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Microsoft promises to make Recall feature opt-in

After harsh criticism by privacy experts and users, Microsoft says the Recall feature on Copilot+ PCs is not going to be enabled by default. People who want to use this new functionality will have to proactively opt-in.

In May Microsoft announced a series of PCs with Copilot+, a chatbot that uses generative artificial intelligence to help users improve their productivity.

One of its functions is Recall, a feature that takes screenshots of a user’s activities on his computer. These snapshots are stored and encrypted locally on a timeline. Users can search and visit these snapshots for easy and fast access to specific files, emails, photos and browsing history. When a user selects a screenshot, Recall will analyze and offer different options to interact.

Soon after the presentation of Recall, privacy experts voiced their concerns regarding user privacy, calling Microsoft’s new feature a ‘privacy nightmare’.

“The mere fact that screenshots will be taken during use of the device could have a chilling effect on people. People might avoid visiting certain websites and accessing documents, especially confidential documents, when Microsoft is taking screenshots every few seconds”, privacy expert dr. Kris Shrishak said.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the British data and privacy authority, is currently examining the potential impact of Recall on users’ privacy.

Secure by default

Microsoft is not turning a blind eye and is acting on customer feedback. “Even before making Recall available to customers, we have heard a clear signal that we can make it easier for people to choose to enable Recall on their Copilot+ PC and improve privacy and security safeguards,” the Redmond-based tech company says in a blog post.

One of the updates Microsoft is implementing, is that users with a Copilot+ PC will have to opt-in before using Recall. If they don’t proactively choose to enable the new feature, it will be off by default.

Secondly, Windows Hello is required in order to use Recall. In addition, proof of presence is also required to view your timeline and search in Recall. Lastly, Microsoft is adding “additional layers of data protection” to Recall snapshots. They will only be decrypted and accessible when users authenticate.

“We are on a journey to build products and experiences that live up to our company mission to empower people and organizations to achieve more, and are driven by the critical importance of maintaining our customers’ privacy, security and trust,” Microsoft says. The company is calling it ‘secure by design’ and ‘secure by default’.

The first Copilot+ PCs with Recall will launch on June 18.

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