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Windows 11's New AI Feature Will Make Screenshots of Everything You Do

"It's all being done locally," says Microsoft, assuring the crowd that it is definitely, most certainly not spyware.

It seems that by the end of this decade, digital privacy, already virtually non-existent at this point, will be nothing more than a fond memory in the minds of those lucky enough to have witnessed the early days of tech companies, which are now seemingly racing each other to see who will collect the most data about their users.

Why such a pessimistic outlook, you might ask? Well, it's all thanks to Recall, Microsoft's newly unveiled upcoming feature for Copilot+PCs, which, at least on the surface, seems like the most Orwellian technology one can imagine, taking digital surveillance to a whole another level.

Presented at Microsoft Build 2024, Recall is described as a "photographic memory" for your PC, making local Windows searches much faster by constantly taking screenshots of everything you do. Then it uses, no surprises here, generative AI along with the NPU to process all this data into a searchable timeline, enabling one to access and view everything you've done on your computer. If Recall is enabled, any app, website, document, or email you have opened on the computer will be accessible through the created timeline.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Correctly predicting the community's backlash to a feature that quite literally promises to monitor everything they do, Microsoft assured the crowd that it is definitely, most certainly not spyware and that the screenshots would stay locally on their PCs. Furthermore, users will be able to prevent Recall from capturing screenshots of certain apps or websites and can even disable the feature entirely. "You are always in control with privacy you can trust," says the official announcement.

Assuming it is true, one concern that still comes to mind and has been raised by the community is what happens if a bad actor gains access to a local device. After all, Microsoft is not invincible and immune to data breaches, who's to say it is impossible for a hacker to steal users' Recall timelines and gain easy access to personal files and materials?

Another concern revolves around Recall's "generative AI" part, with some users fearing their personal data might be utilized without consent to train the company's AI models, a scenario that is, once again, not that far-fetched, considering the questionable practices employed by many developers to train their AIs. One way or another, only Microsoft knows Recall's true intentions, and Microsoft is not telling. It's on each of us to decide whether to trust the company, switch to a different OS, or find a middle ground.

What do you think about Recall? Is it a useful tool or an AI-powered spyware? What does a feature like Recall mean for the future of technology? Share your opinion in the comments!

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Comments 4

  • Anonymous user

    This is straight up a breach of privacy, trust and rights if this is true enough or even worse. Microsoft storing and copying anything they like whenever they want to... copying passwords, maybe? Copying a project someone works on, then they sell it and the actual creator gets nothing?
    Just speculation from me, but the implications alone are... yeah, I do not like it at all. Might go Steam OS and end my 25 years of Microsoft support over this. Screenshotting everything, that alone is NOT okay.

    1

    Anonymous user

    ·a month ago·
  • Anonymous user

    Man. That comment defending Microsoft… people actually think that way? I dunno man. Can’t you make points meant to convince people of your argument? Instead you sound both irritated and irritating. Especially when the backlash to the concept is justified, normal, and should be expected.

    Is this actually making anyone’s life better? It seems to be a minor convenience gain at a huge cost of privacy concern. It seems that tech is actually pretty stagnant despite the huge buzz around AI. The industry knows that the appearance of constant innovation has be upheld or their bottom line and reputation will be hurt dearly. Particularly in regular, non-specialized consumer computing. Google has been able to scrape an answer for your query for a long time now without having to convince you it’s being done by a living, breathing neural network. The very act of scrolling out text instead of having it all appear as a block seems to do wonders for the wow factor.

    For me personally this would have to provide significant benefits for the risk involved. I don’t see what those are. Can anyone tell me?

    And of course if we accept this they will just quietly change the TOS at some point and scrape away. This initial step of orienting us with the concept always comes first. Proximity to something horrible. Then later they will unleash the horrible thing on us and we will just give up.

    B Conrad will be cheerleading it while mocking you for having concerns though. There’s always a B Conrad.

    0

    Anonymous user

    ·a month ago·
  • Anonymous user

    @B Conrad

    Found the AI

    0

    Anonymous user

    ·a month ago·
  • B Conrad

    Wow Theodore, you seem a bit biased.  AI is evolving in every area of technology and Microsoft is looking at ways to make people's lives better.  Regardless of AI, there will always be risks in exposure of personal data by bad actors and Recall is just another feature to the Windows OS to help people's day-to-day work activities to be more productive with less effort.

    As an IT professional, I will test the feature to understand how it functions and where it fits best in my own day-to-day life instead of just immediately taking a stance using negative commentary or how it may or may not violate my privacy.  From a security perspective, we (in both our business & personal life) must be the first line of defense, so educating ourselves on how to be more secure and recognizing cyber threats is a priority.

    Let's be open in our mindset to test out new features and capabilities on any platform before jumping to negative statements or commentary.

    -2

    B Conrad

    ·a month ago·

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