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Windows Media Player Spies on You in Windows 8

Just like your bank, credit card company, and grocery store club card, Windows Media Player spies on you in Windows 8. The player’s 5,000-word online Privacy Statement boils down to this: Windows Media Player tells Microsoft every song, file, or movie that you play.

Some people find that creepy, but if Microsoft doesn’t know what you’re playing, Windows Media Player can’t retrieve that artist’s profile information and artwork from the Internet.

If you don’t care that Microsoft hums along to your CDs, don’t bother reading any further. If you do care, choose your surveillance level: Click the Organize button in the top-left corner, choose Options, and click the Privacy tab. Here’s the rundown on the Privacy tab options that cause the biggest ruckus:

  • Display Media Information from the Internet: If this option is selected, Windows Media Player tells Microsoft what CD you’re playing and retrieves doodads to display on your screen: CD covers, song titles, artist names, and similar information.

  • Update Music Files by Retrieving Media Info from the Internet: Microsoft examines your files, and if it recognizes any, it fills in the songs’ tags with the correct information.

  • Send Unique Player ID to Content Providers: Known in the biz as data mining, this option lets other corporations track how you use Windows Media Player. To leave yourself out of their databases, leave this option blank.

  • Cookies: Like many other programs and websites, Windows Media Player tracks your activity with little files called cookies. Cookies aren’t necessarily bad because they help the player keep track of your preferences.

  • History: Windows Media Player lists the names of your recently played files for your convenience — and for the possible guffaws of your co-workers or family. To keep people from seeing the titles of music and videos you’ve recently played, remove all the check marks from this section and click the two buttons called Clear History and Clear Caches.

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.

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