Microsoft scrambles to address privacy worries with its Copilot+ PCs’ Recall feature

Looks like Microsoft has some ‘splaining to do when it comes to the Recall feature on its shiny new Copilot+ PCs. The AI-powered “photographic memory” tool was supposed to be a standout capability, helping you easily find stuff you’ve previously viewed across apps, websites and documents. But critics pounced, claiming Recall posed serious security vulnerabilities by regularly snapping encrypted screenshots of your PC activities.

In a classic case of “this is not how I wanted to announce this” backpedaling, Microsoft exec Pavan Davuluri took to the company’s Windows experience blog to do some damage control. Would he apologize for the Recall privacy misstep? Nah, ‘fraid not. Instead, Davuluri trotted out that old PR classic excuse of “we’re listening to customer feedback” as the impetus for changes.

So what are those changes, exactly? For starters, Recall will now be opt-in only for Copilot+ PCs right out of the box instead of enabled by default. D’oh, probably should’ve done that to begin with, right Microsoft? The company is also adding “just in time” decryption that requires Windows Hello authentication before your Recall snapshots are accessible.

In other words, Recall can’t just go peeking at your private PC activities all willy-nilly anymore without your explicit permission. Gotta ease those privacy worries somehow, I guess? Microsoft is also encrypting Recall’s search index database for an extra layer of protection because why not at this point.

Pavan Davuluri stressed that upcoming Copilot+ PCs will have extra security baked in thanks to things like the Microsoft Pluton chip, Windows Hello face sign-in requirements, and something called Secured-core PC safeguards. Forgive me if I’m not blown away by such buzzwords after this whole Recall ordeal.

Look, I get Microsoft was trying to dazzle us with valuable AI productivity tools via Copilot+. And hey, having an infinite “undo” for your digital activities could legitimately be super useful! But anytime software is constantly snapping screenshots of your personal PC without crystal clear consent, privacy advocates will (rightfully) flip their lids. It’s a rookie mistake from the Windows giant.

Will the Recall revamp smooth things over? Maybe for some, but I suspect there will still be skeptics wary of Microsoft’s data handling practices. The company better double down on being transparent about exactly how Recall works under the hood. Otherwise, what was supposed to be a marquee Copilot+ feature could go from an AI assistant to an AI headache real quick.

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Max Hyland
Max Hyland
Long form contributor Apple iPhone, iPad, watch reviews, opinion, editorial

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