Microsoft Windows 11 new AI based Recall feature causes privacy concerns

Microsoft has introduced a new AI feature for Windows 11 called Recall, designed to “recall” user activities on compatible PCs. Unveiled on Monday at an AI event, this feature has raised privacy concerns.

Recall captures screenshots of the active window every few seconds, creating a searchable library of user activities for up to three months. Currently, it is available only on Copilot+ PCs with Snapdragon X ARM processors, but there are plans to extend this to Intel and AMD devices.

Despite the privacy concerns, Microsoft is committed to the feature, emphasizing that “Recall is a key part of what makes Copilot+ PCs special.” The company assures users that privacy has been integral to Recall’s design.

Users have control over the snapshots Recall collects and when it collects them. They can use a filter feature to exclude certain browsers or applications from being captured. Users can also pause snapshots or delete some or all stored snapshots.

By default, Recall will not capture browser window screenshots when using Microsoft Edge’s InPrivate mode. However, Microsoft has not confirmed whether this applies to privacy modes in other browsers. This exemption also applies to all supported materials under rights management (DRM) protection.

Despite Microsoft’s reassurances, the global privacy and cybersecurity communities have expressed significant concerns.

For instance, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) issued a statement in response to Microsoft’s Recall announcement. “We expect organizations to be transparent with users about how their data is being used and only process personal data to the extent that it is necessary to achieve a specific purpose.” The ICO concluded by announcing that it is “making inquiries with Microsoft to understand the safeguards in place to protect user privacy.”

Luke Simmonds

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