.com or Office 365), and then select UNLINK.

To stop Cortana from using browsing history:

  1. On a Windows 10 device, select the Cortana icon in the taskbar.
  2. Go to Settings, then select Permissions.
  3. Select Manage the information Cortana can access from this device.
  4. Turn off Browsing history.

To stop Cortana from accessing your voice data:

  1. Interact with Cortana only using the keyboard.

  1. Alternately, turn off speech recognition; see Speech, inking, typing, and privacy. If you’re signed in to Cortana with a Microsoft account, you can view and delete your voice recordings in the Privacy Dashboard.

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’s Settings, and select Permissions.
  2. Select your Microsoft account.
  3. Select Sign out.

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 Privacy Dashboard. Cortana will keep collecting data on other devices until you sign out from Cortana on those devices as well. To clear your Cortana data and delete what Cortana knows about you, you can go to the Cortana’s Notebook section of the Privacy Dashboard.

On Windows, even after you’ve signed out of Cortana, characters you type into the taskbar search box are automatically sent to Bing to help enable better search recommendations. Your typed characters and searches will continue to be collected and used as described in the Privacy Statement. If you would prefer not to send any character data to Microsoft, you can choose not to use the search box. You can also hide Cortana in Windows, as described below. If you want to search for files, such as documents or photos, on your Windows device, you can use the search feature in File Explorer.

To hide Cortana:

  1. Right-click anywhere on the taskbar.
  2. Select Show Cortana button.

Cortana on Android and iOS

The Cortana app is available for download on Android and iOS devices. Cortana’s data collection and controls may vary based on these platforms’ capabilities and the version you’re using. This may include both system-level prompts that allow Cortana to access certain types of data, and first-time prompts when Cortana requires specific data to provide you with relevant features. You can also enable or disable Cortana’s access to certain data in the settings for individual apps. Refer to the device settings on Android and iOS devices to determine what controls you have over Cortana’s permissions to access your data.

For Cortana on Android (v.6 or later):

  1. Go to Settings on your device, and locate App Permissions or Permissions Manager.
  2. Locate the settings that control Cortana’s device data collection for:
    • Calendar
    • Contacts
    • Location
    • Microphone
    • Phone
    • SMS
    • Storage
  3. For those data features you don’t want Cortana to access from your device, select OFF or move the switch to the left until it turns gray. Note that Cortana may still have access to some of this data (such as Calendar and Contacts) from other Cortana-enabled devices, or from other services you’ve connected to Cortana.

For Cortana on iOS:

  1. Go to Settings > Cortana.
  2. Locate the settings that control Cortana’s device data collection for:
    • Calendars
    • Contacts
    • Location
    • Microphone
  3. Enable or disable Cortana’s access to those data features you don’t want made available to Cortana from your device. Note that Cortana may still have access to some of this data (such as Calendar and Contacts) from other Cortana-enabled devices, or from other services you’ve connected to Cortana.

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 Cortana’s Notebook or in the Privacy Dashboard. Cortana will keep collecting data from other devices until you sign out from Cortana on those devices as well.

To turn off Cortana’s personalization and to stop data collection associated with a particular device:

  1. Go to Cortana > Settings and click on your account information.
  2. Select Log out.

To clear your Cortana data and delete what Cortana knows about you, you can go to the Cortana’s Notebook section of the Privacy Dashboard.

For Android:

  1. Go to Cortana > Settings > Phone settings > Terms and Privacy.
  2. Select Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud.
  3. Review all the available information, including the info under Edit Cortana’s Notebook.

For iOS:

  1. Go to Cortana > Settings > Phone settings > Terms and Privacy.
  2. Select Cortana’s permissions.
  3. Review all the available information, including the info under Edit Cortana’s Notebook.

To manage which notifications you receive on a device (Android):

  1. On the device where you don’t want to see notifications, go to Settings > Cortana > Cortana across my devices.
  2. On Windows, under Send notifications between devices, select Edit sync settings. On Android, select Sync Notifications. (Note: syncing notifications is not available on iOS devices.)
  3. Select the device you want to edit.
  4. Turn off the notifications you no longer wish to receive.

To turn off all notifications for a particular device (Android):

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

To turn off all notifications for a particular device (iOS):

  1. Go to Settings > Cortana > Notifications.
  2. Move Allow Notifications to “off” to turn off notifications.

To disconnect Cortana from any connected service (iOS):

  1. Go to Cortana > Settings > Manage accounts.
  2. Select the desired account and select UNLINK.

Other controls

To turn off Cortana’s help in Microsoft Edge:

  1. Open Microsoft Edge.
  2. Go to Settings.
  3. Go to Advanced and turn off Have Cortana assist me in Microsoft Edge.