June 21, 2024
  • At a special event hosted on May 20, Microsoft launched Copilot+ PCs and announced a new feature called ‘Recall’ that will take screenshots of your active screen every few seconds.
  • Recall is supposed to allow you to search through your past activity on your PC, such as a conversation with a colleague or your browser activity.
  • Needless to say, this has created a lot of stir about privacy, with many considering it an out-and-out privacy nightmare.

Microsoft’s ‘Recall’ Feature Will Record Everything You Do on Your PC - It's A Privacy Nightmare

Microsoft has announced a new feature called ‘Recall’ that will have a photographic memory. It was announced along with Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs, which, as the company puts it, are going to be the fastest and the most high-performance PCs on the market.

Coming back to Recall, though, this feature will take screenshots of your active screen every few seconds so that you can go back and check what you did on your device at a previous point of time.

Not only that, but the screengrabs will also be analyzed with the help of AI, allowing Recall to become like a personal historian for you. All you will have to is perform an AI-powered search, and Recall will then take you back to that moment, serving up stored screenshots and even opening relevant apps for the same.

“We’re entering this new era where computers not only understand us but can actually anticipate what we want and our intent.” – Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

If this feature rings a bell, that’s probably because Recall is very similar to an older Microsoft feature called ‘Timeline.’ This was introduced in Windows 10 and was designed to restore a previous version of your desktop files. However, it failed to make any real impression and had to be shelved. Will Recall follow suit?

Read more: Windows 11 keyboards get a ‘Copilot’ key following first major update in 30 years

Problems with Microsoft’s ‘Recall’

While Recall does sound like a promising feature, it puts a huge question mark on data privacy, considering that AI will be able to see, track, and remember everything you do on your PC through images.

If the thought of your screen being recorded and stored wasn’t scary enough, Recall will also be turned on by default. Sure, you can turn it off if you want, but a lot of uninformed users might continue to use their laptops without realizing that their actions are being recorded. It would have been so much better if it was off by default.

Important: Recall will be made available around September or October when the Windows 11 24H2 update comes.

Next, Microsoft said that for a device with 256 GB of disk space, Recall will be allocated a whopping 10% of device storage, which is around 25 GB. To put this in perspective, this is equivalent to three months of screenshots.

It’s also worth noting that once Recall’s storage limit is up (and you can go into your PC’s settings and increase the amount of storage Recall gets), old screenshots will be deleted to make space for the new ones. Simply put, at any point of time, your laptop will have three months’ worth of data stored in it.

If yours is a work laptop that many people use, you can pretty much forget about using Recall. Coming to the worst-case scenario, if your PC gets stolen or hacked, it’d be like serving your private data to a malicious third party on a silver platter.

This data can include your banking details and passwords, private conversations on WhatsApp, NSFW browsing activities, and so much more—Recall won’t perform any content moderation and will record just about everything.

“Note that Recall does not perform content moderation. It will not hide information such as passwords or financial account numbers. That data may be in snapshots that are stored on your device, especially when sites do not follow standard internet protocols like cloaking password entry.” – Microsoft Recall FAQs

What’s Microsoft Doing to Protect Your Data from ‘Recall’

To address privacy concerns, Microsoft clarified that ‘Recall’ has been developed with safety in mind. For starters, the snapshots will be stored locally on your device (similar to how local password managers work).

This means that only people with direct access to your device will be able to see what you were up to in the past months. But what if my laptop gets stolen or hacked, Microsoft?

Next, the snapshots can be encrypted if you have Windows Pro or a business Windows code. What about Windows Home users? In simple words, Microsoft wants you to pay for your privacy!

Moving on, you can choose what snapshots Recall collects and stores on your device. Moreover, anything you do in the InPrivate web browsing sessions in Microsoft Edge won’t be recorded. I think this is just a fancy (almost evil) way of forcibly pushing the Edge browser down Windows users’ throats.

The Bottom Line

All in all, while Windows Recall presents a good option to be able to peak into your past activity and retrieve useful information, the disadvantages far outweigh the positives.

The fact that Recall will be turned on by default and encryption for my stored screenshots won’t be available for free only reaffirms my belief that Microsoft doesn’t really care about my privacy. Perhaps it just wants tons of hands-on data on user behavior for its AI models? Come to think of it, this might not be as far-fetched as it may initially look.

Anyway, I know what I’m doing when Recall is finally launched—turning it off and keeping it that way!

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