While tech services and digital assistants make our lives easier, the company that provides the service collects a lot of data about you. For example, everything you say to Cortana or Alexa is recorded and stored on the company servers. Everything you do on Facebook and Google is recorded. The idea is that by collecting your data, the service will improve and provide better results and to anticipate your needs. But at the same time, it raises privacy and security concerns for you as the user.
The good thing is most of the big tech companies offer a way to view, download, and even delete collected data from their servers. We’ve shown you how to delete your voice recordings from Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Siri. But when it comes to Cortana on Windows 10, there are more than just voice commands. In fact, you might not talk to Cortana at all. But a copy of what you use it for via the keyboard is stored, like your Reminders, Lists, and Notes. But Microsoft lets you get a full copy of your Cortana data. Here’s a look at how to get the data and view it from Windows 10.
Download Cortana Data from Microsoft
To get started, head to Settings > Cortana > Permissions & History and click the “Change what Cortana knows about me in the cloud” link.
When Cortana launches, scroll down a bit and click on the “Get my info” button. That will send a request to Microsoft that you want a copy of your data. Then you’ll get an email notifying you the data request has been received.
When your info is ready, you’ll get a second message sent to the address connected to your Microsoft account. Open the email and click the “Download it here” link.
The link will direct you to Microsoft’s page to give its CortanaExport tool permission to collect and back up your data. After you click Yes a zip file containing your data will download – save it to a convenient and secure location.
Open the zip folder and you’ll find several text files in JSON format – meaning you can open the text file in Notepad, but it’s not the most user-friendly format.
To help decipher the data, you can use a JSON viewer. Easy to use online options are at codebeautify.org/jsonviewer or the JSON Formatter from Bing. But if you’re a more advanced user and want ultimate security, you’ll want to use an app like the free Notepadd++ utility or perhaps import it into Excel.
Below is an example of the Bing JSON Formatter tool:
With each new version of Windows 10, Microsoft continues to improve transparency in regard to data it’s collecting. Most notably with the new privacy settings in Windows 10 1803 or later, and improvements to Diagnostic Data Viewer. It’s great that we can download the info, but it would be nice if the company would provide an easier to read data report.
As I previously mentioned, other online services let you download a copy of your data and it’s important to take a look at. For example, with the recent Facebook privacy scandals, it’s a good time to review what Facebook knows about you (which is everything, really). Make sure to read our articles on how to download a copy of your Facebook data as well as how to download your Instagram data – which is also a Facebook-owned company.
If you’re a heavy user of Google services, read our article on how to download all your data from Google. Also, make sure to review the new privacy controls in Google’s My Activity dashboard. And, if you’re tired of the smart speakers and digital assistants always listening in the first place, read our article on how to stop Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and Alexa from active listening. And an article like this wouldn’t be complete unless I reminded everyone that convenience is the enemy of security and you need to enable two-factor authentication everywhere it is available.